Faith Doesn’t Work For Everyone


In the wake of a local teen’s sudden death last week, there has been much talk in the community about faith.  We live in an especially conservative, predominantly Christian part of California, so it’s not all that surprising that most of the people impacted by this tragedy, directly or indirectly, are Christians, or that they are turning to their faith to cope.

A few days after he died, I ran into a friend at the store.  She and I have forged a somewhat tentative friendship – tentative because her Christian faith is so much a part of her, and my unbelief flies in the face of that.  It’s hard to find common ground when one of us knows the other is praying for her soul, and the other knows that the beliefs she holds dear are thought of as delusional.  We’re both moms, so that’s our common ground, but even in that there are wide differences in how we each approach it based on our spiritual status.

Anyway, she is close friends with the mother of the boy who died.  When we ran into each other at the store, she said that the family is coping as well as could be expected, and are definitely being buoyed by their faith.  She then relayed to me how – understanding that I don’t believe – faith has carried her through some very difficult times in her life.  She told me how there have been some particular instances during which she was filled with peace when she didn’t think she should have had peace, and that was evidence to her of God’s presence, and it affirmed her faith.

As she was telling me this, I was reminded of another friend of mine whose little boy died in a tragic accident a number of years ago.  She was a devout Christian, and she counted on one of the promises of Christian faith that God would walk with her through the difficult times and offer her comfort and peace – only to find that in her darkest hours, she didn’t feel the comfort or peace of God’s presence at all.  She wrote about it here.

I think back on my own life and the many dark times I’ve gone through – times of loss, of suffering.  I was a believer through most of it – it’s only been the last five or six years that I’ve let go of the faith I carried around with me from the time I was a child.  My faith never lent me peace or comfort.  In my darkest hours, I didn’t feel God’s presence – I felt utterly alone.  In my darkest hours, my faith led to more tormented thoughts than anything (Why was God allowing a man to beat the crap out of me and emotionally torture me?  Could my dad possibly go to heaven if he wasn’t a believer?)

So how do the believers reconcile this?  Why do some believers feel God’s presence and the peace and comfort that goes with that, and other believers – just as pure (or unpure) of heart and soul – don’t when they should?  Are they doing faith wrong?  Are they just not as favored by God?

I can’t deny that the peace and comfort that those select believers feel when they need to feel it is very real to them.  But it also can’t be denied that not everyone – not even every faithful person – enjoys that benefit of faith.

These are just some of the reasons I don’t believe.

 

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25 Comments on “Faith Doesn’t Work For Everyone”

  1. Carolyn Gabriel
    November 29, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    Lisa,
    I think I understand exactly what you are saying. Something that I want you to know is that when I say I am praying for you – I’m not prayer trained to pray for your soul – don’t know why. When I pray it’s asking that you have all you want and need, maybe more than that if possible, good health for all, good wishes for laughter and joy, physical joy and comfort…I could go on and on and on as the Southern people say. Thank you for not calling me on that, definitely you have learned how to handle situations with us ‘believers’ as you have grown out of your faith. If I have doubts, I remind myself that Sister Theresa also had doubts. I worked for years for a state agency that took care of chronically and terminally ill children. I felt that it was a way to pay back society for all the help I had with my Chrissy and his DS (once I had 56 women a week coming in to do the patterning therapy that is so controversial, another subject entirely but would do it again). I never became inured to the children’s suffering or dying. I was the money person, had to figure out how the State of Fl (not very high taxes here) would pay for supplies, care, surgeries, transplants, hospital care, transportation, etc. I worked as hard as I could in every way and never became accustomed to losing the children at times, except to know they had the very best care available to them anywhere. Why does God permit this suffering of little children? You have no doubt heard of the book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”. I wonder what happened for the author’s child. Sometimes God has not been there for me but I continue to seek his wisdom, caring and love. I watched a movie once at work about all the social programs the state has for people. It occurred to me then that if the teachings of Christ were followed we would not have any social programs. Some Jewish people believe that Christ was a scholar, judge, wise man, just not the Son of God. Please accept my prayers for you and your family as loving, caring good wishes. I don’t have the answer for you, as God has not always been there for me. Some people might say or think “who moved away-you or God?” but I don’t see the logic and guilt that could bring about. My husband was brought up with a more secular life than I. Chris was born a year after we got married. My husband’s take on the emphasis in my life “Jesus and Germs! Never have seen either and that’s all I hear!” He had come to church with his Mother, that’s where we met, so I can say “you know where you found me!”. A little humor. You are probably one of the Best Christians in the World, passing on the teaching of the New Testament to everyone in your life. Thankyou for this Blog, It is a Blessing To Me-such as a gift from you to me. It means a lot to me and gives me a forum for feelings I have experienced for 52 years, feeling so alone in the world many times.

