In my pursuit of a degree in Christian Ministry, I'm enrolled in a "Worldviews" class, which is basically Comparative Religion. I've been asked to take a look at the other major ideologies, dogmas, and philosophies of our age. I've been studying Evangelical Christianity and the Christian Theist worldview - picking it apart step by step and then holding it up to the scrutiny of others to discover why, in the light of so many options, I have chosen Christianity.
Philosophically, it's frustrating. Academically, it's a challenge. Spiritually, it's an intense exercise. I've had to ask myself some pretty tough questions over the last month, but the faithfulness of God is unmatched. As I look to the other "answers" the world has to offer, I fall deeper in love with God. Deeper in love with His heart toward us. Deeper in love with the great lengths He went to bring us back to Him. So yes, I'm still a Christian, and I'm more appreciative of my faith than ever before.
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." 1 Peter 3:15
One of the great issues I've had to tackle in my faith walk has been "suffering". I've shared in my testimony "About Me" page, that I endured some pretty severe trauma as a child, teen, and young adult. By the time I was ten years old, I was entertaining suicidal thoughts, having already been mistreated for eight years. God gave me a very strong will, however, so when my perpetrators put me in a position that even I in my confusion and fear found to be abhorrent, I protested. Needless to say, "no" was not an answer back then. The summer I was 10 years old, I spent in almost 24 hour captivity and torture. The goal of my abusers was to break my spirit. They wanted complete, unquestioned submission, so they were going to prove to me that I was powerless. My mother had lead me to the Lord when I was five years old, so I had a foundation of faith. I prayed and prayed for God to rescue me, but things got worse and worse. The enemy, through his puppets on Earth, systematically dismantled my hope that summer. I learned not to want anything. Not physical comfort, affection, entertainment, attention, social interaction, kindness, love. And I learned not to need anything. Not food, water, air, sunlight, sleep. I learned that wishing was pointless, prayer was useless, and I was powerless.
I can not, in any way that would make sense to anyone else, explain the reason that "God would let that happen to an innocent child". I've cried out to Him since then, demanding an answer. But instead of some kind of justification, the Lord was gracious enough to show me His heart. I caught in a moment His immense grief over the situation - more an intense emotion than I've ever been able to feel for myself.
My personal belief is that God does not cause anyone to suffer - even for the "greater good".
There is nothing in the character of God that would suggest that He brings about calamity to teach a lesson. Here's what I know: The world is an evil place, but God is good. We are subject to that evil temporarily because we live on planet earth, but God is eternally sovereign. He has prepared a place of perfection, and He has promised to bring good out of every situation. Sh-t happens, but it does not change the fundamental character of God. He is incapable of creating bad. Everything evil in this world was our Enemy's idea, and if God intervened and stopped every evil thing from happening, He would be interrupting His promise to allow us free will - a promise He made out of love.
Scripture says that Christ was "delivered to death", suggesting a passing off from the perfection of God's economy to the destruction of the world's. "He [Christ] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification". Romans 4:25 I don't know if that makes sense, but I'm saying God didn't cause Jesus to be killed, even for us. God gave His only Son to this broken World (temporarily) where the evil of this world could have its way with Him. BUT, in the end, the Power of God conquered the evil of this world, setting in motion His plan to eradicate evil once and for all.
What about natural disasters like New Orleans and Haiti? (things that have been deemed an "act of God") The Bible calls these things "birth pains" signifying what will become a new heaven and a new earth. It doesn't mean God wants His people to suffer, or that He doesn't grieve intensely over every single lost soul.
"Then he said to them: 'Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven... There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." (Luke 21: 10-11 and 25-28)
I didn't understand this truth - especially at 10 years old. I assumed either God couldn't save me, or worse, I wasn't worth saving. I had great faith in the God of the Bible, so I knew he could make the Red Sea part and raise Lazarus from the dead. My suspicion was less in God's character and capability as it was in my own worthiness. I had done something terribly, terribly wrong to deserve the torture.
That lie haunted the deepest reaches of my heart where shame kept it vaulted away from even my own consciousness. In order to allow God to reach that place in my heart, I had to go back and reveal to Him the pain of that summer, the incredible shame I felt, and the many, many questions I had.
At first, it was easier to accept my own fault, because it allowed my picture of God to remain intact. As I understood my own value, I began to question God's. And I think that's a fairly common progression of thought.
I was tempted to believe that God was a catalyst to set the world in motion and then left it to spin on its own. I wanted to believe that God was dead and the things that happened to me were bad luck or chance. He couldn't rescue me because He didn't exist. I wanted to believe that maybe it was just Karmic justice. Maybe I had been a kitten murderer in another life. (I say that tongue in cheek, but there was some truth to that hope)
Ultimately, it wasn't by reason or philosophy or by intellect that I learned the Truth. It was learning to trust in my Abba, God, just enough to rest my head on His chest and listen to His heart. And I wilted into arms that said, "I love you. I hate that you were hurt. I'm going to make it right. Please, baby, just trust me." And the power of the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, spoke peace into my soul.
He spoke Truth and faith and assured me of the things I wanted so desperately to hold onto as a child. Slowly, all of the hope I lost when I was 10 came back. All of that shame and fear and pain, though I remember it vividly and with grief in my heart, lost its power over me. I was able to rest in the arms of a trust-worthy God.
My faith is justifiable by rhetoric and philosophy. It's argumentable by Scripture. But the ultimate stand of my Faith, is that I worship a LIVING God, who takes an active role in revealing Himself to us. It is by that revelation my faith is strengthened and matured. And no other god in the world can offer personal revelation. Even transcendental meditation whereby a person seeks to empty themselves and become one with the One Being, there is no revelation by a personal, loving, good, God. Their One Being can't cradle them in His arms and cry with them, and that's exactly what my Abba did with me on the front porch in the rain.
I didn't really intend to go this direction with this post, but maybe someone needed to hear it.
I share my heart, because I know that my experiences aren't unique. God's longs to reveal Himself to each one of us - in different ways in different times, but the same non-the-less. My encouragement to anyone who may come across this post is to keep seeking, keep asking. Don't let the cynicism of this age strip your hope from you. That's no worse than being held physically captive. Fight against the lies. Fight to find the Truth, because He's offering it.
God bless you all, I love you dearly.