The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, Week 4: Suffering // My Deepest Fear and the Greatest Risk

glass slipper

Hello, friends. I know it’s been a while. You may not have felt my absence, but I certainly have—after all, this is mostly for me. My need to write feels like my need for water. I thirst for this, and I am finding myself with much to say about many things. As promised, I’ll start with week four of recent meetings at a local church based on the book The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask by Mark Mittelberg. You can read about the first and second weeks here and the third week in installments: part 1, part 2, and part 3. A small part of the most recent meeting was actually a big step for me. Let me back up a few weeks…

I picked my daughter up early from school one day in April. I had spent the morning studying Spanish, and I was frustrated with Rosetta Stone software until I finally clicked open a new browser window and looked up movie times for the new live-action Cinderella film. Perfect. An early afternoon showing, and $5 tickets all day Tuesday. I brought her home to change into her Cinderella dress and slippers, and off we went. I let her buy popcorn since we had such a deal on the movie tickets. We were the only two in the theater, and she sat in my lap in the midst of a sea of empty seats.

You probably know the story. A happy family devastated by the loss of a young wife and mother. A new stepmother and her daughters who have a different idea of what happiness is. A father’s death that leaves his daughter Ella at the mercy of her cruel step-family. A ball at the castle so the prince may find a bride, and every maiden invited—regardless of social status. A humble dress for Ella (now forced to serve her step-family and renamed Cinderella), reconstructed for the occasion and then ruined by vicious sisters. A fairy godmother who recognizes a kind heart even in despair, and rewards Cinderella by creating the same beauty on the outside that she already holds within. A pumpkin that becomes a coach; mice transformed into horses to pull it; ordinary things becoming extraordinary for one magical night. A captive servant girl disguised as a captivating Princess. A captivated Prince. An enchanted first dance, and an evening of love. Then the stroke of midnight. A glass slipper left behind. A race back to reality as the clock chimes and the spell breaks and the magic dissipates. A King’s death. A Prince’s ascension to the throne. A new King’s search in all the wrong places for the woman who won his heart—the woman who left the glass slipper. A servant girl found by the King’s men. And then the greatest risk of all.

The movie portrayed it powerfully. The servant girl walked downstairs from the attic that held her hostage. As she walked to meet her King, she remembered the disguise she wore the night she won his heart. The narrative beautifully reveals her thoughts. “Would who she really was be enough? She had no magic to help her this time. This is perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take: to be seen as we truly are.”

As I held my own Ella in my arms, I knew she didn’t feel the weight of these words. I knew she wouldn’t understand why tears stung my eyes and why this story means so much to me. The shoe fit, the servant girl found love and became a queen, and they all lived happily ever after—that’s all my daughter sees in this story. To one who walks through each day wearing a disguise, this story is so much more. What if they find out? Will who I really am be enough? Can I ever take the greatest risk of all?

The Tuesday night before the Wednesday night discussion, we sat with friends around our table—friends we met here on our blogs. I don’t remember how this came up, but I remember saying that my deepest fear is that I will die without ever being known by more than a few people. I feel that if I die before those closest to me know who I really am, I will die without ever giving them the opportunity to sincerely love me. I realize that it’s my own choice to hide my loss of faith from my family and many of my closest friends—but I haven’t yet found the courage to do otherwise. So this is where I am—fearing that I’ll die before I’m truly known, which might be something like hardly ever living at all.

This brings me to that Wednesday night. The fourth week’s topic was suffering: How can a good and powerful God allow it? I didn’t take heavy notes this time, because I didn’t feel that the conversation was answering that question. They did bring up the effects of “the fall” and its influence on the world. Some did say that they feel that most suffering is inflicted by humans. They also said that suffering produces perseverance and strength—and they acknowledged that these answers won’t resonate with those who do not believe. Then the conversation turned from “Why suffering?” to “What should the church do about suffering?”—a very important question. They answered it well. One person said he thinks the church has failed in this area—that it will picket abortion clinics, but what has it done for social justice? I agree with him. The group gave practical examples of ways the church can ease suffering where they have sometimes caused or worsened it. It was so refreshing to hear this conversation…but it still didn’t answer my question about suffering.

