I know a man who claims that he is an atheist, but I am not sure he really is.
Many years ago, he earnestly prayed for God to heal him from a painful physical disability – but nothing happened. If he had stopped believing in God, and simply moved on with his life, then perhaps he would have become a true atheist, but he decided to hate God instead. Year after year, he mocks and opposes both God, and those who put their faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sin and eternal life. His slow, death-spiral into eternity is sad to watch, yet he resolutely refuses to believe he has a problem.
What would you do if someone asked you for a favour, knowing that if you refused, they would hate you for life – exposing their inner darkness in the process? On the other hand, if you granted their request you could avoid their hatred, but their darkness would remain hidden. If I were faced by this dilemma with someone I truly loved, it might be better to refuse their request. Love would enable me to endure their wrath, with the hope that one day they would recognize their darkness and bring it to God for healing. Exposing our inner darkness is far more important to God than giving us what we demand.
It probably goes without saying that God will not be manipulated by, ‘Give me what I ask or I will hate you for the rest of my life.’ As One who see the inner appearance of a person, He not only hears the request, but he sees the person’s inner darkness, and the unspoken conditions attached to their “love”. It may well be that God refuses, leaving them to face their own darkness, until it drives them to God for inner healing and cleansing.
This brings up a disturbing question, ‘What about me? What misfortune or unanswered prayer would cause me turn away from God?’ I have often thought about this, but each time I see the stark reality that without God, I have nothing. There really is no choice – it is God or nothing. He is my Creator, my life, my joy, my peace, and the one who rescues me from my own ugly darkness and its consequences. He is my King and the Giver of an unimaginable future.
True faith in God is demonstrated by ancient Job, who lived almost 4,000 years ago. In the midst of horrible suffering and loss, he said, ‘though He (God) slay me, yet will I hope in Him.’(1) There comes a time in life when each person must decide if they will hold their faith in God no matter what … ‘all in’ … no conditions attached. Our mission in this life is not to have a good time, or to achieve our ambitions, or even to fulfill our own selves, it is to prepare for an eternity with God, and to help others prepare as well. To accomplish that mission may require some very rough roads in life. For those who put their faith in Christ, there will be a new heaven and earth. It will be an eternity without tears or pain, and we will experience a world of unimaginable beauty, purity, and joy impossible for the mortal heart of humanity to comprehend.(2) In the meantime, we must press on in faith, trusting that no matter what hard roads we must walk in this life, the end result will be worth it, beyond our ability to imagine or comprehend it.
For further reading on this subject, see my post on ‘God, and the death of small children’.
- Job 13:15
- 1 Corinthians 2:9