October 20, 2017

Open Mic: The Most Basic Question

Question posed by Chaplain Mike

It is a rare conversation that cuts right to the heart of the matter. It happened to me the other day.

I was visiting a terminally ill patient who was actively dying. Her granddaughter had come to see her, and as I entered the room I observed her talking with the doctor, upset at the sight of her grandma dying, wiping away tears, asking anguished questions. The doctor departed and I introduced myself. In return, she briefly told me her story—Her father had committed suicide over a decade ago, when she was a teenager. Shortly after that, her grandmother had a stroke and was placed in a nursing home. That was the last time the young woman had seen her. Today that changed. After more than ten years, she had driven several hours to visit and finally face all the emotions, now rising up and choking her like fine dust from the place she had tamped them down for so long.

She asked me a little more about myself, and my ministry. Then, these words: “I don’t mean to offend you, but may I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” I said.

Looking me directly in the eyes, she asked the most basic question, “Why do you believe in God?”

In today’s Open Mic, I am asking you to put yourself in my shoes at that moment.

What will your answer be?

Here are the rules:

  • Realize this: you only have a short space of time. Three or four sentences at the most. One paragraph. No time to delineate the classic proofs for the existence of God.
  • Keep the situation in mind. ‘Nuff said.
  • You are welcome to add one additional paragraph explaining to the rest of us why you answered as you did.
  • If you are a person who does not believe in God, you have one paragraph to tell us how you might try to bring comfort to this young woman, and then a second to explain your reasoning.
  • You are welcome to reply to other posts, but my preference is that you give an answer first before responding to your fellow participants. (I only state it that way because I won’t be monitoring the discussion every single second. I’d appreciate adherence to my wishes, OK?) I also ask that you keep your replies to other posts brief, a paragraph or two. We’re working on being concise here. It’s a valuable asset in many conversations.

Got it? This should be fun. Every once in awhile, it’s good to go back and think about the basics.

Comments

  1. I believe in God because I believe in evil.

    If there is an active force of evil, there must be its corresponding opposite i.e. an active force of good.

  2. Jo Ann Peterson says:

    I believe in God because I see his handiwork everywhere. I believe in God because without him life, for me, would be pointless. I believe in God because I am obsessed with thoughts of him. I believe in God because I feel he put eternity in my heart.

  3. At the risk of sounding horribly simplistic, I have thought about this before, and I really can’t imagine not believing in God. It’s a bit like asking why I believe my parents exist. I’ve seen him move; I know he’s answered my prayers; I know he’s sustained myself and so many others. I can tell more stories of his presence than his absence, and it’s in the middle of sorrow I rely on him the most.

    Maybe that’s trite. I’ve had my share of sorrow. I’ve experienced it first- and second-hand. And when in the middle of the darkness, he’s sometimes hard to hear…but sometimes it’s in the darkness I hear him best.

    That’d be my answer to her, or something close. Beyond that…well, people take encouragement differently.

  4. The bottom line – when I left Islam, my fiance tried to murder me. I called out the name of Jesus and the black belt karate man could not touch me. I owe my allegiance to the God who saved my life and my soul.

    Now, before you get on me, please realize I have other reasons – you know the long logical ones, but last month when I was visiting a week-long seminar populated by a wide, WIDE variety of folks but mainly hippies and pagans, I got asked my story by various people. The logical reasons really wouldn’t have cut it, but to tell my story and the wonder of the intervention by God in my existence – now that was powerful and something they could respect and ask questions about.

    I believe in God because he intervened in the affairs of this human.

  5. Songs for the Broken says:

    Because otherwise, life would be senseless, horrible, and pointless. It is still that way, but with God, we can have hope that suffering is temporary and everything will somehow be put right. So I guess I’d say, “I believe in God because at the core of my being I believe that our lives have meaning.”

    (That may be a completely subjective philosophically indefensible answer. But, it’s the only thing that came to mind after thinking about it for a minute. Therefore, it is the only thing I would be at all likely to say if I was actually in that situation. Another possible answer would be, “I don’t know.” And that would be equally true.)

