I Lost My Faith Twice

By Sam Alexander, Patheos Spirituality contributor at Christianity for the Spiritual but not Religious

Timmy and I were swimming in Lake Luzerne when the lightening struck. I’m sure that if you’d been on the shore you’d have seen the second recorded instance of men walking on water. We were out of there in a flash. Timmy and I were close friends. We grew up together at the Peniel Bible Conference. Late in my Senior year of high school I got the news that Timmy had been in an accident. He was in the passenger seat, a friend was driving and didn’t see the other car turning. Timmy I heard, was in a coma. The word went out through Peniel to all the friends and missionaries we knew. For five days hundreds, maybe thousands of people all over the world prayed for Timmy’s recovery.

Then I got word that Timmy was dead. My faith was pretty shaky to begin with. The typical modernist questions of an active educated adolescent mind had exposed the inadequacy of my evangelical faith. But when Timmy died, after all that praying, I was done.

I was done with that uncritical evangelical faith, but I could not be done with the questions burning within me. What are we doing here? What makes my life worth something? Are we all alone, buffeted about by the vagaries of a world that is sometimes cruel and sometimes kind?

In time I grew up, and right on cue I felt compelled to make peace with the faith of my youth. The theological ideas of Karl Barth and the like ran the gauntlet between that magical god of the past and a formulation of Christianity that made peace – at least to a point – with a modern world view. So I came back to faith, did what I was apparently born to do, (became a preacher), and began ministry sure in the knowledge that God was indeed engaged in creation and that even though we’ve considered the facts, this God can be trusted to love us. My favorite word was “nevertheless.”

I married, but as luck would have it my wife spent ten years fighting back a Cancer that could not be stopped. For ten years she wondered why this was happening and sought to do everything she could to effect a cure. The things she made herself eat – things that were “good for her” – would break your heart. Each time the Cancer came back, she turned in on herself, blamed herself, assuming she had fallen short in some way, that she had failed God and so God was failing here.

She died leaving the best little six year old boy anyone could imagine. I knew it was nothing she did or did not do. I knew that God did not “do this” to her but my goodness, how was I to make sense of a world permeated by such sorrow while proclaiming the good news of God’s love? I lost my faith a second time. Which is to say that I gave myself permission to consider ideas about God that had heretofore been labeled “heresy” in my rather narrow book.

All these years I had been envisioning a God who was separate from me, one that judged, or healed, or even directed me through “growth experiences” as “He” miraculously worked within the constraints of “His” natural laws. (Such a constraint offered God cover when things didn’t turn out as they should.) Now though, a new picture emerged, a picture of God not separate from us, but unfolding creation in and through us. There is no answer to the question of why this or that thing is allowed to happen simply because there is no God acting upon creation the way a child builds with an erector set – either within the laws of nature or outside them.

It is simply in the nature of things that creation unfolds or evolves through death into new life. And if you want to see God’s love at work, then in the midst of the horror and the sorrow, you look for the impending light of new life to emerge.

 


  • M.V. D’Angelo

    I was born into an Italian family, rich with all the traditional Catholic trappings. Mid-night mass on Christmas eve, first communions, confirmations, catechism and the like. Then, like you, my devoted Catholic mother fell ill to an evil disease known as Trigeminal Neuralgia. She was afflicted with what is frequently referred to as “the greatest pain a human can suffer,” for years. I prayed and begged God to cure her but of course nothing ever came of my prayers. My distrust of religion took solid root. As I began to wonder why religious history was devoid of so many established facts as to mankind’s origin and the bible’s exclusion of over four billion years of Earth’s existence, my doubts were confirmed. I believe science will soon disprove religion’s versions of human existence with undeniable proofs and religion will lose it’s hold on the weak- minded followers of its centuries of brain-washing.

    • Naila

      You were praying to Jesus, a mere PROPHET OF GOD, not God himself, so how is he suppose to help you? Think about it, if you walk into a jewellery shop and ask them for chips, you’re not gonna get it. Search for the truth, dont give up. There IS a creator, and He wants the best for you, all you need to do is search for him. alislam.org

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    That’s all…”twice”!

    I lose my faith at least twice a day. But as I wander…He keeps coming after me. Thanks be to God.

  • Ric

    “Bad things happen, therefore there is no God”.

    There are plenty of answers to that fairly simplistic logical formulation from minds far greater than mine (but certainly not yours, I’m sure!), if one is willing to look.

    I’m sure that makes me a “weak minded follower of…centuries of brain-washing”.

  • chris young

    “Bad things happen, therefore there is no God”.

    Bad things happen, therefore we need to rethink what many religions that tell us, that god is all good. Is god perhaps neutral, performing and allowing actions both good and evil? It is weak minded to blindly accept the simplistic answers to life’s great questions that religion offers us. Science shows us just how complicated the universe is. Religion tries to explain it with platitudes to both comfort its adherents and propagate religion.

    • CG

      If you think religion is simple you’re doing it as wrong as fundamentalists

  • Deacon Jim Stagg

    “I believe science will soon disprove religion’s versions of human existence with undeniable proofs and religion will lose it’s hold on the weak- minded followers of its centuries of brain-washing.”

