Who is God? And if He’s there, what does He want from me?

Sometimes Christianity makes no sense to me.
God, made the world, and for some reason granted humans capacity to think. Then He decided to categorize an extensive bunch of stuff as sin, and He was so disgusted by all humans committing sins (since it is pretty much inescapable) that He decided to send us all to eternal punishment after we die. But He didn’t like the idea of everyone burning in Hell, so He created a way for a few of us to escape. He sent His son, Himself, to die for our sins. To be sacrificed in our place, to pay for the stuff that He had decided wasn’t acceptable. But this doesn’t automatically rescue everyone, only people that decide to believe it all and live their lives according to His rules.
The funny thing is, I know all the arguments, I know all the bible verses. I want it to be true.
 I’ve had the faith walk where I read chapters of my bible every day and prayed.
But I don’t feel compelled to do those things anymore.
Sometimes I feel this fear, fear that I’m not teaching my kids enough about God, and they will grow up as terrible people. Fear that I am not right with God and if I die I’ll end up in Hell. Fear that my life is going to unravel if I don’t “get right with God”.
But most of the time, I wonder why I should bother?
Does God really care how I live my life? Is my understanding of God really correct? Why do I assume that the God of Christianity is God? Maybe there is another understanding that is more accurate. Maybe I just find myself leaning towards Christianity because it is all I know, and if I studied another religion/way of understanding God, I would see God a different way.
I’ve always thought that Christianity “transforms lives”. Be a Christian so that you have these wonderful values that make you a wonderful person, and teach it to your kids so that they will have those values too.
The thing is, I feel like I have become a better person since faltering in my faith. I have stopped being such a perfectionist. I’ve stopped hitting my kids. I’ve stopped expecting my husband to be a mini-god to me and I’ve stopped burying my thoughts, feelings and interests under the pretense that women don’t matter. I’m learning to stop judging others by how they live their lives.
Do I really want that faith back? Why should I be a Christian? I still have a monogamous, loving marriage. I am a better mom. I am a more accepting human being without “the faith.”
I want to have faith. I want there to be a God, and I guess I believe that there is a God, who made the world. But I have a hard time believing that He cares about any of us, or what we do.
I don’t want to fail my kids. I don’t want to go to Hell. But what if Hell doesn’t exist?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08863579550620358675 Jill

    Thanks for your honest expression of your questions and struggles.

    What if Christianity isn't just what you've been taught, but so much more? You say you have found things like: a change in discipline, a different view of your husband and your role as a woman, a less judgmental attitude since faltering in your faith…I have found those things in my understand of Christianity, not just in my questions about it.

    What if religion (not just Christianity but others) is less about finding the "right" answer and more about invitation to a relationship with God…that some will find through Christianity, some through Islam, some through Judaism, etc? What if God is okay with that?

    What if Hell is something we human beings have created because we don't know how to fully love? What if God's love is so big that there is no need for Hell?

    Just wondering with you…

  • Anonymous

    Great and honest questions.

    I find that TRUTH is what keeps me moving. There must be truth and God is not keeping it a secret. Finding it and knowing it may require more of us than we want to give at any given moment, but it's out there and it's not subjective.

    Hell? Yes, I believe there is a hell. But not because God's love isn't big enough. No. I believe it exists because our human love is too small and our pride too big. Sometimes those extremes in us are such that we reject real love in favor of fake love. And God loves us enough to let us do that ~ though at great pains to himself. We are FREE. Yes, that free.

  • Rebecca in CA

    My path was from Protestantism to atheism to agnosticism and finally to the Catholic Church. What I had rejected was various pictures I had painted in my mind–I put God into the box of my understanding, and then set him aside. I found, somewhat to my surprise, that one of the most relieving and liberating things about being a Catholic is that now I know that God is way, way bigger than anything that can fit into my little box of understanding. God is immense and cannot be comprehended. That is somehow a huge relief to me; it has taken a great load off my shoulders. Receiving grace does not fit God into us, it takes us up into Him. It touches our hearts to that immensity, which our minds cannot yet comprehend. In heaven our minds will be illumined by a light called the light of glory and although we will not comprehend Him we will know what He is; we will apprehend His essence.