    I like your post of “JUST AS I AM” That is the Baptist hymn of invitation that evangelist Billy Graham used, and that’s how we want our children to be accepted, JUST AS THEY ARE. They don’t have to be the smartest, cutest, etc. They are a Gift to the World JUST AS THEY ARE.

    Thanks for listening. I am open to response, continuing to love and pray for you. I don’t understand either why God permits tragedy, suffering, death, lack of comfort and inner strength, lack of emotional, physical growth.

    I cannot agree or condone the practice and/or teachings of organized religion. Better than war , crime, cruelty, neglect, need, etc. Great good, caring , joy and kindness come from it.

    Pardon a Little Old Lady who knows she becomes verbose. I do have part of my book written. ha ha

  2. Addie
    November 29, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    Lisa, Ive been reading “Evolving in Monkey Town” by Rachel Held Evans and it makes me think of you in some parts… I think you might enjoy it (and note here, Im not trying to convert you or get you to read a “Christian” book or anything – its a book about asking the hard questions about Christianity and being more open – I just thought you might like it)

  3. CJ
    November 29, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    I admire those with such faith. How awesome to have a security blanket, such as religion, to clung to and rely on. I am one of those whose childhood faith failed her. I can’t buy into the whole “everything is His design and purpose” shit. Rape? Murder? Child abuse? Children and puppies being killed? If that is His will, then He pretty much sucks, in my opinion.

    I’m happy for those who find comfort, joy and security in Christianity. I believe everyone has the RIGHT to that. But I don’t adhere to it all.

    But then again, I’m just a big old hellbound homo.

    • Grace
      December 4, 2012 at 6:51 am #

      I can’t imagine heaven being all that heavenly without the gay community there.

  4. Kris M
    November 30, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    I think the biggest misconception from non believers is that bad things shouldn’t happen if there is a God. Humans are flawed, God is not. We are here to learn; learning involves failure and pain. As Helen Keller so eloquently stated, “We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world”. If you believe that this life is all there is, I can see how frustrating it would be to reconcile human suffering with a belief in the presence of a loving God. However, my belief is that this life is a very tiny blip in my soul’s existence in the universe. Viewed in this way, God is allowing my soul to experience ‘the human condition’ in all its wonderful, messy, dark, dangerous, miraculous, horrifying glory. When this life ends, and my soul leaves earth, all the shit that we put up with here just won’t matter. Better existence awaits. I believe in this promise. I just do. I know you do not and I wouldn’t try to convince you otherwise. Just thought I’d lend my perspective to the whole “when bad things happen” discussion.

    • Lisa
      December 1, 2012 at 12:30 am #

      Well, I don’t think it’s a misconception at all. If there WERE a just, loving, merciful god, then there SHOULDN’T be needless suffering. Humans are flawed, you say? Okay. That still doesn’t rationalize away natural disasters that wipe innocent people out, or babies with Down syndrome rotting in institutions in Eastern Europe, or 14-year-old boys dropping from heart attacks. You have to explain that kind of thing away with the old stand by, “God works in mysterious ways.” No matter what, god comes out the winner, doesn’t he? Convenient. Why this whole chess game to begin with? Why put humans – whom he supposedly loves and wants the best for – through all these tests to make sure they’re worthy of populating heaven in the afterlife? Why all the design defects with regard to human character? Wouldn’t it have been a lot easier to just create people who wouldn’t fuck up in the first place? I’d say the god you believers believe in is pretty sadistic and twisted, just out for his own amusement watching the folly of humans.

      I absolutely agree with Helen Keller’s sentiments. Life is a series of lessons, of opportunities to grow and learn, and failing and suffering are certainly part of that. I just don’t believe that it’s all for a higher purpose. And I think it’s actually very sad to believe that “all the shit that we put up with here just won’t matter.” Believing that there is something better after this earthly life actually cheapens this earthly life. Knowing that this life is all we will ever have makes it that much more precious and valuable. And anyway, you don’t really believe that none of this matters, do you? If you did, then I guess you’d be perfectly content to drop dead right this second.

      Anyway, all that said, my post wasn’t even about why is there suffering if there is a god? It was about the fact that even many believers find nothing but a void where god is supposed to be when they face their darkest moments.