  6. Kelby Carlson says:

    I believe in God because, without something to underly and sustain reality, reality either does not exist or has no subjective or objective meaning. Without God, life is a nightmare in the most literal sense of the word. With God, the universe–and man–has hope to awaken from bad dreams. I believe in God because i have experienced his presence firsthand and secondhand. I believe in God because I believe my disabilities and sins, though at the root of evil, are gifts. I believe in God because, in my heart, I know there must be something greater and more real than myself.

  7. When I stand on my farm some mornings by myself watching the sun rise, when it is just me and the universe at that moment, I cannot deny that I am a man created in God’s image and with an immortal soul. At that moment, I know that I am–that is, that I exist–and because of this, I know that he must be. I believe in God because he believed in me enough to send his son to die and rise for me almost two thousand years before I was born and ensured that I would know that he did this be ensuring that his word survived for me to receive it.

    I am a relative newcomer to this blog, and I want to thank you for the amazing thing you have here.

  8. My answer:

    My dad is a blue collar man who only believes in death and taxes and has no room for God in his life. Yet, I refuse to believe that there is nothing more to life than a forty-hour work week and a paycheck. He became unemployed a couple of years shy of retirement and has nothing of meaning in his life except a recliner, Fox News and helping his wife’s fledging dog-breeding business. I don’t want to end up like him. That’s why I believe in God.

    True story.

  9. Roberta V says:

    I believe in God because in my life his existence has been proven to me again and again, in both the good times and in every bad time. I can give you all sorts of intellectual arguments, and we could spend a lot of hours getting into some pretty great conversations, but standing here in this place of immense pain and sadness the simplest answer is I believe in God because I’ve tried to not believe and can’t. And believing in God is the greatest comfort for me right now, right here.

  10. I believe in God because it’s the only thing that makes sense to me. There have been times when I wish I didn’t, or that I believed in some other god or gods (because of the sense of my own sinfulness) but I’ve never been able to convince myself it was all wish-fulfilment or fantasy.

  11. It’s a poor apologetic, but I must believe there’s a God; only a God can and must make right (someday) all the horror and pain that fills this world. I don’t think about why (as in origin) there’s so much misery, poverty, sickness, murder, rape, and pain, only that it’s all got to end someday. Meantime, we’ve got to do our puny and insignificant part to slow it down. But someday there’s got to be justice. Lazarus and the rich man kind of justice…Otherwise, I’d go nuts..
    I think of Christ. Who could have made up the gospels? I love this man who loved so much.
    That’s really all I have.

    . (Oh sure, I eventually get into the Catholic Cathecism for the details, but you asked about God, and I gave you my very basic, gut answer.)

  12. NotquiteRC says:

    I believe in God because it is easier for me to believe that an eternal, all-powerful divine being created the universe as we know it than for me to believe in the eternal existance of the universe.

  13. I would say to her- At times like you are experiencing right now, God is the ONLY thing that makes sense. To think that this brief life is all there is, is unacceptable! Creation screams His presence every glorious moment, and my own life experiences where my prayers have been heard & answered do, as well. His greatest gift of Jesus seals my eternal destination- there is LIFE after life!

  14. Love. Love exists. God created love. God is love. His extreme love for man was shown to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to fix all the brokenness in this world. He showed us how much we mean to Him and how much He wants us to belong to Him. And, forever, we will experience His love and care, with no more sorrow, pain, or tears.

  15. I believe in God because I believe in Jesus. I don’t have all the answers. I can’t tell you why things happen the way they do. But I believe in God because I believe Jesus died and rose from the grave. It sounds crazy at first, and in someways it is. But for me it all starts and ends with Jesus. Here’s my card/phone number. If you want someone to talk to, or just need someone to listen, give me a call.

  16. I believe in God because I have experienced His love, His presence, His power, and His forgiveness.

  17. I need to believe I am forgiven.

  18. I find many of these comments interesting in light of a White Horse Inn podcast a listened to the other day. The hosts were concerned about answers given at a pastor’s conference that had a similar ring: many stated their faith/belief was based on “experiencing” God, or “experiencing” events. Only a few mentioned that their faith is actually based on a person (Jesus), or certain historical events (the Cross, the Empty Tomb).
    Does describing personal “experiences” really impact those outside the faith?

    • So, what would you say to this young woman, and how would you say it?

