“I don’t believe in God anymore,” my nineteen-year-old little brother told me. The admission came suddenly during a casual conversation late one night in our mother’s quiet house. It stunned me into temporary silence. I looked at him from my sprawled out position on the living room floor, and waited for him to continue.
“It all seems too easy,” he said. “We want to believe in a God who loves us and cares about us, and everything we do.”
Brett started pulling at the carpet with his fingers. “We all want that, but none of us can prove that it’s true.” He looked up at me searchingly. “No one knows if he’s really real.”
I sat in shock. When had my brother begun to think this way? To my knowledge, Brett is no doubting Thomas. Brett’s faith could put the faith of many longstanding church elders to shame. A recognized leader in his church and youth group, he had a belief in God that went beyond his weekly attendance at church. He thrived on his faith, grew daily and never stopped amazing me with his ability to casually bring God into almost everything he did. Spiritually, Brett was a prodigy. So, naturally, his sudden about-face startled me.
“Well … isn’t that the big debate?” I asked, gingerly. “I mean isn’t that the reason why believing in God is called ‘faith’?”
“I know all that,” he shot back impatiently. “But what I don’t get is, if the concept of God is really legitimate, why does it seem so circumstantial? I mean it just seems too convenient.”
He continued, “With or without God, good and bad things happen, and that’s life. I don’t need God to have a good day. I can have a good day on my own … how do we know it isn’t all just an elaborate hoax?”
Brett looked down then picked at the carpet again.
I sat there humbled by my lack of expertise. What could I say to encourage him back to the faith? How could I convince him that his doubts were totally unjustified?
In the seconds that followed, I thought of multiple appeals to coax him out of his unbelief. Believe because it’s good for you, I thought of saying. Or, believe because you should, because you have to, because it’s the way you’ve been raised. I knew all of these were shallow and unconvincing. But what reason wasn’t? I couldn’t give him step-by-step lessons on how to scientifically prove that God is real. I couldn’t even tell him to believe just because I did, because honestly, I doubted too.
Sitting in our uncomfortable silence, I realized I couldn’t disagree with him. I couldn’t prove God exists.
“So, don’t believe,” I said, holding my breath, while feeling that I was purposely leading my little brother into the depths of hell.
The silence that resulted felt endless.
“That’s really not what I wanted to hear you say,” he at last responded. Like so many of us who were raised in the Church, and profess to believe in God, Brett had finally reached the point in his faith where he stopped believing just because everyone else did. He began demanding good solid evidence for his belief.
Unfortunately, logical, physical proof of the spiritual is difficult to find. Even in the pages of scripture, we find that God reveals next to nothing about himself, outside of His supernatural involvement in human lives. When God revealed Himself to Moses (Ex. 3:14), and asked him to tell the Egyptian pharaoh to free all of the country’s Israelite slaves, Moses, a meager shepherd asked God, “Who will I say sent me.” Instead of giving him a manifesto on His existence, God basically told Moses, Just let Pharaoh know the ‘I am that I am’ sent you.
That was it; just I am that I am.
It seems pretty sketchy. At some point, Moses probably thought the concept of God was kind of sketchy too.
Like Brett, we all have our moments of doubt. We wonder at the logic of believing in a God we cannot see or hear. We wonder at following something supernatural, when the whole idea of the “supernatural” is often up for debate. However, Moses stopped doubting when he saw a bush on fire, but never burning up, water turning to blood, a stick turning into a snake, and God’s power tearing open the sea. God’s presence wasn’t something he understood, but it was something he knew. It was something he experienced repeatedly.
The same can be true for us. We can believe in God because He’s what we’ve been taught, and what we’ve convinced ourselves to be the most rational and logical thing to do. Or, we can believe in God because we have vibrantly experienced His presence in our lives. We can believe because at some point, God made Himself so real to us that we could almost reach out and touch His face.
That’s not saying that one moment will change us for life. It can, but more than likely, each instance will serve as a reminder along the way, that God is close, alive and active in our lives.
While we sat there, I realized Brett didn’t need reasons to believe, he needed a reminder that God was still there; Brett needed to experience God again.
“Don’t believe,” I told him, this time with more confidence. “If you’ve been believing something that’s not your own, search out what is your own and take that as far as you can. You take that and run with it. See what happens.”
He watched me quietly from his corner of the room. I leaned back and looked at the ceiling.
I needed to believe again too.
“But what if I don’t feel God?” he asked. He was anxious and concerned.
“You will,” I said.[Rachel is an actor and freelance writer. She lives in Cleveland, OH with her husband Dave, who is the drummer for Relient K.]