Faith

I came to believe

I’ve been thinking for months about writing a post called, “Why I follow God.” It all started when two bloggers I follow began discussing God’s existence with each other on their blogs. In short, one believes and the other doesn’t. I wanted to add to the discussion, but the more I thought about it the more my faith deconstructed. It created a minor crisis in my faith, until I finally realized that I believe in God because I want to, and that I follow God because I have decided to.

That would be my shortest post ever. So I decided I should explain.

I think we curious humans naturally look for answers to big questions: How does the universe work? How did life begin? Is there a supreme being? We weigh evidence and draw conclusions against the backdrop of our predispositions.

Some end up predisposed toward God and others toward reason and evidence. I came to be predisposed toward God, I think, when my parents briefly sent me to a church’s Sunday school. I rather liked the idea of a loving creator. (Later unsatisfactory encounters with people professing their faith did deter me for a while.)

Monon Bridge

I wrote long ago about how, as a young adult, achieving my dreams left me unfulfilled and failed relationships left me sad and lonely. In despair and depression I decided to seek God. My search led me down a winding road that has ultimately left me with faith, which has sustained me through later, even more difficult times.

It’s not that I don’t dig reason. When I was a young student, my best subjects always included math and science. I followed that path to engineering school, where I graduated with a degree in mathematics. So I came to Christ with a good grounding in logic, reasoning, and the scientific method. That knowledge tells me that you can never prove God.

To prove something requires evidence that makes the conclusion certain. Unfortunately, evidence for and against God is incomplete and imperfect. We may weigh it and draw our conclusion; we may even say that, to us, it proves or disproves God. But what we really mean, even if we deny it, is that the evidence resonates so well with us that we are willing to step over the gap of imperfection and incompleteness. For example, some argue that the universe’s intricately balanced design is evidence of an intelligent designer and therefore proof that God exists. Even my brother, who calls himself an atheist, considers our improbable existence in this mean universe and admits to a creating god. He steps that far over the gap. But he is correct when he says that nothing about this evidence points to a personal God, such as the one the Bible describes.

We draw lots of reasonable conclusions every day from the evidence available to us. We’re wired to do it; we have to do it because so much is uncertain or unknowable. I sometimes stop at a donut shop near my office and buy a dozen to share at work. It’s reasonable to conclude I can do this any morning I want. Unfortunately, the shop burned to the ground early one morning last autumn. Good thing I didn’t make a donut run on my way to work that day. So with any reasonable conclusion, we take some step of faith to believe it.

Rainbow Bridge

I think God hasn’t left conclusive evidence of himself lying around because he wants us to take a step of faith if we are to believe in him. My experience with God is that he loves me and wants my love back. In human relationships, love can fail. People you love can betray you, abuse you, or leave you destitute. Even if none of those things happen, someone you love could die before you, leaving you to grieve. Such are the risks you take when you choose to love. In choosing to love God, you risk him not being real. You risk the whole thing having been a sham.

Some won’t take that risk. Some who take that risk end up feeling gypped. If God is real and loves us, why is the world in such a sorry state? Why do so many people suffer? Why do I have to face pain, injustice, and loss? Everybody who contemplates God one day faces these questions; some reach them and turn away. My experience is that patience and determination carries a nascent faith through this crisis.

The worst thing I’ve ever been through was my brutal separation and divorce. I prayed for years that God would heal my marriage, but things just kept getting worse between my wife and me and eventually she hired a lawyer. How could God have ignored my desperate prayers? Doesn’t he hate divorce? I could easily have turned away from God in anger and disgust. I considered it. Yet facing crippling pain and loss, I decided to keep turning to God. I am not entirely sure why. During this time, I repeatedly suffered consequences from destructive choices, sometimes mine and sometimes my estranged wife’s. Each time things could have gone much worse for me than they did. It seemed to me as though somebody was placing soft pillows beneath me each time I fell. And then during this time I had an experience that felt to me like God was loving me directly (read about it here).

Broad Ripple

I perceived a pattern of intervention too strong for me to write off as a string of coincidences, and I chose to attribute them to God. This time of difficulty actually cemented my faith. I’m God’s; there’s no turning back. Some might argue that I am drawing too heavy of a conclusion from scant evidence. I freely admit that my conclusion involves a big step of faith.

The only way I can explain this is to compare it to the way we bind to our mothers when we’re newly born. Our ability to perceive the world is extremely limited. We don’t even see our mothers as separate from us. Yet as we grow, the love that our mothers hopefully showed us through touch and care seeds in us. We know our mothers love us. And so, through my limited ability to perceive God, I have experienced what I believe to be his loving involvement in my life. I have concluded that God is real and loves me.

And so it goes, I think, for anyone who determines to patiently follow God. Sooner or later they experience God in their lives. At that moment, God starts to become as real to them as their mother.

Unfortunately, you can’t get there without making that step of faith. You have to choose to believe and decide to follow. God can be nothing but elusive, mysterious, and maddening until you make that choice. He becomes less so as your faith grows.

The key to patient determination is discipline. You have to keep at it.