Hell. Not the suffering we know in a lifetime that waxes and wanes or at least escalates only until it ends with death. What breaks my heart is the eternal suffering that seems promised in scripture to those who do not claim Christ as their savior. I had a moment of boldness as I remembered my words the night before with friends and the theme of the movie I had seen with my daughter—the greatest risk of all. I told this group of believers that I am a skeptic, and that I think I can no longer call myself a Christian. I explained that the transition from faith to skepticism had a lot to do with my heartache over hell. The suffering I had known in my lifetime was incomparable to that. I asserted that no one deserves hell—no matter what they’ve done or who they believe in. I told them about my friends of other faiths who live devoted lives and who talk about their gods the way we talk about ours. How could an all-powerful, all-good God create them for an eternity in hell simply because they do not know him?

An answer came from a vocal group member—she told me to focus not on the damnation to hell, but on the love and mercy that offers a way out through Christ. I didn’t have time to respond, because the group leader spoke with words that I treasure. He said that sometimes Jesus stands at the door and knocks and waits to be let in, and sometimes he breaks through closed doors. He said that he has faith in a good and loving God, and that Jesus’ love breaks boundaries. He confessed that he doesn’t hold all the answers, and he warned that any time we are overly confident in one way, we might be trying to barricade doors that Jesus walks through. “The love of Jesus can deliver people,” he said, “and I don’t personally think they have to know his name is Jesus.” Wow.

Why did his answer mean so much to me?—it’s still all about Jesus, right? Yes it is—but this is a Jesus I could follow. Christianity has frustrated me with its boundaries and its “one way.” I’m interested in this boundary-breaking love. How far does it reach after boundaries are obliterated? Could it reach one who calls on the name of another god—even with their dying breath? Could it reach one who faithfully seeks truth but needs evidence and logical reasons to believe—and never finds them? Could it reach one who doesn’t seek the truth at all? They didn’t definitively say that it could. But, for the first time in a church, I didn’t hear them say that it couldn’t. I realize that one Bible study leader’s opinion does not define truth, and I have known that views such as these existed—but I had never personally met anyone who held them. Ever since I started doubting, I had never heard a gospel that included me just as I am.

I was stunned by the humility of this group. And afterward, I was stunned by their acceptance of me. “I’m so glad you’re here,” some offered, or “Thank you for asking that.” “Next time, don’t save the good question until the last three minutes,” the group leader said. I had been honest, and it hadn’t hurt me. Baby steps—in a glass slipper that fits. You thought it would fit a daughter of the King. You thought it would fit a girl who was everything you had hoped for. But the shoe fits me, a disguised skeptic who won’t let go of the questions Christians hope no one will ask—especially the question of eternal suffering allowed by an all-powerful, entirely good God. Will who I truly am be enough? Will you take me as I am and love me anyway?

Perhaps the greatest risk of all is one worth taking.

Image © Paulfleet | Dreamstime.com – Glass Slipper Photo

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25 thoughts on “The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, Week 4: Suffering // My Deepest Fear and the Greatest Risk

  1. The eternal damnation was created not to punish but to bludgeon people into believing on fear of eternal torture. A god who is all love would simply know how to forgive. When we look at the issue of rehabilitation, the very thing a loving god should seek for us, the punishment alone does not create rehabilitation. It simply punishes without moral value in the punishment. This is what hell is. Punishment for not believing. No entity other than the god can condemn you to this eternal torture that it has created just to punish those that do not believe. It would be fair of an all loving god to forgive but this is not what the god of Abraham does. It would be fair to think an omnipotent god could create creatures which would not, in his eyes, be deserving of hell. It would be fair to think that if this life is a test then the tester, being all loving, would correct rather than punish mistakes.