  5. Kris
    December 1, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    Actually, while I wouldn’t be content ‘to drop dead this second’, I certainly don’t have a fear of dying. To me it’s just another part of this long journey our souls are on. There is a yin/yang to this whole belief in a higher power. World tragedy, human tragedy, suffering, joy (an unbelievable abundance of joy at times) is interwoven. IT IS THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE, not the entire experience of an infinite soul. You either see the bigger picture or you don’t. “Believing that there is something better after this earthly life actually cheapens this earthly life”? That doesn’t make sense to me at all. In the scheme of learning what it is to love, be loved, feel pain, suffering, joy, heartache, wonder etc. etc. this earthly experience is like one undergraduate class in an existential degree in ‘being’.

    • Heather
      December 1, 2012 at 5:35 am #

      I agree with you Kris.

  6. Paula
    December 1, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    I agree with you Lisa. When my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer and spent two years suffering and then dying, my church and faith couldn’t help me. I was in so much pain and grief from losing my mom I couldn’t even think about heaven/hell or God. It was one of the darkest times in my life. I feel that we are all a small part of this journey. The planet will continue to have periods of change. From global warming to another ice age. What happens after our time of being here is really insignificant. What you believe or what I believe is personal. A friend once said it best. No matter what, we’re all here together and whatever we can do to help each other out each day is what is important. If there is a God, he truly knows what is in each of our hearts and what we feel. If I can help someone in whatever way, I do. It makes my journey worthwhile. And whatever happens after this lifetime, well I hope it’s a good thing too.

  7. ItsAboutLife
    December 3, 2012 at 7:20 am #

    I am a person of faith. I wasn’t always…. almost lost it at one point, but now have it more than ever.

    So, to answer your question about how do believers reconcile all of this? I would answer that, in my experience, you must keep realistic expectations. I think a lot of people expect it to be like some kind of magic, where badda-bing, the suffering is healed! It doesn’t work that way, so if people have that as an expectation, its a formula for failure.

    And (assuming Christianity) the Bible says it doesn’t work that way. Many of its writers suffered LOTS (St Paul).

    To me, the key lies in hope and perseverance. Faith is a daily struggle. Some people may seem to make it look easy, but its hard for EVERYONE. Obviously, I’d say you have a spark of faith within you somewhere as you’ve been a believer most of your life. Ask yourself how high you set the bar? Did you set it so high that you were continually disappointed?
    I guess the counter argument would be that Faith requires us to set the bar super low as to NEVER be disappointed. The way I approach it is to not have a bar at all. What happens, happens. I still keep the Faith.
    There are concrete realities in this world that all of us MUST accept, mainly, this life will end. and lots of people seem to place so much emphasis on how/when it ends. Nevertheless, the truth remains: this life ends. The means does not change the reality of a God / no God. So, you either believe something happens afterwards, or you don’t.

    I do understand the atheist’s reasonings.. I do. Faith is HARD, its NOT an easy life. But it can be the most joyous feeling as well.
    To me personally, I find that believing in an atheistic view (yes, I view that as a kind of faith- so either way, you must have a faith), is much MUCH harder to me. And I also view it as a sad, depressing view. Without a God, I just feel it makes man/Earth… ME…. insignificant, and I refuse to believe that.
    Ya know, I can’t explain why all the bad things happen to innocent people: natural disasters, murders, disease (especially in children), etc. Those are tough questions, indeed. My only response would be that I believe there is a God, but with that, there is the devil. A lot of people leave that last part off, but it could be significant. Honestly, if you look at some aspects of today’s society, I don’t know how anyone could deny that there is a source of evil out there.

    But I’d say what helps me is that…. I need to remind myself that I’m not God. Whatever i THINK needs to happen… may not be what God wants or what is best. My point is that we must submit to God,let him be in control which a lot of people don’t want to give up the control to someone else. Even if the results are not pleasing/acceptable- ultimately, we are not in control. Until a believer submits… there will always be a problem.

    My personal example is that I had neurosurgery. I was 28 at the time. I felt like such a victim, .. unfair… . and bitter. But so much good has come out of it….. more than just physically… spiritually as well.

    My main point: no matter what- believe. Keep the Faith. Its in you somewhere, find it. The fact that you even posted this blog about Faith, 5+ years after you supposedly lost it, tells me there is still some in you. Nourish it because it will produce much fruit.

    • Lisa
      December 3, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

      With all due respect, you’re way off target about my beliefs. Good for you if you believe in some magical, invisible man who lives in the sky. I don’t.