    When I read your post, a picture of Jacob wrestling with the angel came to mind. The Scripture says he wrestled with an angel, but he also says He wrestled "with God". Two things really strike me about that episode. First, that Jacob doesn't see the angel in the night; he has to wrestle with someone he can't see. This is different from the three angels who came to Abraham, who appeared as men with certain features, etc., or Raphael appearing to Tobias. Secondly, Jacob hangs on. He hangs on all night, and doesn't let go. Now I'm pretty sure that angel could have whupped Jacob pretty good, but I think he didn't, because Jacob held on. He then let Jacob overcome him.

  • Anonymous

    I do not know you but here is my two cents after reading your blog a bit:

    It seems that these struggles are deepening as you shift from Protestant Christianity to Catholicism. I think it is similar to birth. When we undergo such a deep change, we will experience pain and doubt (like transition in labor). But as we mothers know, it is worth all of the struggle. Jesus is worth all of the struggle. It is not easy for most of us. We wrestle and grapple with Him. We are Israel – One who struggles with Him.

    Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Sometimes, I think Jesus made sure that was in there just for me.

    Do not despair. The darkness shall not overcome.

    Juliet

  • http://thesavingmomparents.wordpress.com/ thesavingmomparents

    The Bible says that Jesus paid it all. He completed the work. If Jesus has redeemed us from all "sin" might that include the "sin of unbelief"?…which is the sin mainstream Christianity says makes us have to go to hell. Just something I have been thinking about of late. Perhaps life is all about having a relationship with Jesus. Maybe that's all we need…
    ~Jessica

  • http://briancjacobs.com Brian C Jacobs

    I appreciate your transparency so much. I think you are expressing (outloud!) what so many of us struggle with between our ears! I have a great book I think you should read (I may even have an extra copy I can send you) called GraceWalk by Steve McVey. He say sit so much better than I can but let me summarize it this way. God saved us by Grace alone. We don't have to earn his approval or do anything to earn his gift of salvation other than accept His gift He gave us on the cross. Now that we have accepted that gift, THE RULES HAVE NOT CHANGED! WE still do not have to TRY and earn his favor. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us more and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us less!
    Hope this can be an encouragement to you.
    ~Brian

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13092965958240199796 Kristina Joy

    "Perhaps life is all about having a relationship with Jesus. Maybe that's all we need…" Yes!

    As we come to know His love and Him, our faith and trust increases. Jesus IS the answer, for many reasons! Christianity is the only religion that offers a God coming here. Meeting us. Living with us. Loving us enough to die for us. He is historical and his resurrection was real. There are tons of great apologetic (defending our faith against other religions) books that cover the hows and why and questions of whether we can really trust the Bible. Yes we can! When compared to all other ancient books, the Bible far outshines them all as the most historically accurate text!

    It sounds to me like the Christianity you grew up with was a perversion of what Jesus taught. Don't let human error discourage you from faith in a perfect God!

    God is not afraid of your questions! Nor is He angry that you ask them! Don't give up on Him. Even if you don't feel it, He loves YOU!

    (OK, wayyyy too many exclamation points! Can you tell I believe strongly? :-) )

  • http://blog.earthlingshandbook.org ‘Becca

    The God you describe here isn't the "God of Christianity" I know. Can you remember where you got the idea that God "decided to categorize an extensive bunch of stuff as sin," rather than God eternally knowing what is right and wrong while humans struggle to understand and categorize? How about the idea that God "decided to send us all to eternal punishment after we die," rather than that punishment being simply separation from God? How about the idea that God would ever have had a time of sending EVERYONE who died to eternal punishment? How about the idea that Jesus "paid" for our sins–if Jesus is God, then that's just God paying himself with himself, so how does that achieve anything? If you can trace those ideas back to their roots, and then look hard at whether those roots are growing in truth, you will learn more about what you really believe.

    I think that if you study other religions, that too will teach you more about what you really believe. When I read some Muslim or Mormon or Catholic idea and think, "But that's crazy! Because the way God really works is…" then I can articulate something I didn't know I knew.

    Having faith does not mean blind obedience to a doctrine. I think you are becoming a better person because you have questioned what you are doing and what God is calling you to do. You are changing from listening to human authority figures telling you about God, to just listening for God. Sometimes that can feel like you're not "doing anything." There's a lot less certainty to it than to listening to some preacher who has all the answers and doing exactly what he says.