    The god of Christianity is not fair. Christianity is a one way ticket to hell. There is no guarantee of successful transition to heaven. There is no guarantee of the god’s existence. There are no guarantees according to the religion itself except for the certainty of hell and eternal torture. Is this the work of an all loving god? If it is, is that god worth loving back?

    The god of Christianity has failed miserably to show himself to be extant. Few of those who want to believe in a god believe the Christian god exists. All that the god of Christianity need do is show himself and there would be but one religion. The reality of suffering is that life is, it happens, and no religion guarantees any relief from it. Far from a guarantee, most religions promise eternal torture for the simple act of not being convinced. There is no love in that, no acceptance, no tolerance.

    No Christian can adequately explain hell without also believing divine command theory. It is at that point we can throw out love, benevolence and so on.

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    • I don’t think you quite understand the concept of hell. It is not an external punishment imposed by an all-powerful deity for bad behavior. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the tenets of theism happen to be true. If I decide to reject God’s offer of eternal life, would it be right or good for this God to force me to believe in him and reform my ways?

      Hence, hell’s existence is the logical and inevitable consequence of God’s respect for humanity’s free will, which in turn Christianity teaches is a gift from God. Its cause is not divine vengeance but the absence of any coercion on God’s part that would force us to obey him.

      As C.S. Lewis put it, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’

      Peace to you.

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      • Yes, let’s suppose the tenets of theism happen to be true. I agree with you that God should not force belief against human will—but let’s look at the possible reasons why someone might reject God in the first place.

        Perhaps they have not grown up in a culture that teaches what we are supposing to be true. Let’s say they hear the Christian gospel in adulthood, but they are so deeply moved by some other religion they have known since childhood (one where they pray and worship and believe that their God hears and even responds) that they view ours as false and reject it. No, God should not force them to believe. But is hell a decent alternative? Why can’t our God just reveal himself to them in an undeniable way?—that’s what he did for Paul. Or why can’t he reward them for their faithfulness to the beliefs that they hold?

        Perhaps someone deeply values logic and is struggling to find intellectual reasons to believe. Maybe this person is well-educated and well-read, and maybe they just don’t see sufficient evidence for a God. Perhaps they don’t see any phenomenon in all the world that couldn’t be satisfactorily explained with an equation—without requiring a supernatural entity. Perhaps they see emotions and attachments and the incredible thing we call love as the result of neurochemistry. Maybe they see morality as going hand in hand with natural selection—it was preserved through time because the organisms that displayed some of those traits were more likely to survive to reproduce. Perhaps a sincere search for the truth about God brings this person farther from Him—maybe even to his own dismay. The scriptural inconsistency and motivated reasoning and man-made qualities of faith are too much for him to surrender his life to this. Should God force him to reform? You say he respects free will too much to do that. Is hell appropriate for a person who feels that he would be forsaking his intellect (one that we suppose God gave him in the first place) in order to believe? If the answer is “Yes,” can we call this God “good”? There must be another option. Could this God not reveal himself in an obvious, measurable, repeatable way?

        Perhaps someone hates the idea of being controlled. No one will tell him what to do. He wants power above all else. He rapes. He kills. He schemes about his next attack while he waits for sleep. He is beautiful and eloquent and rises to a position of leadership. He seeks to annihilate those who do not meet his ridiculous standards. He’s a modern-day Hitler, but worse. He mocks God—“Send me to hell,” he says—“I dare you.” Should God force him to reform? We’ve established that he should not. After all, this man is adamant about having his own way. But is hell appropriate, even here? Does anyone deserve eternal desperation, even if he asks for it?

        No. No one does. Hell is not for the one who is faithful to the “wrong” God. Hell is not for the intellectual who values evidence at the expense of faith. And hell is not for the worst of the worst rapists, murderers, tyrants, and apostates. No amount of sin performed in a lifetime could be equal to eternal condemnation. No amount of sin should leave someone without hope for repentance and reform. I often hear the phrase attributed to John Bradford, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Do we believe this? Given the same genetic makeup, the same environmental exposures, the same upbringing and experiences—am I not capable of rape, murder, tyranny, and apostasy? I am. Aren’t you? Why is God’s grace for me and not another? Why is the rapist, murderer, tyrant, and apostate any more deserving of hell than I am? And does scripture not tell us that it is God who calls or hardens hearts?