      • ItsAboutLife
        December 3, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

        Well, if you say so, ok.
        If you want to put your Faith in the God of Chance, that one day, an explosion happened – something came from nothing – then magically the Earth formed. Then at some random point, molecules drifted together to form a spontaneous DNA strand, that was stable… or had the required complex intracellular environment present to allow it to remain and duplicate, eventually (through many many more just as likely spontaneous events) forming the first cell, i.e. Life, then go ahead. I don’t.
        Or did I go way off target again ? Prolly so.

        Ok, I’ll leave it at that and continue to pray to my Sky Santa.

        Thanks for posting this blog as it gets the brain cells pumping!

      • Lisa
        December 3, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

        What cracks me up is how believers try to explain what they see as inexplicable with something even more far-fetched. How is it that the Big Bang and evolution seem improbable (even though science totally backs it up), but some magical, supernatural being seems probable (even though there is NOTHING to back it up except people’s feelings)?

      • ItsAboutLife
        December 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

        Thanks for replying.

        I guess that’s where the key difference is. You say that a Creator is less probable than the supernatural. That is only your opinion. If you want to have that opinion, more power to you.
        I did not throw the theory of evolution out the window. Evolving from primates etc seems possible based on the evidence we have. But when scientists just assume that life, or DNA, some how just popped out of the ground… thats not part of evolution. Its a key assumption they assume and quickly overlook. do you know how improbable that is???
        Our beliefs are centered around our experiences, right?.. at least somewhat…
        In my experience, which is 9 years of science courses, I’ve seen how extremely complex life and the human body are. Each thing I learn just reveals to me how unlikely it is that it just happened. A Creator to me seems so much more acceptable.
        That’s what I meant in my first entree…. that a godless view is much harder to believe. LESS probable. The Big Bang is not labeled a “fact”. Its a theory. Put all your faith in it if you want, but I simply find it much harder.

        And faith does give people peace and comfort in their darkest hours. That is, when that faith becomes a reality and is NOT based on “feelings”.
        Even if I want to throw God/Faith/Religion out the window – i can’t. Its a reality in my eyes.

      • Lisa
        December 3, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

        A godless view is actually extremely easy to believe. It requires absolutely no mental gymnastics, unlike relgious faith. And I’m not sure you understand the actual meaning of “theory” in scientific terms: http://www.nationalacademies.org/evolution/TheoryOrFact.html

      • ItsAboutLife
        December 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

        Nice link.
        Why did you post it though? I did not throw out the theory of evolution. One CAN be a believer and still believe in evolution. Belief in evolution does not cause faith in a creator to be wrong.
        They still are theories though. You can only take the “proofs” of them so far. But not far enough to label them 100% fact. and Evolution does not account for life springing out of dirt- an improbable task, in my view.
        and a godless view is extremely easy for YOU to believe. It is not for me and many others.
        To me, it seems like mental gymnastics to believe that DNA sprang out of the Earth. Religion is much easier.

      • Lisa
        December 3, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

        This is tiresome. I posted the link not to explain evolution, but to illustrate that, in the framework of science, a theory is not merely a hunch. You can apply it to whatever scientific “theory” you like.

        This entire conversation has gotten away from the point of my post. While I appreciate healthy discussion, it seems that you are only here to convince me that your beliefs are correct. Please stop. I’m not interested.

    • Grace
      December 4, 2012 at 6:44 am #

      ItsAboutLife wrote:

      Without a God, I just feel it makes man/Earth… ME…. insignificant, and I refuse to believe that.

      ^ ^

      Talk about a sad, depressing view… wow. Really telling.

      • ItsAboutLife
        December 5, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

        Mrs Lisa,

        I want to sincerely apologize to you for the way I came off. Coming off as arrogant, not accepting the opposing view, and confrontational was not the best way to go… I only wanted to participate in the discussion of your post, as this is a topic of great interest to me. Sorry I got off topic. I will not post anymore.

        Take care

  8. Michael
    December 3, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    ItsAboutLife said: “But when scientists just assume that life, or DNA, some how just popped out of the ground… thats not part of evolution. Its a key assumption they assume and quickly overlook. do you know how improbable that is???”

    Yes, it’s very improbable, and not so improbable on the other hand. I agree it’s improbable–that’s why we don’t see life on every planet, star, etc., or a lot of planets with an atmosphere hospitable to carbon based life. But it happened here.

    On the other hand, it is not that improbable: given the innumerable galaxies, billions and billions of stars and planets in the universe, it’s not so improbable that on at least one of them, life was created, evolved, and sustained.

    One other thing you said was kind of ironic. You said that you couldn’t believe that Lisa believes that “something came from nothing – then magically the Earth formed.” But isn’t that exactly what you’re arguing? That the Earth magically formed?

