Sometimes I have trouble believing in God.
It can happen suddenly, in one of those horrendous moments that leave me questioning: if God is in control of everything, then why did he let this happen? If he is a loving and personal God, then how could he let this happen?
But more often than not, for me, unbelief doesn’t come that way. It doesn’t come to the front door and stand and fight like a man; it comes like a thief. It robs me: slowly, precisely, and carefully. It plants the seed of doubt and nurtures it. It spreads, like a crack in the sidewalk that freezes and thaws and spreads imperceptibly wider. Then I suddenly look up and see only a dark and frozen expanse. And wonder: is God really there?
If I step back and look at these moments in my life, it comes as no surprise that they most often follow on the heels of those times when I have slipped in my personal time with God and in my fellowship with other believers. Disbelief is strongest when I’ve worked through a Sunday service, collapsed into bed after a one-sentence prayer, or gone too long without pondering God’s Word. Jesus tells us that where two or more are gathered in His name, He is there among us (Matthew 18:20). But if I do not gather to see Him, I begin to doubt He is there.
I read once that if you don’t feel as close to God as you once were, make no mistake about which one of you moved. I am living proof of that. Jesus has told us He will be with us always – always! – even unto the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). But it is not enough for Him to simply be there. I have to look for Him. I have to talk to Him. As with any of my human relationships, my relationship with God will only grow stronger if we spend time together.
Sometimes there are dry spells where I just don’t feel God’s presence. I think then of Madeleine L’Engle who wrote: “Love is not an emotion; it is a policy.” God’s loving presence is not something we have to feel to believe. And just because I do not feel his presence, does not mean He isn’t there. Despite what some “build-your-own-reality” proponents may teach, God does not need me to believe in Him in order for Him to exist. At the end of the day, either the God of the Bible exists, or He does not. Nothing I can do or say will change this. If there is not a God, I cannot create Him. And if there is a God, I cannot uncreate Him.
This fact is strangely liberating to me. Regardless of the answer, I find it comforting just knowing that at life’s core there is this element of absolute truth. Relativism is so popular in our culture that I begin at times to actually believe that truth is relative, that religious ideas are cultural and personal but never factual, that good and evil are “all relative.” But no matter how confused and doubt-driven my thoughts become, when I peel them back and look underneath, I always come back to this unwavering fact: Either God exists, or He does not. My beliefs will impact my relationship with God, but they can never impact the existence of God. To think otherwise is to give myself some power on the level of God himself, something the devil loves to lure us toward. “You shall be as Gods,” He told Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:5). “God is only in your imagination,” he tells us today. “You can create or destroy Him at will.”
But of course, we can’t really. Because either God exists, or He does not. All we can do is ask: “God, do you exist?” And either there will be no answer…
Or there will be Someone who says: “I AM.” (Listen.)
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’… This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation” (Exodus 3:14-15).