    Remember how Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow? Don't worry about what will happen when you die. Trust God on that. Pray to discern the right thing to do now, and take it day by day.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Jill- Thank you. I love your questions. I think alot of our human understanding about God is flawed by our limitedness.

    Rebecca- Wow, it is so encouraging to hear from someone else who has walked this same road. I have also been amazed when I realized just how small a God I was taught to believe in.

    Juliet- Thank you! I really like the comparison to transition.

    Jessica- Wow, what if He saves us even from unbelief. What an incredible question.

    Brian- It's not so much that I think I have to earn His favor. Its wondering why I need to have His favor at all? Not sure if that makes sense?

    Kristina Joy- Thank you! I definetly haven't given up. I feel like I am starting to find God for the first time in so many ways.

    'Becca- You ask interesting questions. I'm not sure where I get the idea of God categorizing sin, maybe from the 10 commandments and the law? Why must God be separate from from God if we don't meet his standards? I wouldn't do that to my own children. The idea that Jesus paid for our sins is everywhere, songs, sermons. How would you express it otherwise?
    Thanks for saying that sometimes it feels as though you are doing nothing, and for the encouragement to not worry about tomorrow. You are right.

  • Rebecca in CA

    I've already said enough but can I just address the point about God categorizing things as sins? You tell your children not to touch a hot stove because it will burn them, or jump off a high place because they could hurt themselves. You are not arbitrary about it; anything you tell them not to do is not to deter their happiness but to keep them safe. There is one "do" and nine "do nots" in the ten commandments. The "do" is all about our happiness–here is your end, here is your happiness. You were made to gaze on beauty and to be filled with love, therefore "Love the Lord Your God with all your heart". The rest of the commandments are for the sake of that one commandment. If we hurt ourselves and maim and kill ourselves, we can't very well attain our purpose. Each of the "do nots" finds its root in our very nature. If you try to saw a tree down with a violin bow, the violin bow won't do its job well anymore. If you take any creature and do something violently against its built-in nature, you will harm it grievously. God was doing just what we do when we say, "don't touch! Hot! That will hurt you!"

    The first sin is a little more difficult because it involved a matter of positive law. There was nothing inherently evil about the tree itself or partaking of its fruit; I'm sure it was a perfectly good tree. Adam and Eve would not have been tempted to sin against the natural law because their appetites were in perfect order, subjected to their reason. By giving them this one commandment which was a matter of simple obedience, they were given the opportunity to practice the virtue of simple trust and obedience. It was not a difficult commandment to keep but it did present the possibility of failure. That is something to grapple with.

  • http://briancjacobs.com Brian C Jacobs

    Young mom,
    Yes your question makes sense. When I read your post again I find myself searching for the "main question" you are really asking. The question that if you could find an answer to it would probably lead to easy answers for all the others. It sounds to me like the question you most need to answer is do you believe is "Do you believe in a literal Heaven, one where you would spend eternity with the God who created you?" I think all other answers will start to fall in place from there,like do you want to go to that Heavenly place? If there is a heaven then what is the alternative? Hell? Without heaven, then having a loving family and great friends in this life might just be enough that you don't need room for Jesus. If you do believe in that heaven the bible speaks of it seems intellectually dishonest to not also believe in the other things that the bible speaks of, "If you Love me then Keep my Commandments."
    I understand your thought process though: If Life minus "my faith" seems to be better than Life with "my faith" than why am I attempting to hold on to "my faith"? If you want my very direct-pulling no punches- answer ti would be this: your doing "my faith" wrong. Jesus said, "take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is EASY and my burden is light."

  • Anonymous

    "Perhaps the greatest interior suffering is the kind that strikes us when we thirst for God and then find ourselves deprived of the awareness of His presence." Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN

    Remember, faith in God is a gift of grace from Him. It doesn't come from within ourselves, we merely respond to Him reaching out to us. Therefore, if you have doubt about faith, about God, about His interest in how you live your life, then you should admit this to Him and ask Him to make Himself known to you by increasing your gift of faith.

    You have my prayers as you continue in your faith journey, and I will be asking all the hosts of heaven to pray for you as well. God bless.