    Science doesn’t claim to have all of the answers and has no problem discarding theories when they prove impossible, but science wouldn’t exist if we didn’t acknowledge that we don’t know the answers.

    • Lisa
      December 3, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

      Also, believing something came from nothing? Where the hell did god come from? Oh yeah: magic.

  9. Jay Hill
    December 16, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    Hi Lisa, It’s good to see you posting again. This is Jay from The Hills of Northwest Arkansas. My blog has pretty much taken low priority lately. I’m sure you understand that life gets crazier and crazier as kids grow and become more involved in activities. But as I was reading Becca’s blog, I came across your name on one of the replies and found this entry which peeked my interest.

    Your questions of faith and for those who live the Christian faith are relevant and good questions and are questions that demand answers. I am not here to tell you that I have the answers to them because I don’t. But I do have a couple of comments that I would like to share with you.

    1). When you are in the midst of a crisis, do you feel the comfort of your husband, or during the day feel the security that he loves you and will always be there to hold your hand and help carry your struggles? Well, for Christians, that is how we view God and the prerequisite for having that comfort is having a relationship with that person whether it be with God or in the human realm. (There are a lot of people that call themselves Christian that never experience this comfort because there is no relationship with him).

    2). It is difficult to handle, much less explain why bad things happen. But let me try please: I think part of the reason for this can be found in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible. When God created man, He created 2 people (man and woman) and placed them in a perfect setting. Man, being equipped with the ability to think, feel and decide on his own, made a wrong choice to disobey their Creator and for this there were consequences. And it is those consequences that have been passed down from generation to generation.

    Those are my attempts to answer your very justifiable questions. God is a big God and can handle the questions. He wants us to ask questions and to search but I encourage you to do your search in the Bible and not with man. May I suggest an apologist by the name of Ravi Zacherias at http://www.rzim.org He has dedicated his life to answering the tough questions people have about Christianity and Jesus.

    • Lisa
      December 16, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

      Jay, thanks for writing; it’s good to “see” you again after all this time. How is John?

      I really wasn’t looking for answers by way of my post – at least not in the way that you appear to think. I’m really posing the question to Christians: how do YOU explain your fellow Christians who come up against their darkest moments and only feel a void where God is supposed to be? You answered that question: you say it’s because although they call themselves Christian, they haven’t really developed a relationship with God. With all due respect, this sounds extremely arrogant and self-righteous. To make a sweeping statement like that without knowing anyone’s particular circumstances or the depth of their faith (and my friend who lost her two-year old son to a terrible accident was devout, as I said; she had spent her life nurturing her relationship with God – and yet, when she needed to feel his presence the most, she found that he wasn’t there) is extremely narrow-minded and uncharitable.

      I have my answer: there is no god. Why would I go looking in the Bible for answers and explanations? That would only be helpful if I believed the bible to contain truth, which I do not. It’s a book of fiction, of myths, folktales, and parables written by very mortal men from antiquity. Any comfort or presence of god Christians may feel is a figment of their own imagination.

      • Jay Hill
        December 17, 2012 at 12:34 am #

        Lisa, I didn’t say anything against your friend or anyone else for that matter. It would be arrogant of me to speak to them since I don’t know them. I just know that often times Christianity becomes synonomous with religion. Therefore, the knowledge and identification of a true believer in Jesus Christ becomes lost.

        Lisa, it saddens me when I hear people make the statement that “there is no god”. I understand that people may not believe the same way that I do but I don’t really understand how a person can witness the natural beauty of the world and its natural processes and deny that there is not a supreme being behind it all. Consider the birds of the air, fish of the sea, land animals, stars of the sky, the orbit of the earth, gravity, our physical bodies. How do they all work? What makes them work the way they do?

        As to John, he is doing very well. We have him in preschool 3 days/week (non-Ds children). He provides us with a lot of fun. A bit frustrating at times but we are learning to adjust to his time schedule

      • Lisa
        December 17, 2012 at 1:31 am #

        Jay, I can absolutely appreciate the awesome marvels of the world, but none of them convince me that there is a “supreme being” behind it all. Every single thing you mentioned, as well as thousands upon thousands of other things that Christians attribute to God can, and are, explained by science. That doesn’t make them any less beautiful or awe-inspiring.

        And frankly, as sad as it makes you to hear people make the statement that “there is no god,” you also have to accept that there are those of us who: (1) are completely at peace with our views in this regard, and (2) are saddened by people who think there is an invisible, magic guy who lives in the sky and is running the show.

        I’m glad to hear that John is doing well. We also have Finn enrolled in a typical preschool and he is thriving.

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