        If hell is as it seems to be, and if it is indeed inescapable, then God is not good if it is ever occupied. The worst of all beings would be the one who would make such a place available—and even that being would not be deserving of captivity there.

        So I disagree with every fiber of my being that hell is logical or inevitable. A good and powerful and all-knowing God would find another way.

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        • I am myself just a first-year student of theology, so everything I am about to say is still theory in the making, not fully polished, but perhaps something I can say will be beneficial to the conversation.

          I think the free will response to the problem of evil and the problem of Hell, while part of the answer, misses some of the nature of the problem. In particular, it fails to give a robust explanation to phenomena like Tsunamis and earthquakes. I know a few people who extend consciousness to all of reality, and day it all has free will, and perhaps that works, but it is a rather bold statement. I would offer that to free will be added the idea that God wants creation to participate in its own creation. To be free from the ground up, starting from the beginning. To enumerate:

          Love, fundamentally a relationship, is the basis of all existence. Relationally is central to things; they ought not be atomized and divorced from their relational contexts. Nowhere is this more evident than in the concept of the trinity. God is conceived as two persons, Father and Son, in a loving relationship so strong that the relationship is itself a third coequal person. The love between these three is so strong that it is not proper to call them separate entities, they are fundamentally one. This, to the Christian, is the basis of all things, the pattern to which everything aspires.

          So it happens that this triune God turns outwards and creates, hoping to add new members and layers into the relationship so that more may be able to participate. Because he doesn’t just want a bunch of isolated extra members, but wants creation to relate to itself, he sets up relationships within creation as reflections of his own relational self, that creation may participate in the tesselation of the fundamental pattern of Love. Such relationships include marriage, friendships, the relationship between humankind and nature, or a person to their pet, etc. Furthermore, he allows creation to participate in its own creation that it may relate to him in the extra dimension of its self-formation. In this sense, it is proper to say that all things have freedom, since from the beginning God did not dictate to creation what it ought to but rather guided it in a process of mutual creation (I, obviously, am coming in with a non-literal interpretation of Genesis).

          Relationships and love, however, require a certainly level of vulnerability between parties, and free will means the possibility of abusing this vulnerability. When the world is allowed the freedom to self-create, It is allowed the ability to create something broken. To deny it from bringing this thing into existence would be to strip from its freedom from having any significance in the world. In a sense, one’s freedom would only ever affect oneself, and that is not an environment conducive to building relationships. One must be free to effect that thing to which it is relating. So it is that we are the product of our mother and father, even their vices. If God were ever to snap his fingers to fix my brokeness, he would be robbing the choices of those who came before me of their significance, stripping them of their relational right to participate in creation. Respecting the choices of previous generations and of creation in general requires that he lets the effects of their choices bleed into my life. Part of this would include the religious tradition I grew up in and my lack of a sensus divinus. Revealing himself in such a way that I could not doubt the truth of Christianity would be an affront to the relational continuity of creation, if I come to Christianity I must come to it in the context of my tradition and experiential world. Such a course of action would also eliminate the possibility of him giving the role of revealing him to something else within creation, since he doesn’t just want to reconcile us to him, but creation to creation, he generally prefer to allow creation to participate in redemption as well.

          But God doesn’t just stand aloof and let things run their course. He recognizes that we, while a product of those things before us, are something distinct from them. His is the task of trying to respect both our individual right to a fair shot at things and the relational necessity that past choices retain their significance. His solution is to try to work within creation to fix the problem of creation. There are very few stories within the bible that God works directly. He is almost always working through some sort of delegate, and in as many steps as possible. He sends and angel to talk to a prophet to talk the leaders to talk to the people. He sets-up Israel to try and save the nations, and he sends prophets and judges to try and save Israel. He goes so far as to become a part of creation himself, working within it as a human and dying to try to bring redemption.

