By and by, I feel the need to respond to secularists, atheists, and unbelievers whose questions scrutinize the Bible, its authenticity, and what it calls Christians to believe and live by. After so much skepticism, these people’s questions leave them baffled, silenced, confused, and bitter– their hearts malformed by cultural and societal misunderstandings, resenting the censure of a massive conglomeration seemingly tossing all their eggs into the basket with a dusty old book called the Bible. One of the most powerful questions–even for the Christian, is: Why should I trust God? You see, if we don’t trust God– the Source of all argument for theology, religion, morality, and faith–then we undermine those concepts altogether by claiming the Creator and Causality of such inquisition is scandalous, fake, and too ambiguous to be real, mighty, or supernatural. And if God isn’t who He claims to be– if He is not really with us today– then how can we trust Him with our lives?
As a former atheist and current Christian, these questions are poignantly familiar to me, sinking right into home base with my history of disbelief years ago. The mystery of trusting the concept of a God was what instigated my departure from the Catholic church at age 11, when my parents divorced. After that, the mystery of trusting God became the seed for dark humor when I was about 14. The notion that God would do such horrible things–such as allow trauma, suffering, and death–did not match up with the type of loving God people seemed to profess that He was. How do you trust in a God who allows suffering and death? How do you trust in a God you can’t touch with your own hands—scream at while anticipating His reaction with heavy breathing and clenched fists? How do we come to try to understand this dilemma of the misunderstanding of God, and how He fits into the very relationship He calls us to be a part of? First, as I discovered, we must try to understand the context of God.
What is the space He lives in, and how does His presence and existence affect what is around Him? The Bible says God is love:
(1 John: 4:8) “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (italics mine)
The Bible gives an explicit example of the way He physically affects those around Him when anything of His true physical nature is revealed. When Moses came down the mountain after God had passed around Him– Moses’s face was literally glowing from exposure to seeing the backside of God (Exodus 33:18-34:9); not God’s face, no– His back. God warned Moses if he saw His face, He would die:
(Exodus 33:20) “But,” he said, “you cannot see my face. For no one may see me and live.”
If people would not survive witnessing God back in Moses’s day, surely they would not survive the experience today. Why is that? What is the nature of God? He is love. Then what is our nature–human nature? We are sinners.
How do we know we’re sinners? First, we have to define sin. The dictionary defines sin as “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.” One might think of “divine law” as represented by God’s ten commandments**, others might add that it refers to the Golden Rule (Mark 12:28-34). I refer to sin as the rebellion to, the transgression of, and the deliberate departure from– what God wants with us in our relationship with Him. Rebelling against His love is to resist it, living apart from its blessings.
When we don’t accept His love, many times that can be as simple as not thanking Him for the blessings in our lives (food, apartment/house, job, friends/family, etc.), and likely taking them for granted, rather than lifting them up with thanksgiving and gratefulness. We have a tendency to sometimes assume what we get in life, we just get, without recognizing them as blessings. Even the secularist must admit, however, that finding that random samaritan willing to help fix a flat tire is less likely to be someone who doesn’t believe in random, selfless acts of kindness without getting something in return. People hardly extend themselves without a scoff, sigh, or moan when their desire to do the deed derives their own esteem, or their own conditional supply of grace. Those who extend themselves with a smile on their face have a Source which they pull from, and this Source derives from faith in something bigger than themselves. For many, it’s the karmic belief in what comes around goes around. Others, holding to a more eternal perspective, understand loving others is their way of loving the Creator of existence, time, space, purpose, love, and reason; they extend themselves from the reservoir of faith in that Creator, knowing that He bestows His gift of love on them constantly; in turn, their response is incorrigibly the desire to share that gift with others, which just so happens to be expressed in the form of the contagious attitude reminiscent of the character of Jesus: joyful, graceful, and unconditional.
**(The Ten Commandments are a set of guidelines meant to help us stay intimately close with God, and in harmony with one another. Many unbelievers regard the ten commandments acrimoniously with repulsion and bitterness. Perhaps the commandments feel like an unnecessary scolding for choices and lifestyles we view as innocuous. The rules of the commandments, for many, don’t seem have any basis other than inconvenience. The question then becomes: Is convenience the way to God? Secondly, if we can explain the difference between our incomplete understanding of the need for the ten commandments, and the reason for which they were originally given–we may come to grasp the truth that the ten commandments are really just lifestyle principles God requested us to instill in our lives in order for us live more fully, not just indulgently. The question which may then arise is: Do we want to be close to a God who wants to feel close to us by providing a fuller life?)
When we resist His love, we are saying one or more of these:
- I don’t believe in His love
- I don’t need His love
- I don’t want His love
- I don’t deserve His love
- I can’t live up to His love
Resisting what God wants for us–as a fuller life–is to claim we believe God’s intentions are not aligned with the best version of what our life could be, and instead, wresting the control of our futures out from His hands, not seeking His help or involvement. If we can understand this as the reason for the mistake of missing out on our best life, then we can understand the waste and nuisance of denying the power of God, capable and willing to create the entire cosmos for our benefit. But, for those who adhere to denial, God continually reaches out with His love, hoping we’ll surrender our resistance and choose to see His intentions as they are; authentic and rooted in love.
How can the human race put trust in a God we can’t see with our physical eyes, nor touch with our hands? How do we know when or if He hears us–or if He does or doesn’t want to respond when we ask Him a question–or how He feels when we cry out to Him in frustration? Something critical to understand about our relationship to God is the significance of the differentiation between the way we need God, and the way God doesn’t need us. It’s the most beautiful dichotomy really, because God speaks and acts through what could be just as arbitrary to Him as choosing what color underwear to put on is to us: He chooses to love a species which cannot give Him anything other than praise and worship–because He is love. Do you follow me on that train of thought? God is love–meaning–He doesn’t have a limited amount of love to distribute in specific amounts to each component of creation He makes, careful not to run out—no, He IS love, so He has an infinite supply to give from. There are no bounds, no lengths, no limits– no measurements to God’s love. We could never fit God’s love into a math equation because it would break every rule in the book. God’s love is unlimited, permanent, and forever; powerful, unshakeable, incorrigible, and it’s a decision He’s already decided on.
Is it harder or easier to trust in a God, who, despite not needing us for anything–loves us more than all of creation? Does the truth of this explanation change anything in your heart, or help you see God’s love in a different light? God’s love isn’t just comprised of some words in the Bible, His love is real and–yes–tangible. Perhaps not from his hands or arms themselves–but through others; through nature, and through circumstances— God loves us constantly.
In Part 2, I will touch on ways we can see God’s love for us through creation, how we can tie that back to trusting in Him, and I will close with an example from my personal life; an explicit example of God’s love for me in my life, and, consequently—proof of God’s for us as a species.
For now, I want to leave you with some questions to ponder for the sake of your own faith journey and spiritual life. When you think of God, how do you feel? Do you feel judgment, disappointment, and frustration? Do you feel as though God only comes to you or answers you when you’re “performing well”? How do you feel God sees you as His child? How do you define the concept of God’s love in your life today, and what prevents His love from making more sense to you than it does right now? What would have to happen to cause you to consider the possibility that God loves you more than you can imagine, and that He wants you to accept that gift and let it transform your life? What is your response to an invitation like that?
May God bless you as you look inside yourself to discover these answers, growing towards freedom from confusion and the entanglement of the lies of the world and the enemy. I’ll see you in Part 2!