Doubting God in the Valley of Death

by Lana Hope cross posted from her blog Wide Open Ground

The last few days have been filled with little besides tears and anger at God. A dear family reached out to me when I was a teenager, and accepted me through my doubts, encouraged me to leave home, and loved me and everyone in their path well. They had an automobile accident Saturday that claimed the life of the Dad and 5-year old son.

This family is not just any family. They were a family who accepted everyone, and pointed fingers at no one. The father was the town chiropractor, but he did not even charge 50% of his patients full price. He offered free service to the judgmental, quiverfull homeschool family who lived off less than $20,000 a year (the family who sat me down and begged me to recant going to college; the family who left me feeling exhausted and condemned). He offered free service to the poor and uninsured. He offered free service to every pastor and missionary and anyone else who asked.

This man loved the fundamentalists, and he loved the people the fundamentalists rejected. One of the girls from my church, one of my peers, was not allowed to work in the church nursery anymore because she dressed immodestly. But our chiropractor loved her, indeed, he accepted her.

He was not a fundamentalists. His children went to regular schools. But he accepted those who were more conservative, and he impacted lives by his love and compassion. He did not have to call people bigots and sexists to be effective; actions spoke more than words.

Humanism is to understand the value of human dignity. Our friend understood this, and this is why there is barely a dry eye in our home community this week.

There is a facebook group honoring the life of this father and son, however, that does not necessarily reflect the legacy our friend left behind. Some people are holding strong that God has a plan and reason for taking our friend and son from this earth; others, like me, just weep and doubt.

Someone on facebook commented that he doubted God’s existence, or at least the goodness of God, after this situation; he discussed that he desired to believe thishappened for a reason, but there is difficulty in this.

But people pointed fingers. They evangelized and said repent and believe. All the person did was doubt; the person is not an atheist. He just doubts. That’s all.

I firmly believe that there is no reason for why tragedy happens. I would like to believe that God was caught off guard; that there was storm, and in a split second, the vehicle hydroplaned, and they died. But regardless, I do know that belief is not a choice. I cannot make myself believe in purple polka dotted hippopotamuses. If you show me, I would believe, of course, but right now I simply do not. Faith in God works the same in the sense that faith rests on something, and we cannot make ourselves believe when both heart and mind say no.

So I spoke up. I said it was okay to doubt, and I pleaded that now is not the time to evangelize. I said that our chiropractor and our friend accepted the doubters, and that this was the Jesus way. I said now is the time to weep together and have faith that the sun may shine again.

Within minutes, I was getting what felt like dozens of responses, more evangelism, and more pointing fingers from people I grew up with. I was told that the sun does not shine, except if you are a believer. I was told that our friend would want his funeral to be a call to repentance.

So I went to my window and buried myself in my curtain and wept. As I remembered the ugly side of my home community, and vowed in my heart never to speak to them again in order to protect myself of the pain, I also remembered the legacy our friend left behind. As my heart melted, a verse from the Bible came to my remembrance.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

One reason it hurts so bad is I am that doubter. When I was eight years old, I doubted whether I existed. I have always doubted what is the cause of this world, and what is real in this world. I’ve always wondered if I exist in multiple diminsions, and I’ve doubted whether God is good. Today I believe in God, but beyond this, I am suspectable to all forms of doubt.

If we cannot doubt God in the valley, if I am not safe to doubt in death, and if that poster is not safe to express pain and doubt after such great lost, then for crying out loud, when is it okay to doubt?

They mean to say we can never doubt; that doubt is a lack of faith; and a lack of faith displeases God.

But is God so good? This woman from my old church was quick to illuminate the truth, “God is good, even if he took a father and son from this earth.” But if God is good, as they claim, then why are they worried that someone may lose their faith and go to hell because they question why God took a little boy from this earth? If God exists and is good, then he would see our limitations, he would see the pain a mother and teacher feels when their five year old is ripped from their arms. God knows.

They know not what they do. See, my old church community believes in hell, and the whole town, nearly so, believes in hell. This doctrine scares them shit.

I do not know how to help these people, but I did learn a lesson from my friend. I must love and accept these people for the goodness that they do, including their dignity and worth as a human being, and I should be available for when they finally doubt and it all comes crashing down.

As for the family left behind, if they find this post, I want them to know it’s okay to doubt, that I cannot know their pain, but I’m quite certain God can handle it even if the church members (God bless them) cannot.

I weep with them; my eyes cannot stay dry.

If you would like to pray for this family or donate towards their medical expenses, please send me an email. I’d be happy to share the names of the other chilren, so you can pray for their healing. Two other kids are still in the hospital with injuries.

Read everything by Lana Hope!

Lana Hope was homeschooled 1st-12th grade in a small town and rural culture. Involved in ATI, her life growing up was gendered, sheltered, and with a lot of shame and rules in disguise of Biblical principles and character qualities. After college Lana moved to SE Asia and began working with the abused, and upon discovering that the large world is not at all like she had been taught, she finally questioned it all, from Calvinism to the homeschool movement to the foundation of her Christian faith. Today Lana is a Christian Universalist, holds a B.A. in English, and is currently working on a M.A. in philosophy.  She blogs about the struggles she has faced leaving fundamentalism and homeschooling behind and how travel and missions has wrecked her life for good and bad at her blog www.wideopenground.com.

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NLQ Recommended Reading …

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

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