    Casey

  • Anonymous

    ((hugs)) Once again, I can relate to this. It can be such a scary place to be at times. All the "what if". I am starting to think and realize that God is so much more infinitely kind than I ever knew. As we begin our shift away from the Fund. mindset, my husband started talking about how our theology is colored depending on where we start with God. If we start with God as Judge, we live under His frown and condemnation and we need Jesus to make Him like us. If we start with God as Father, our whole perspective changes. We live under His smile and love and Christ is the older brother who brings us back to the Father. It really got me thinking. I just think we don't understand how deep God's love and kindness are for us, and we have almost been taught that it's dangerous to focus on that. In our new church, the emphasis is on the fact that we don't have to strive to please God. God knows that we can't be perfect so He doesn't require that of us. Christ has done all that, why are we trying to add to that. Our responsibility is to take the love and forgiveness that we have been given and give it out to our neighbors (which it seems like you have been doing with your family). Christ frees us to focus on others because we don't have to constantly worry if we are walking the line before God. I don't think I am explaining this well, but it is giving me hope. But fear not, you are not alone in your feelings and wonderings.
    Leigh Ann

  • http://blog.earthlingshandbook.org ‘Becca

    I really like the way Leigh Ann explained the difference between God as Judge and as Father. Of course for some people, their father is like a judge, distant and formal and throwing down punishment…so it might be more helpful to focus on God as Love. The reason to avoid sin is not to avoid punishment but to honor Love, to let God's Love flow through us and act accordingly.

    Why must God be separate from from God if we don't meet his standards? I wouldn't do that to my own children.
    It's not God who separates us from God. It's our choice. It's like being an angry teenager who'd rather stand behind the garage in the cold rain than come into the warm house because her father is in there and she doesn't want his stupid old love and she doesn't want to do what he says, so there!

    If your children are angrily rejecting you and your standards, do you change your standards to try to coax them back? or do you hold firm, prepare to welcome them if they do choose to come back, and maybe send someone out to talk to them?

    My belief is that God loves us no matter how horribly we fall short of his standards. We are always welcome to come back (remember the story of the prodigal son?) and God will always love us and support us as we try to do better. But if we choose to stand in the outer darkness, gnashing our teeth and wailing about how unfair God is to us, well, he'll mainly leave us to it. That's our free will. Jesus, though, seeks us out and tries to talk some sense into us…but if we don't have ears to hear, he will shake the dust from his sandals and move on, for now.

    The idea that Jesus paid for our sins is everywhere, songs, sermons. How would you express it otherwise?
    That idea is called "substitutionary atonement" and it is popular, but if taken literally it does not make a lot of sense to me. My God is not one who delights in suffering or requires a victim. I believe that Jesus came to teach us how to repent and to show us that life isn't everything and death is not the end. His real sacrifice was not dying, but humbling himself to live as a human. "Jesus died for our sins" to me means that sinful human nature is the force that tortured and killed Jesus. He wasn't a sacrifice that people gave to God to please God. He lived among us to teach us, and then he allowed our sins to kill him as another way of teaching us: to make us see just how bad we can be, and then to show us that even our worst acts are not as powerful as God. It's not that Jesus let God kill him instead of killing us, but that Jesus let *us* kill him and then showed us the amazing power of God's redemption.

    Does that make any sense? I've had a very different faith journey than you–I was raised Unitarian and have learned about Jesus through The Episcopal Church and liberal theologians–so I'm not sure how well I understand the point of view you're coming from.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Thank you so much for sharing and encouraging. Alot of us come from very different backgrounds and faith journey's, I've really been loving everyones thoughts on this,

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09723067016206324874 Claire

    At times when my mind or heart are lead to question or doubt, I find strength in the simple prayer from the Gospel…

    "Lord, I believe: help my unbelief!"

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09723067016206324874 Claire

    …here is another beautiful prayer of the heart that speaks to me often: "Stay with Me, Lord" (by St. Padre Pio)
    http://faithofthefatherssaintquote.blogspot.com/2010/08/saint-quote-saint-padre-pio.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm;_medium=feed&utm;_campaign=Feed%3A+SaintQuoteOfTheDay+%28SAINT+QUOTE+OF+THE+DAY%29&utm;_content=Bloglines

    …and an author that I heard about on Relevant Radio sometime ago and really want to check out. He stuff looks really interesting! (I won't do an official recommendation since I've not read him yet, but I thought you might be intrigued).

    http://www.dineshdsouza.com

    Blessings and hugs!
    Claire

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Thank you so much Claire, you are always an encouragement to me. :)
    And "Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief" is my prayer as well.