    What a sad future you envision. I will pray for you, D’Angelo, who is still guarded by your namesake, a Guardian Angel. May you recover your Faith, your hope, and your spirit.

    Peace be with you.

  • Rich

    It was years ago that I lost my religion but not my faith in Christ. I don’t think my faith has ever been stronger than now that religion is not there to interfere. Not to belabor the point nor start any argument, but if you’ve been burned by religion, don’t toss the baby out with the bathwater, understand that faith in Christ is not dependent on religion, in fact, religion’s biggest secret is to make people think that religion has the key to your relationship with Christ. Religious zeal (manipulated by the Roman government) was what crucified Jesus. Religious zeal (having become its own government) was what persecuted and killed so many non believers. Power tends to corrupt-no matter how pure your motives were at the beginning. So, all I’m saying is not to group faith in Christ, prayer, Bible study, fellowshipping with like minded people, etc., with religion. The beauty of living a life of faith is that you only answer to God, not a religious hierarchy.

  • Munchkins

    I’m also currently going through a crisis of faith. The reasons aren’t as extreme as losing a loved one, but I’ve experienced serious set backs in many things I try to pursue, and the most recent one I experienced led me to question my faith in God. I have faith in His existence but I’m not too sure of His purpose. I’m beginning to believe he’s just indifferent as to what goes on. Something broke in me and I don’t know if it can ever be fixed.

  • Paul

    We must remember guys, there are two powers at hand in this world; granted God has the upper hand and allows satan to do evil when he tries to, sometimes. But just because we see that side of the picture it’s arrogant for us to lose faith because if it were up to satan alone we would be tortured and not even have a chance at faith to begin with. I lose faith in myself, not in God. I think i dont have what it takes to be faithful to His commandments sometimes. After He opened my eyes more wide than anyone else could, He’s here for good. I was so hopeless and the fact that He sanctified me with the Fire of the Holy Sprit, twice, like that’s how lost I was. I felt God in my flesh like more real than any other senses which I grew up with all my life. I knew what the apostles exceperienced after 10 days of being left alone after Jesus’ death. But I suppose that’s the important all or nothing test. Only those that allow God in their life fully, regardless of the facts being bombarded by evolution or aliens (which have the worst credibility by the way. Sources from the same group of people with a satanic agenda). That just gives me suspicious and more faith because there really is a battle going on for your soul. And God will allow satan to ruin your life by killing your friends so you would still pick God. Just remember Job. His whole life was destroyed and He still remained faithful. God tested Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his own son, and he actually decided to! But look at his reward, he became a big major player in The Bible. I urge you to research the questions that are causing you to lose faith. I’m more than certain that they can be disproved. Especially questions that pertain to evolution.

    The man pillar of belief for evolution crumbles when you examine Charles Darwin (who was the first successful pioneer of anti-Christian/atheist dogma, I may add), and his successor Charles Dawson and Teilhard de Chardin. The evidence found by these two characters of the “missing link” that connected humans to apes was found to be fake 40 years after discovery, enough time to include evolution into the school systems and displace the theory of creationism (AND God) which was only real area of belief until then. The skull was found later on to be entirely human but filed (like chissled) beyond recognition of a glance; the jaw bone was of monkey origin. Evolutionism only started its reign in like 1800s+, before that time God was the major pillar of peoples conception of reality.

  • Paul

    One more thing. Suppose the Bible is not the Word of God and is written by man, why, then, do you believe so quickly what scientists have to say about the earth? Afterall they’re just man’s words, too, right? Facts facts facts, they could VERY easily be generated to make you lose faith. That what is free in this world is not used unless its beneficial for someone. All these theorists doing “work and experiments” to determine how old we are?! Why would rich people go through all those lengths to just hand out that information. Looking a this in a religious way, it makes sense.. They’re doing it to create a new foundation without God, meaning there was an old one, and it worked when people obeyed it. Gives modern questions that much more suspicion that God is True and Always fair. It’s us that ignore Him for what we think is our own benefit.

  • http://profiles.google.com/chris.highland Chris Highland

    Powerful stories of loss, Sam. Many we could share. And almost the same working “conclusion”. . .almost. “Simply in the nature of things” is enough for me. When I came to see that Nature is Enough (title of my recent essay collection) the “super” artificial additive to Nature faded away. I find the natural cosmos much greater than any god ever presented. Now, if you are in some sense pantheistic, I understand that. I tried that too. In a way, that was a bridge for me. Then I found that Nature doesn’t “love” us or have any feeling at all about the tiny part of the universe we call earth or humanity. It’s a wonderful, mindboggling interrelationship with all things. The natural, secular world is so full of wonder and delight, of good and huge questions to struggle with, pain and suffering and death and all. Why would anyone ever desire to add a “super” to the Beauty John Muir called “the perfect synonym for God”? Maybe you would say “Love”? Ok. But the next step might just be to ask, “Well, then why add a God to the mix?”


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