Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why Believe in God?

Note that the question here is "why believe in God?" and not "why believe of God?" Demons believe of God (James 2:19), creation testifies of God (Romans 1:20), and conscience—conscience which defies humanity's nature for self-indulgence—could not exist outside understanding of right and wrong ("do not steal," "do not murder") which is of God (Romans 2:14-15). God provides ample, visible proof of His existence to those who are unpretentious enough to look. (A mortal may possess sufficient arrogance to refute the existence of God, but no mortal possesses the infinite knowledge required to make such an assertion with credibility.)

The "why believe in God?" question is one we all ask at some point, regardless of whether or not we think ourselves spiritual, religious, intelligent. It is likely asked most often by those who cannot reconcile the stark reality of human suffering with the idea that God worthy of acceptance. It is asked in every act of disobedience to morality or honor. It is asked by the most devout of God-believers in moments when we comprehend Him least.

Perhaps, in these moments, we are being most honest with ourselves and with Him. We had caught a glimpse, a whiff of divinity, and we thought with delight that we are, after all, capable of understanding with finite minds the reaches of infinity. We presumed that God is reasonable and our faith can therefore be solidly planted on a rock of reason.

But consider the man whom God Himself once upheld as a model believer:

Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?"
~ Job 1:8 (NKJV)

The horror to follow seems to have no limit. When all he owns and all he loves are lost, as Job writhes in agony of body, he is at last betrayed by wife of his bosom and comrades alike. How reasonable of God is it to allow His finest servant most extreme suffering for best behavior?

Stretched to his breaking point, Job, the quintessential God-believer, comes to the moment when he comprehends God least.

But I would speak to the Almighty,
And I desire to reason with God.
~ Job 13:3 (NKJV)

Job, man of reason, asks "Why believe in God?" What reason can God give Job to reconcile all the suffering and evil to befall him with the God he has previously deemed worthy of acceptance?

Yet even as Job questions the "why" of believing in God, Job does not stop believing in God.

Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.
~ Job 13:15 (NKJV)

If Job had ceased believing God as good, there would be no purpose in the question. As he languishes in misery, longing for its explanation, Job holds faith in the One allowing the misery. For every cause we find to ask, "Why believe in God," there is a God bigger than the question.

be•lieve /biˈlēv/ verb 1 a : to have a firm religious faith b : to accept something as true, genuine, or real 2 : to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something

The mind may find a reason to believe in God—to accept Him—but He will eventually defy puny human intellect. The heart may encounter a feeling to believe in God—to put confidence in Him—but He will eventually push us out of our comfort zone and maybe even break our hearts. The physical senses may discover created beauty which inspires belief—conviction—of a good God, but He will also allow us to experience the evil conceived apart from Him.

When belief is challenged in every way, the humble soul may simply ask for the faith which is a gift from God.

Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"
~ Mark 9:23-24 (NKJV)

Comments are welcome (including respectful disagreement) and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – use @gmail.com *after* buildingHisbody
Copyright 2013, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sorrow Turned Into Joy

"Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy."
~ John 16:20 (NKJV)

This world is filled with sorrow—sorrow that runs long and deep and wide. Although the Word of God and faith testify that "all things work together for good to those who love God" (Romans 8:28), deepest sorrows bring us to the place where "good" seems inconceivable and joy seems irretrievable. In such a place, we may think the best we can do is hang on and wait for Heaven.

Jesus speaks of a different hope.

"A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world."
~ John 16:21 (NKJV)

After carrying five children, I feel qualified on the subject of labor and childbirth. All five deliveries were thoroughly different experiences, with three common factors.

First, the misery of pregnancy went on for an excruciatingly long time. I stand 5'1" tall (154 cm.) and have a short waist. With little other space to fill, my babies pushed into my chest and against my ribs, making breathing difficult. Three trimesters of nausea didn't help. As I neared the end of nine months, each day became agony.

Then there's the extreme pain of delivery. The first time around, a failed epidural added to pain rather than relieved it, so I opted out of medication the remaining four times. I've heard passing kidney stones is worse than childbirth, but all my kids were bigger than my husband's biggest kidney stone, and he never reached the point of crying and exhaustion and screaming that I did.

The third common factor? Extreme exhilaration utterly obliterated all the preceding anguish. I've done some crazy thrilling stuff like skydiving, rappelling, high-speed driving on a track. But seeing a new human emerge from my own body and draw breath—bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh with a life of its own—? Nothing else comes anywhere close to the elation of giving birth.

In retrospect, all the agony was trivial. Each life is worth exceedingly more than the pain to birth it.

Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
~ Psalms 30:5 (NKJV)

When I consider that the Holocaust re-birthed the nation of Israel in 1947, I wonder if anything less could have produced this miracle—a people surviving 1,877 years of exile and returning to their homeland as a sovereign nation. Hostile neighbors have threatened their existence for every one of the sixty-six years since, and the "Day of Jacob's Trouble" lies in the not-too-distant future. Israeli suffering persists. Yet the Jews persevere, their life and land worth the cost after centuries of persecution.

This world is filled with sorrow—sorrow that runs long and deep and wide. Longer than pregnancy, more painful than childbirth.

But just as pregnancy and childbirth are necessary to the resulting joy of a new life, the sorrows of this life are used by God to birth in us the life of His Son. While God is saving the greatest joys for Heaven, He may be relied upon to bring us joy each day on Earth. The people of God can ground our hope on the greatest joys following the greatest sorrows.

This is not a "hope," of the wishing variety. This is the hope, assured by Word of God.

"Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you."
~ John 16:22 (NKJV)

Wherever else it may appear, joy is found in seeing Jesus near us, with us, in us.

God Almighty, Giver of life, You are good and faithful. Through dark nights, please let us feel Your life stirring within us. In the longest last hour, please enable us to persevere unto the first strains of dawn. When we are utterly spent, please carry us through to fullness of joy.

Comments are welcome (including respectful disagreement) and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – use @gmail.com *after* buildingHisbody
Copyright 2013, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.