          Now, it is still true that this is still unfair to those whose relational backgrounds are less than conducive to knowledge of Christ, and I think this is where doctrines like purgatory find their place. Christ, in going to the cross, validates the ultimate significance of all actions within history in that all negative actions now have a direct effect on God, they either caused him pain or they alleviated it. Thus, even if he were to intervene to prevent their consequences, the choices would not lose their ultimate significance. However, there is still the more immediate temporal significance to deal with, the effect creation’s relationship with other creation demands. God, not willing that anyone would be lost, sets it up such that the actions of history still have temporal significance – i.e. they can cause someone who didn’t have much of a chance due to their background to have to go to a sort of remedial course in life to give them the proper shot at things, but ultimately the question of Heaven or Hell is left up to the individual, free from the restrictions of their traditions. In other words, the sacrifice of Christ makes sure that the door is open to everybody, regardless of whether or not they have particular knowledge of Jesus and his actions within history.

          To be explicit, I think it is a little audacious for Christians to say that God doesn’t work through other religions and people. Certainly the life of Socrates or Lao-zi suggests that he does. Part of the emphasis of the Prophets was that YHWH wasn’t just Israel’s God (since the early books were written with a sort of henotheism), but that the God of all creation. Thus he worked in all of the nations, including Babylon. We ought never think we have a bead on who’s “in” and “out,” or indeed if there even are such categories. Jesus revealed time and again that it was the people least expected to have faith who ended up having the most, Roman soldiers, Samaritans, and his “sheep not of this pen.” He certainly wants the particular knowledge of Christ to spread, because it is very powerful just as knowledge. The effects it has already had on culture are enormous, but we ought not think we have a map of God’s plans.

          As to why it has to be that Hell is eternal, I’m not sure it is. I know quite of few Universalists, a few with Mdivs, who could argue all day that our translations of the bible are bad, that the word we translate “eternal” really a vague word meaning “age-enduring” we are unsure whether it means “unending,”and that 2 Thessalonians 1:9 ought to be translated “of” the presence of God, not “away from.” I think their arguments are all good and critically important to understanding reconciling the idea of Hell to a loving God. But even if their exegesis was bad, I am not one who is dedicated to the inerrancy of the scripture. If I cannot find a system in which Hell fits with a loving God, then per the revelation of God as Love by Jesus I must throw out Hell, at least my concept of it. That said, there is a certain point beyond which God cannot act. He has already emptied himself so completely as to become human and died so that we might be saved. What more can he do? Particularly if purgatory is a thing, there isn’t really anything more. Having seen Christ and rejected him, there is nothing left in his power to do to reform you other than to completely override who you are. Instead, he must let you exist in the state you are in. For many, that state of rejecting God is Hell. It’s not the case that it is some external tortures, but that one has refused every advance of God, and there is no longer anything he can do to save you from yourself. I’m not sure if I fall into that camp. I think diving into the ideas of love, justice, satisfaction, and a less atomized self can show how it might be that a loving God could will punishment, even enteral punishment on someone, but I don’t think now is the time to get into that train of thought.

          Sorry if this is was little long, or if I am made some glaring errors in the above. It is rather late for me. I want to say that I respect your honesty. I hope you eventually find your way back to Christianity, but It is generally better to be honest with oneself than to continue under something that you don’t believe. Dieu vous comant.

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          • I hope you find your Theology studies fruitful. I must admit I felt I understood the Trinity less after studying Theology than before I started. Augustine probably had it right, it is all to do with love. Selwyn Hughes made the point once that the Trinity shows him that is at heart relational.

            I was impressed by your views on hell, so much more considerate than many I come across in the internet. In fact I had just posted on another blog that the fundamentalist concept of hell being eternal conscious torture was the Achilles heel of that theology because I don’t see how anyone could see it as just to torture people for a trillion trillion years, regardless of what they had done on earth. In fact the Bible teaching on hell is not at all clear and could be interpreted in many ways. Your interpretation showed a degree of clear thinking about the logic of what it could be.

