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Beauty for Ashes…My “Agnostic Days”

In the past several years, I have seriously considered the possibility that God doesn’t exist.  I’m not talking about just having a bad day and thinking God doesn’t love me…in a tantrum of self-pity. I’m talking about really wrestling with the possibility that everything I have ever believed is just a bunch of made up stuff.  For someone like me, who has built my entire life around my faith, that is a really awful place to be.  It’s like removing the foundation from underneath a house. It would crumble to the ground.

I’m a skeptic, doubt comes naturally and it is something I have battled for most of my life.  I’m like the guy in Matthew 9 who tells Jesus “I believe, forgive my unbelief.”  I struggle with doubt even when life is going well and it seems like God is near.  Over the last 6 years or so, life hasn’t always gone well and God has been kind of silent.  Doing the right thing no longer guaranteed getting the right result.  Dreams were replaced with disappointment and loss.  I could no longer find purpose in the events in my life.  My prayers seemed to fall to the ground. I could no longer convince myself of God’s existence through my circumstances.

It’s in this context that I have been forced to face my doubts honestly.  I’ve read books, watched debates, and studied philosophy.  I have honestly examined both sides of the argument on God’s existence and decided that Atheism does not suit me.  I just can’t embrace the idea that everything randomly came from nothing.

Agnosticism on the other hand…well, that’s an idea I can get cozy with.  It can somewhat answer the question of where we came from; we can’t really know but maybe some impersonal designer.  It answers the question of my suffering and THE question of suffering; it just is what it is, there is no purpose or reason for it.  It lets me off the hook; no one in particular to obey.  It’s easy and sometimes I want easy.  So, I have what I call “agnostic days.”  They usually coincide with my “whatever, I don’t care anymore” days and my “I give up” days.

Then, every single time, there is a quiet voice in my heart that says Nope, this isn’t right…remember when…?  I do, I remember when…  and all of a sudden I am reminded that I’ve experienced too many “coincidences” to not believe in God.  So, my faith in God and my hope in Jesus live another day.

For years now, I have been comparing my current weak  faith with my former strong faith and beating myself up over it.  Well, the clouds have parted a little and for the first time in a long time, I’m starting to see more clearly.  I catch glimpses of the purpose behind the pain and I am realizing that my faith is not weaker than it used to be,  it’s more real.

My foundation has not been removed like I thought, but the big, poorly constructed house that was built on it has burned to the ground.  There’s not much left, not much at all, but what’s left is real, tested and proven.

Beauty for Ashes…

…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:2-4

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7 Comments

  1. This is an excellent quote: “my faith is not weaker than it used to be, it’s more real.”

    There is a LOT in those words.

    It is interesting to look at faith in God from a “not so real vs. more real” paradigm instead of from a “more or less” paradigm.

    I once heard someone point out that when Jesus talked about a “faith like a mustard seed” the point was not so much about the SIZE of the faith, but about whether you had it or not. In other words, if you have faith and say to a mountain “throw yourself into the sea” it will go into the sea.

    A mustard seed (apparently) is a tiny thing. Perhaps the lesson of the Mustard Seed Parable is that any faith at all is all the faith in the world? Something to think about anyways.

    I once watched the movie “The Nativity” and was impacted in an unusual way.

    I was impacted very deeply, not so much by the plot, but by this fact: I realized that I BELIEVED the story. I have bought into the Gospel story hook, line, and sinker. I’m sold.

    Even when I struggle with my own kinds of doubts I still believe.

    Even if my mind asks troubling questions something inside says “no Jon, you KNOW God is real and you KNOW the Bible is true.”

    I appreciate your realness. I’d take that over a “full of faith constantly but kinda fake” type of faith anyday.

    By the way, this new theme makes the words very easy to read. I like that.

    🙂

    Reply
    • There is a lot in those words! A lot has happened in my spiritual life over the last several years that mad me question a lot of things. Somehow, that has taken my faith to a different level…it’s still difficult to put into words but it has made it more real even though it seems less impressive (at least to me).

      “Faith” is something I have been thinking about a lot lately…I agree. I don’t think it’s about the “size” of your faith, it’s about having faith for what is in front of you in life…

      I like the new theme too. It’s a little more grown up!

      Reply
  2. Sometimes I feel like believing something that you have doubts about just because it has structure and gives purpose is easier than recognizing inconsistencies and confronting them.

    But I can relate to the quiet voice you talk about. Whether it’s produced by the unconscious mind or something external, it’s still there.

    Anyway…interesting read! 🙂

    Reply
    • “Faith” is very subjective and it is required for every belief system…even Atheism. I have confronted a lot of the “inconsistencies” in Christianity as objectively as possible and I can honestly say that I am not simply falling back on a belief system because it is comfortable. It’s honestly not all that comfortable…

      There is a lot in this world that is simply unknown and probably unknowable…science can only take us so far and when you really get honest about it, science isn’t as objective as many would like to claim. So, my belief in Jesus comes from a combination of objective study and subjective experience. It makes more sense to me than anything else I have studied and my experience and that “quiet voice” tell me it’s true…I have been fighting the battle between faith and doubt for 20 years.

      I believe that the “quiet voice” is external…I believe it’s God’s voice and I find that when I listen to it, I find a lot more peace and purpose in my life.

      I’ve read some of your blog and it seems that you are fighting the same battle between faith and doubt. I encourage you to study all the “inconsistencies” but don’t forget to listen to the “quiet voice” in the process!

      Reply
      • Great Quotes from this answer:

        I can honestly say that I am not simply falling back on a belief system because it is comfortable. It’s honestly not all that comfortable…

        There is a lot in this world that is simply unknown and probably unknowable…science can only take us so far and when you really get honest about it, science isn’t as objective as many would like to claim.

        my belief in Jesus comes from a combination of objective study and subjective experience.

        Really great insights!

        I understand about how belief in Jesus has both an objective and a subjective element. I am right there with you.

        There is another element that I cannot really describe as either objective or subjective. At least it is not subjective in the sense that it is based on an “experience.” I call it the “Inner Knowing in Your Knower.” It isn’t based on something experienced. It isn’t based on something reasoned out. Those things may interact with it, but it is itself something different.

        The only explanation I can think of for this “knowing” is that God puts it there. It is an inner testimony in the heart of man that says “I know God is there.”

        Perhaps that is among the reasons why we will all be held accountable to “know” about God in the end.

  3. By the way, I once heard that the Latin for “agnostic” (which is Greek) is “Ignoramus.”

    🙂

    That was for free.

    Reply
  4. Hey….you’re not alone. My frustrations in this area go quite a bit deeper and I’m still often there, but you made some great points about faith and I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve found that it often comes in stages from 1. doubting 2. philosophically wrestling and 3. settling into your individual faith. Above what anyone else might try to tell you, how you view God is very personal and often more subjective than we think. I believe if God is real, he is above our understanding and even how we view him through the very narrow lens of language and tradition. They can help, but they’re fragmented.

    Great stuff!

    Reply

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