Class prompt: Spend one hour right now responding to a letter you received from a friend who is struggling with the Christian faith. For the next hour, I cried, I prayed, I scribbled, and I erased. Ultimately, I didn't write this; God did. I am the pen; He is the writer. I tried to edit the grammar mistakes without recrafting sentences I don't like.
Feel free to put your name in when it says, "Friend."
It saddens me to hear about your struggles regarding faith. First of all, I would like you to understand that I am praying for you as you go through this challenging time.
God adores you, Friend. Psalm 139 talks about how He knit you together before you were born. He's chosen you to be His creation, formed to be exactly who He wants you to be. Here's the kicker: He's not done yet. He's still working on you because you're a work in progress. He hasn't given up on you, so I'd encourage you not to give up on Him.
In your letter you talked about how to know God is real. You're right, it's hard when you can't run in to Him at Wal-mart. Not in a physical way, at least. However, just because you can't see and touch Him doesn't mean He isn't there. Personally, I find that to be the cool part: He's always there, even when I can't hear and feel Him. Sometimes He likes to be silent. I like to imagine He's watching and observing and just enjoying being with you. He's not gone. He hasn't moved at all, actually.
You mentioned one of the hardest parts about God is the whole prayer thing. You're right, sometimes it is like you're talking to wall. You talk and pray and pour over your words unsure what to say. Don't give up before you say anything at all. It's just like talking. Nothing special. No fancy words needed. In fact, you can completely eliminate all of the "thees," "thous," and "shalls," if you want. I mean, if you really love those kinds of words go ahead and keep going with them. My suggestion is a simple prayer Bob Lenz taught us back in 2004. Remember? "God, help. Amen." Simple. Yet profound. I also love the Lord's Prayer and it can be found in Matthew 6.
On Friday I was reminded of something cool. Christianity is potentially the only religion that offers forgiveness. Sure, you messed up. So have I. God knows our mess-ups. That's terrifying, right? I know. But it's also cool. Cool because He knows everything we've done but He still loves us. He's still forgiven us, still accepted us, still died for us. That's the beauty of grace and mercy. Mercy is God not giving us what we deserve (death because we've messed up). Grace is God giving us what we don't deserve (life, namely eternal life). My friend Ron explained it to me once like this: say you're outside playing and you get all muddy before running through the house and making a huge mess. Mercy is your mom not getting mad and punishing you. Grace is when she hands you a plate of cookies even though you made a big mess. She still loves you. God loves you through your skrew-ups and your questions.
Questions are good, my friend. Questions help us know people are thinking. Never be afraid to ask questions. The challenge is that sometimes we ask questions and don't get answers we want or worse don't get any answers at all.
I've been there. Sitting in the silence waiting, wondering. However, I am learning to enjoy the silence. Learning to realize I don't need answers to all of my questions. If I knew everything about God then there would no longer be the need for faith. "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). We all memorized that verse in confirmation class way back in the day.
Back when we studied baptism, communion, the ten commandments, confirmation, etc. All of the things that you find challenging now. I suppose 8th grade as a long time ago. Have you been asking unanswered questions since then?
I will confess, I have. They're not all unanswered, of course, but a lot of them are still unanswered. Especially the "why" questions I don't anticipate those answers on this side of heaven. In fact, many of them I've written down and set aside as if to say, "I'm not dwelling on this anymore."
I've got to head to class and I want to get this in the mail before the post office closes. Can we get together to chat in person? I've love to hear more of your thoughts, questions, and uncertainties.
Until then, realize God loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you. Have you ever had anyone die for you? What about Someone who died for you but didn't stay dead? Someone who knows your anxious thoughts and desires to soothe your fears? Someone who cares a lot about you.
Have you ever watched an engaged father play with his young child? Whether they play baseball or ride bikes or paint the house or just plain be together. The joy you see between the two of them sharing life together. That's the joy God wants in sharing life with you.
He loves you, Friend. With an immeasurable love that is beyond what we can fathom.
In the words of Max Lucado, "God thinks you're great."
And I do, too.