            Nice to have you here.

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            • Thank you. I think that there is a way to have a consistent teaching that includes eternal conscious torture, but it’s something that I am still working on. I’m running it by a few pastors I know will disagree with it vehemently to try to probe its weaknesses, so I don’t think its quite ready yet to show here. I am not at all committed to it though. I just feel like being able to defend multiple positions gives ones a wider range of tools to pull from when stumbling across a new issue. Whatever the case, the basic principle that guides all is that God is revealed in Jesus, and the God revealed in Jesus is Love. I am committed to that before all else, and I hope as I grow older I will still be willing to let all my “theories” slide away at the demands of this central principle.

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          • Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Norman! Sorry it got lost in moderation for a while 🙂

            I too appreciate your humility and your thoughts on hell—and your thoughts on inerrancy. For some of the other ideas you mentioned, I’ll have to read this again a time or two—I hadn’t heard God’s intervention or lack thereof explained that way before. Thanks for joining us, but prepare to cringe a lot at my “theology.” 😉

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  2. I am so glad you wrote this because this is exactly where I am at right now, a skeptic. Much of what you said I could have written myself. Except that you wrote this so eloquently (JJ took the words out of my mouth)! In the last 2 weeks I turned from a Christian believer to a skeptic. It happened so suddenly and it was like a switch was flipped. I realized my doubts have been growing for years but I have turned a corner which is terrifying. Terrifying because everything I knew no longer makes sense. Plus, like you said, many people have no clue. I haven’t been to church in years, so that’s not an issue, but with the exception of my husband no one who knows me (the majority of them believers) knows that I am no longer one of them. This shift has caused an unsettling shift in my relationship with my husband who probably fears for my immortal soul. It’s like we no longer speak the same language. Every prayer or bible verse I hear seems ridiculous (I hate to admit that because that seems so condescending). It’s not even an anger or bitterness issue (as some suggest) and I have moved beyond doubt to unbelief. As to what I do believe I haven’t yet figured that out yet. I think a part of me wants to still believe and it’s for a couple of reasons: 1. What if there is a hell and I end up there? But the reality of hell seems less and less plausible to me as time goes on so that’s no longer a huge thing and I can’t put blinders on my eyes for the faintest possibility that it might exist 2. This comradere with other believers. I am no longer one of them and am now an unbeliever. But worse…I am probably committing the “unforgivable sin” (really-worse than murder???) by having been born-again and now “rejecting” the gospel. I keep finding more and more evidences of superstition and inconsistencies between those who “hear” from God. 3. I want to believe in the concept of redemption and dead things being brought back to life. I think this is perhaps my strongest motivation to hold on to the very little hope I have left. However, the evidence to the contrary seems overwhelming.

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    • Oh friend…I wish we could just have coffee together. I can relate to everything you wrote—and some of it my husband can even relate to better (he was the first in our marriage to doubt). I know what it’s like to have this kind of strife in your marriage. I know what it’s like to feel so strongly about matters of faith but to also fear seeming condescending toward people whose intelligence you admire. I know what it’s like to be accused of being angry or bitter or selfish or rebellious or even to be accused of reacting to pain caused by other believers—and I know that’s not what this is about. I also know what it’s like to want to keep believing and to remain in the community you have loved. I know what it’s like to feel as if the more you search and read, the less plausible any of this is. Like you, I am fearing hell less and less. If there is an all powerful and good God, surely we have nothing to fear, regardless of the status of our faith. Still, it will always be something I think about. I still have nightmares about hell.

      And like you, I still have some hope. I think I always will. But even if I don’t—the greatest stories of miracles are not of the ones that prevent disaster. The greatest are of the miracles that bring restoration after disaster—when everything you’ve built has fallen, when the last synapse has fired, when all hope seems lost. If I die in disbelief, I can imagine one of many things happening, but there are two I prefer: I will either never have another conscious moment again, or I will wake up in a life beyond my own to discover that there was an all powerful and good God all along—and that his love includes even me. How much more miraculous will that awakening be for me than for someone who lived a life faithful to this God? Of course, I would rather believe now, and I will never stop considering these things with the hope that I will find a way to be devoted in faith once again. But if I never do, I can always hope for the greatest kind of miracle.

