Over the last few years I have seen many of my friends and people I care about fall away from their beliefs in Christ. Almost without exception this has been when a storm has come into their life, and the scream goes out “how can God be real if this can happen to me?”
It amazes me that people can have this attitude.
If I take some time here I can list some, not all – that would take too much space, of the storms I have had to endure: my brother’s death, watching several members of my family succomb to assorted types of cancer, close friends dying in accidents, chronic illness, my own wife being seriously ill for over 2 years and almost dying 3 times as a direct result.
Psychologists produced a list many years ago of the most traumatic events a person can endure, and gave a corresponding figure to each one, the concept being that if you look at the table and add up the numbers of the events that it would give a total which would indicate the likelihood of depression and mental illness through stress if your total was above a certain number in the preceding 12 months. With a psychologist I went through this list and we stopped counting when my total was 3 times the figure for “highly probable” of a serious stress-induced mental disorder.
Clouds gathered over me, and I was buffetted by the storms in my life, but it never occurred to me that God may not exist.
The Bible clearly says we will experience problems in this world. Jesus says so in John’s Gospel. He spends 3 entire chapters talking about it, and how to deal with it (John 14, 15 and 16).
Yet so many professing to be Christians fall apart when adversity comes.
In the parable we generally call the parable of the sower, Jesus talks about the way people receive the seed. It would be more accurate to call it the parable of the soils, because the sower doesn’t change, neither does the seed.
The sower sows the seed, but the nature of the soil determines how it grows. Specifically, Jesus warns of people who hear the message, but although it grows in them, other issues either choke it or they never let it take a deep root so when troubles come they have no place to draw strength.
Over the course of my Christian life I’ve had some friends who have fallen at slight adversity, and some who make my life experiences look like a day at the beach with a picnic and yet have held fast, unwavering in their conviction.
There is a huge difference between going through adversity and choosing to stay there. I know victims of rape and child abuse who have gone both ways, drawing closer to God and running away from Him. Financial struggles have dogged some friends with the same effect.
This life is a fire. It melts us. As we move through, God turns up the heat to mould us to His shape, like a master sword-smith melting and welding to produce a blade that will be useful, enough spring to withstand battle but hard enough to hold a sharpened edge. The Japanese sword makers, the masters of their trade, only make a few swords each year so they can be certain the blades are perfect. They must have the correct blend of steel and the impurities need to be removed by fire.
God refines us the same way. We go through the fire and are melted. He removes things from us as the fire intensifies, and like a sword-smith adds carbon to strengthen the steel, he pours Himself into us to give us strength for the battle.
Life is a fire, and it will melt you. But to say because of adversity that God does not exist is like questioning the existence of the sun because of heavy cloud cover. Nobody in their right mind would do that, yet so many question God’s existence when faced with a Spiritual cloud.
There’s just no logic in that!