For the second time in as many months, someone near and dear to me has announced that they’re going through a crisis of faith. One person is still struggling, questioning God’s very existence, while the other has concluded that God does not exist.
In both cases, I knew they were investigating various philosophical viewpoints, but they presented themselves as solid believers. There was no hint of the struggle happening on the inside, until each one in turn chose to disclose it.
These pronouncements have left friends and families reeling. Both spouses were blindsided. They thought the faith they shared was the firm foundation of their respective marriages. Now, the most important part of their lives has become a divisive issue.
We’re all left asking how could this happen? How could someone who vigorously defended their faith suddenly stop believing in God? To me, it would be as if Pete went on a business trip for several months, and since I could no longer see him, I stopped believing that he had ever been my husband.
And that, I think, leads us to the core of the issue. When asked about their relationship with God, both people stated that they have never felt close to Him. One of these two has spent a lifetime in the church, even earning a seminary degree! Yet, neither one has ever heard God’s voice. They know about God, but they don’t know God. Their faith was an intellectual exercise, nothing more. Matthew 7:21-23 shows that Jesus knew this sort of thing would happen. In spite of their ability to perform miraculous works in Jesus’ name, some who think they’re Christians are deceived. In reality they don’t know Him at all.
A merely intellectual belief is subject to every new philosophy that comes along. However, when we really know someone, we’re not going to suddenly stop believing that they’re real. I’ve been married to Pete for more than 32 years—almost as long as I’ve known God. Even if Pete moves to Siberia this afternoon, and I never hear from him again, I would never doubt that he was an actual person.
How do we get to know God like this? The same way we get to know anyone. We spend time and effort. We remove distractions, we quiet ourselves, and we talk—and listen. We read his love letters. Yes, it’s important to learn more about Him, but sermons, books and blogs are not a substitute for seeking Him with all our hearts. For some specific suggestions, try my two posts (here and here) on “Dating God.” Be encouraged. Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
As much as we would love to present both these people with water-tight argument for the existence of God, there really isn’t one. Plenty of evidence exists; our faith doesn’t exist in an intellectual vacuum. Just the number of fulfilled prophesies about Jesus is overwhelming. But if someone is determined to not believe, we can’t argue them into changing their mind. Jesus never tried, and we do well to follow his example. Even Paul insisted that our faith not be based on persuasive words but on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
Of course, we haven’t given up on these two. God still believes in them, even if they don’t return the favor. As heartbroken as we feel, we want them to know we still love them. What they have discarded—a Christian worldview based on philosophy and mental agreement with a list of facts—can’t save them anyway. Instead, we’re praying that they will realize their need for God, and get to know Him—His love and grace—for perhaps the first time.