Periodically, my Google Reader will suggest internet reading for me based on my current subscriptions. About a month ago, it suggested I read Godless Girl; the name of the blog caught my attention so I took the time to explore. As I poked around the site, reading various entries, and exploring the recommended articles, it became clear the author was a transparent, self-proclaimed atheist who had been raised in a Christian home.
I know so many people who have grown up in the Church, but in their adulthood have rejected the faith of their childhood. I have seen or perceived some reasons for such—they observe in others a disconnect between espoused beliefs and actual lifestyle, they get burned by people in the faith community, they don’t see the validity of Scripture in this culture, they only see “happy shiny people” who don’t deal authentically with the difficulties of life, so on and so forth—but whatever the reason for their outright rejection of Christianity, there is usually pain that leaves an abiding cynicism for the Church. Godless Girl seemed to interestingly explore that cynicism with honesty and open sarcasm, while making important observations and asking critical questions that seemed to represent the broader experience of those who discard their faith.
I was hooked! And I was not hooked as an outsider hoping to proselytize, I was hooked as someone who feels similar tensions with her questions, sees some of the same ridiculousness in evangelicalism, and experiences equivalent frustrations. My conclusions have been drastically different, but I have appreciated peering into her process.
One of the first entries I read hit right at the heart of my greatest disappointments with God. In Comics and Cancer, Godless Girl shares her own personal story of watching her dad fight cancer with faith and prayer but ultimately relying on the advances of medical science. She shares her skepticism over “miraculous healings” and recommends “when a loved one is ill or dying , feel free to hope for an immediate improvement, but trust in those who have tested treatments and medicines that you know can help. [So that] even if your loved one dies, you can at least be thankful that it wasn’t your fault, your lack of faith, or anyone’s relationship with a deity that was at fault.”
Her words pricked at the wounds of my journey. Clearly medical science had nothing to offer Judson, and I don’t believe we lacked faith or were at fault, but nonetheless, God didn’t “show up” when were begging him to intervene. It still hurts me, jabbing at the tender places of my deepest spiritual and personal lesions. And I can understand why someone might conclude that God does not exist after such a journey.
As expressed a couple weeks ago, I do have all sorts of doubts. I have numerous questions. I wrestle with God as I continue to live with ongoing heartache over the loss of my boy and other circumstances…
But my trust abides. In all my pain, faith persists. I see God. Even though he didn’t “show up” to heal Jud, his presence remains undeniable to me. I still believe.
So why my enduring faith? Some might point to Biblical promises, the Church community, a hope for eternity, or other rational arguments, but in my darkest moments when nothing seems to make sense, I recall looking into the face of my beautiful, suffering child and seeing his blind eyes inexplicably reflect the glory of God while his voice proclaimed an understanding of truth, supernatural for a boy his age. My 2-year-old son in all the heinousness of Krabbe disease, reacted to his experience in a manner beyond logical or reasonable understanding; Jud could see something my eyes could not see. So I watched and listened intently as my Buddy Boo lead me to God. All that I observed and felt as my son suffered and died was beyond reason—which is actually what proved to be essential in pointing me to “a deity.”
Godless Girl might respond by saying I’ve chosen the Church’s “only acceptable and ‘right’ conclusion—to re-affirm [my] faith.” Meanwhile, she has “examined the evidence, prayed, searched, and discussed [her] doubts, [and] the only reasonable conclusion [she has] come to is that Christianity is false.” (Believers Responding to Doubt)
We can’t both be right. And although I respect her process, I humbly submit that I saw joy, power, and wisdom, which can only come from a loving God, at work in my frail, dying son.
If you believe God exists, what gives you enduring faith in hardship? If you don’t believe God exists, what keeps you from believing?