Last updated on 24 May 2020 by Jim Grey

Standard

19 thoughts on “I came to believe

  1. Dani says:

    Some things are hard to believe in with out seeing, feeling, or hearing tangibleness. Faith allows us to hear God’s voice, see His presence in others and nature, and feel His loving arms around us.

  2. Janet Chlebek says:

    I had a tear in my eye while reading this. I relate so much to your writings. I know for me personally, I am a trusting person by nature and that has gotten me into trouble a few times. But, I know my faith is solid, some people think my life has been easy, but, I have had many trials, such as my child’s illness, marriage struggles, family strife, amoungst other things that most people experience. And these experiences as you found, can challenge our faith, but, I turn to God for everything, he is the one and only constant in my life, I pray that others will find the peace that I have had the priviledge to find.
    Thanks again for your writings.

    • Janet, I’m humbled that this touched you. Does anybody have an easy life? I don’t know how you get through life without experiencing at least a little trauma.

  3. Jim,

    Thanks for an insightful and heartfelt analysis. We all face the same challenges and the same dilemma: do we make that leap of faith, or do we turn away from it? As we endure the bumps and bruise of life, “the whips and scorns of time, the proud man’s contumely,” and all the other fardels we have to bear, it’s easy to become bitter and to lose hope.

    Faith reminds us that there’s more to life than difficulty; that we have countless blessings to which our suffering sometimes blinds us; that there is a reason for everything, even if we can’t see it yet; and that there is a better world to come.

    It reminds us that even if we give up on God, He never gives up on us.

    • Thank you, Scott. Have you ever considered how perhaps part of whether we are predisposed to God depends upon the quality of the love we experienced from our parents? If our parents harmed us or let us down, then why wouldn’t God?

  4. There are many stories in the Bible about the suffering of the most devout followers of Jesus – just goes to show that no one is immune to suffering. Faith in God determines HOW we will handle it. The thing about suffering is that we come out stronger having gone through it.

    Just yesterday, we had a guest speaker at our church who talked of his life with Cerebral Palsy and his quest to become a Pediatrician, and about all of the obstacles and ridicule he’s endured, as well as doors slammed in his face – but his faith persevered and he is in his last four months of med school. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is…

    • I’d like to modify that a little bit. Grit and determination determine whether we will handle suffering; faith provides a means. But faith without determination doesn’t help very much.

  5. Hey, Jim,

    I happened across your blog when you were “Freshly Pressed” a couple of weeks ago. Congratulations!

    I’ve since gone back to read many of your old posts (my favorite so far is the one about the broken coffee mug), but today’s really hit home.

    Although we’ve come to slightly different conclusions about the nature of God and our place in the universe, I greatly enjoyed reading about the thought process that eventually led you to embrace your faith and belief.

    Thank you so much for sharing of yourself in such an honest, wise, articulate way. I very much admire your thoughtful — and thought-provoking — writing. Please keep it up.

    Best wishes for a happy new year!

    • Heather, I’m glad you dipped into the archives! They get so lonely.

      We all have to figure out how the universe works, and we are all free to come to whatever conclusion!

  6. Jim, I appreciate this “testimony” and analysis of your pathway to faith. Faith, after all is crucial. Jesus said, “Believe on me,” he did not say “Prove God’s existence.”

    “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives with in my heart!”

  7. Michael says:

    “Some end up predisposed toward God and others toward reason and evidence.”

    Being a geek like you , I was in the latter camp as you know until I came to know God and now I see reason and evidence DOES point to God. I am amazed at how blind I was to it before, and it frustrates me when I come across those that used to be like me. :) Thankfully, while I may assist, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to unstop their ears and allow the scales to fall from their eyes.

    • I know several people who, in trying to use reason and evidence to disprove God, ended up believing in him instead. I think it goes to show that each individual needs to seek God on his own terms; God can work through whatever predispositions that person has.

      • Michael says:

        I think He said it well, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

  8. Lone Primate says:

    Jim, I must have missed this over the holidays. I just happened across it in an effort to catch up. I really enjoyed reading this; it was extremely soothing. I’ve sort of gone the other way on the big questions but I have to say I admire your conviction and envy the degree of serenity your faith gives you.

    The photos you chose, too, are strangely compelling. I’m not sure how or why but they really shape what you said. They’re like cool mint icing on the rich chocolate cake of your text. Does that even make sense? :)

    • LP, I do respect the side of this on which you’ve come down, if nothing else because I could have gone that way too. Also, if you were able to get inside my head for a few minutes, you’d see that my conviction frequently wavers and my serenity comes and goes. Such is the nature of anyone’s faith.

      Thanks for saying nice things about my photos. I think the interplay of light and shadow in them are what connect them to this post. I took these with my Canonet QL17 G-III with Fuji Acros Neopan 100 b/w film. They’re all from along the canal in Indianapolis’s Broad Ripple neighborhood.

  9. Rama Sarma says:

    An eminent poet says, ” I know the answer as to whether Heaven really exits or not, But the belief that it exists quietens my heart.”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.