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      • Hey, when I wrote my response I was in a coffee shop! That would have been lovely to have this conversation in person😊 I really appreciate your thoughtful answer and it is very comforting to not feel alone in this.

        The last few days my husband and I haven’t been talking much about this topic. I think he’s just waiting for me to decide what I believe (good thing he’s a patient man!) but I think he’s under the impression I will return to the Christian belief. I am thinking at this point that seems nearly impossible (wow, this is too surreal. I couldn’t have fathomed ever thinking or admitting that even a few weeks ago!)

        I liked what you said about the greatest miracle happening when all hope is lost.

        I heard on the radio today about “the dark night of the soul” where when believers experience profound doubts God will use then to strengthen our faith in the end. ::sigh:: In the past this would have given me hope. But now? I don’t think my faith will be strengthened, no. This is not so much wrestling with doubts as it is just plain unbelief.

        It’s a very odd place to be in that my perception previously was that Christians who leave the faith are bitter and hate God. I don’t hate God, I just am questioning whether or not he exists.

        Sorry, I know I must be repeating myself it just seems unbelievable that I would come to this place. I suppose I’m in shock, although I feel so much less tormented just giving myself the freedom to be honest about this.

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    • Hi Quixie

      Like you I experienced a situation where three months ago it was like a switch was triggerd in my mind. Everything changed. I have not been able to switch it back on. Suddenly I saw the Bible so differently.

      I had not intended initially to respond to CC’s post because I felt conflicted by it. I mean I love Jesus as portrayed in the Gospel stories. My problem is that as my confidence in the Bible eroded I was no longer confident that the Bible stories were true records of what really transpired. That left me asking am I loving a real person or a made up person. I then questioned my own personal encounters with Jesus, were they in my own mind, my own imaginary friend, or were they real? Oh for certainty!

      Christians tell me just to trust and believe. But what I found is that once you have doubts whether God is really there, this just becomes impossible.

      Sad to say, but if your experience is like others who have gone down the same path, there will be some pain ahead. I am now three months into this journey and if anything the pain is greater than ever. What I have found most helpful is the shared experience of others who have gone down the same path.

      Whatever happens I wish you the best.

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      • Thanks Peter. I loved your response. I can very much relate to what you are saying. I look at my spiritual insight (supposedly given by God) and now see my skills of observation. I look at answered prayers and I see what is in the realm of realistic possibilities. I look at my waiting on God and see decisions made as a result of my LACK of decision and my not taking responsibility for my life. Then there is all the things in the Bible that no longer make sense to me. The mental gymnastics I have to use to believe it all true is…well, mind-boggling! Plus, all the superstitious things people believe and all the horrible ways Christians treat each other and everyone else. Pain ahead? ::sigh:: I believe you. I can see the real possibility of that. The sad part is I can no longer pray (which is what I’d normally do) because I now believe any answer I would get would be coming from my own head. Like it would be my unconscious mind bringing something to light. Of course, that might not be bad except that if I were able to pray my mind would find a way to somehow make it line up with some superstitious belief. I’m at the place where I think prayer might be harmful! Wow, what a switch! Thanks for sharing with me. It’s nice not to be alone in this.😊

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        • I really wish Christianity was true (except the Hell part). My heart still cries out for it, but my mind says firmly no. Three months of detailed research and reflection confirms what the mind says. But the heart, it just is stubborn, there is a hole there that needs filling.

          Others tell me that with time the pain passes.

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  3. I really loved this rendition of Cinderella. It was so well acted and Hollywood once again successfully manipulated my emotions (which I’m not opposed to when I watch a movie). They squeezed so hard at my heart until my eyes leaked, especially during the first 30 minutes or so of the movie.