  • http://www.mamabean.ca Mama Bean

    I appreciate your bravery to post this. I thought I had answered some of this stuff for myself, but reading this, it resonates in such a way that I know I'm far from settled… and that's okay. I don't know if God wants us settled.

  • http://prettyinorange.com Angela

    Personally, my faith and my spirituality have little to do with any church and I've even turned from the Bible as it was written by man.

    I feel as though I have great conversations with God on my own. I pray to him without the benefit of a church or a minister.

    Some people need a church to feel closer to God. I simply choose to eliminate that middle man and go right to the source.

    It seems to me that the majority of issues with religion and God come from the people trying to tell you who and what it is, rather than you listening to your own beliefs – and isn't God inside each of us?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09723067016206324874 Claire

    You're welcome!! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11894992378619176830 Jennifer @ Conversion Diary

    Just now catching up on your posts. My heart really went out to you when I read this one. This is the sort of thing that I wish I had 10 hours to sit down and formulate a response that would clearly articulate all my feelings on the subject, but unfortunately time is short. (And Yaya, whom I think you're familiar with through my blog, is here, which means that there is a LOT of chaos in the background as I type this). Anyway, here's my shot at an answer:

    It all comes down to love.

    My first crisis of "faith" as an atheist was when I realized that you cannot defend a peace- and love-centered worldview from the material world alone. Sure, you can say that we're evolved to treat each other well, but there are other ways you could interpret evolutionary data to advocate for a much more ruthless worldview (e.g. killing off weak people so that only the strongest genes survive).

    So it made sense to me on some level when I heard the idea that God *is* love — that all those yearnings we have for love are yearnings to be with the ultimate source of it all, the wellspring from which all the world's love flows, that belief in God is nothing more or less than the belief that love exists as its own entity, outside of the material world. It also made sense to me when I read the doctrine that hell is simply separation from God, from love. God doesn't toss us down there out of anger, it's where we end up if we choose not to love. Kind of like how you can't go against the laws of physics, it would be a logical impossibility to say that someone who had not conformed himself to love could be with Love itself for eternity.

    (This is where it also made sense to me when I read the doctrine that even people who'd never heard of Jesus could go to heaven — that someone who had conformed himself to a life of love had accepted Christ, even if he didn't know his name.)

    So anyway, it made sense to me when I heard the Christian theory that the whole meaning of life, the universe and everything is LOVE. The meaning of life is to seek Love (i.e. God) and to conform our lives to the very essence of self-sacrificing love (i.e. Christ crucified). It was stunning when I saw that the reason for all of salvation history — the Bible, the Church, everything — is to lead us to love.

    Again, I write this amidst a three-ring circus, so I'm sorry if anything's not clear. Just wanted to throw my rambling $0.02 out there! (Also, I emailed you the other day, but I'm thinking it's likely that it ended up in your spam filter.)

    BTW, if you haven't read Mere Christianity (or haven't read it recently) I highly recommend it since it goes into questions like this.

  • Anonymous

    Hi ! I have just discovered your blog, and I love your insights and the sensitivity that goes into all your posts. I think it's great how open you are about your struggles and how you are willing to examine your life and beliefs to get to what you think is best. I wish you the best of luck.

    As for faith, people with many different faiths and doubts and even no faith at all live loving, joyful and fulfilling lives every day. Contra Jennifer above, atheism isn't incompatible with a peace-and-love worldview; neither is agnosticism, less-defined forms of faith such as deism or pantheism, or specific non-Christian faiths like Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism in its multidunous forms…

    What I'm trying to say is that you want faith, but your doubts and questioning may lead you to a completely different faith from the one you currently hold, or to no faith at all. Or not. And that's all right, because none of those need stop you from leading a happy and fulfilled life. Either way I wish you the best and hope your journey leads you someplace that satisfies you !

    –Caravelle


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