    I’m really glad you found the courage to take the risk and share your thoughts at your church meeting. Not only did you have courage, it sounds like you spoke about your feelings with kindness. Quite fitting that you had courage and you were kind.

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  4. I can really relate to much of what you wrote and many of the comments.

    I had been a believer all my life, read the bible, studied church history, worship leader, guest preacher, etc….

    But then it caught up to me that the Bible was not infallible and that it really didn’t seem to matter whether I prayed or not-life just went on.

    I finally confessed my disbelief to my wife of over 20 years, and she pretty much admitted that she had been a functional agnostic-pretty much her whole life.

    So much more I could say….

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    • Wow! I can’t imagine how much relief you must have felt in your marriage. I hope you write more, and often—I’m so glad you’ve joined us here!

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      • Thanks…yes, relief is exactly what I felt. I had no idea she had no faith. This coming from a good, Bible College girl.

        I thought she might divorce me when I told her….the relief and freedom we have had together has been amazing.

        My only regret, was that I encouraged her to be honest with her parents. They have not been accepting and are still “witnessing” to us and trying to convince us to come back to Jesus.

        Simply avoiding the topic might have been a wiser route…but the genie is out of the bottle.

        My parents were surprised but much more accepting and respectful about our choices.

        Anyway, best of luck as you walk through this part of your life.

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        • Thanks for sharing about your regret. The greatest source of pain in my life is my secrecy from my family and my anxiety about the possible consequences of telling them, and I’m always interested in hearing stories about how that has gone for others.

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          • I totally understand the feeling to be heard and understood by those whom you love the most.

            I wanted nothing more than to be totally honest and transparent with my friends and family. Initially, I thought that most had been receptive and at least respected our honesty.

            Over time, I’ve come to see that, for us, many of our family think we are just being stubborn or wrongfully holding on to hurts from the church and should just come back to God.

            Sigh….I have often wondered if honesty was the best policy. Maybe we should have been much slower in revealing our new found convictions of Christianities fatal flaws.

            People are emotional fist, and then logical second. Many it took it personally and couldn’t see past, what they saw, as rejection of them and the fear they felt for our hell bound souls.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Positive Assertion #2 – I Love My Daughters! How I’m Raising Kids Without Christ | russell & pascal

  6. Wow! So much here to take in between your posts and everyone’s comments. For my part, I too went through a time when that switch turned me off to Christianity but I was still a lover of all things spiritual so I read everything I could get my hands on…okay an exaggeration as that is not possible but I read a lot from different thinkers. I have come back to Christianity but not come back to the same beliefs I had.

    I believe God loves us to ask questions. I also believe we can’t get most of the answers just lots of exciting theories and that is okay by me. I am happy with that because I have concluded (with George MacDonald my 19th century mentor) that the only thing we can truly believe in is the love of God. I also believe that all questions should be asked within the belief of his love. Would you condemn someone to eternal torture? Then neither must God! Which poses the question, what is hell? First of all the bible is unclear. We have just been given too many visual aids of what hell is like that we tend to think of it as a place of eternal torture with devils and their pitchforks. Why would they even get to be so happy? Would that be fair?

    My conclusion thus so far is that hell is either not real or it is real but a blessing in disguise. It may also be a place of inner torment which we create and possibly what we already experience on earth when we are not living with spiritual guidance. After all, the bible often talks about the ‘kingdom of God’ but it doesn’t refer to heaven but its reference is to our spiritulality. Another theory is that hell is a temporary place of purification, one we choose to go to because of our free will. As there is no proof, I don’t know what hell is or if it is. Because of my relationship however, I know that God is and that God’s love is deeper than any of us realize and OF COURSE his love is for everyone no matter what your beliefs are. Salvation is for everyone, even for those who don’t know Christ. How can we possibly think otherwise? Your group leader is right. My husband was the first person I heard verbalize the same. In eternity we will see our brothers and sisters and they will be those who had been Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and non-believers etc.

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