    • Oh, I think it can. Especially when someone is hurting. Proof-texting and whatnot doesn’t usually help when someone is hurting, grieving, etc. ‘Cuz really, that girl isn’t asking you to prove God to her; rather, she’s asking how God could allow the pain she’s experiencing to happen. “If God exists, and he’s loves me, why would he let this happen to me? Why would he let this happen to those I love? Why would he let stuff like this happen at all?” While i could definitely see Jesus being part of a meaningful answer to her, she’s not asking for a rational and convincing argument. She’s asking for a way to find meaning in the midst of meaninglessness, suffering, and pain.

    • Martha says:

      That’s the second half of the question “So why are you a Christian rather than Buddhist, Moslem, Wiccan or any other variety of theist?”

      Why am I convinced the Christian mythos is truer than the Greek pantheon, the Egyptian, the Norse?

      Am I going to be shocked, shocked! I tell you! when similarities are pointed out to dying-and-rising Saviours? When Christ is compared to Adonis, Dionysius, or Meso-American Corn Deities?

      No, but that’s a different and longer explanation 🙂

  19. cermak_rd says:

    I’m a Jew, I believe because believing provides me a heritage and a set of rules of the road to life. In my life, the Divine does not comfort, or curse or bless. Most of the suffering in the world is explainable by simple human behavior and not attributable to anything supernatural.

    I really don’t think, though, that this would comfort anyone! Least of all the young woman asking. I guess I’d try to turn it around and see what she believed and why.

    • I admittedly didn’t approach the question as an attempt to comfort her, but as an attempt to honestly answer her question. There’s no pat answer when dealing with someone suffering and/or dying. I wouldn’t personally attempt an answer to comforting someone without actually being in the room. I think.

  20. I don’t know if I want to get into all the details of it, but I like what Michael Spencer said in one of his Coffee Cup Apologetics (which is geared toward limited conversation time). He said when you know time is limited, you should focus on Jesus.

    I believe in the God who is revealed in the face of Jesus who died for me and rose again.

  21. At age 19, as much as I tried, I found I was powerless to stop drinking. Even watching a drinking buddy try to commit suicide wasn’t able to do it for me. Finally I cried out to God and asked him to help me with my problem. Alcohol lost its hold on my life from that point forward. Coincidence? Maybe. But when coincidence after coincidence happens it is not that hard to put 2 + 2 together and end of with 4.

  22. “That’s a great question. I believe in God for a couple of reasons: I look at nature and think there must have been an intelligent being to put the universe in place. And when I read the Bible, what it says about the love that God has shown us through Jesus, who went to the cross for us, rings true. Although it has been hard to trust in God when I suffer or see other people suffer, like here, I have found hope in believing that ultimately God is working toward his own good purposes and allowing me to be a part of that.

    “I hope you don’t mind my asking: Is believing in God something that you are trying to do now?”

  23. I can’t make sense of a world without God. I can’t make sense of God without Jesus.

  24. I don not believe in god because I am not afraid of not knowing the answers to life’s questions. I am also not content to say “god must have had this in his plans for me” when I come to something that I can’t readily explain. I don’t believe in eternal life, I find the though of it quite unnerving and mostly wishful thinking. Mostly if he’s not going to help me with my mortgage then I not going to bother him.

  25. As I get older I realize more and more that I am not immortal and I am not bulletproof. But I believe that a guy named Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, died on a cross, and was raised from the dead. And because of that I and the people that I care about can be raised too (1 Corinthians 15). It is a delightfully scandalous riddle that I will never fully figure out.
    The teleological argument of seeing God’s beauty in Nature is also compelling to me, but the first reason means the most.

  26. He told me you would ask that. He also told me to give you this tract about Him. Read it; it’s very apropos to your situation right now.

    WE’LL SEE YA.

  27. I believe in God because when I look at creation, it seems to me that some creative intelligence had to put all this into action. And though at times it seems that if there is a God then it must be a God who doesn’t care, when I read about Jesus the stories about Jesus ring true to me. And Jesus was all about telling us how much God DOES care and love each and every one of us. I have found strength, peace, joy in the midst of a troubling life by praying and living with faith in Jesus. There are times when it may seem trite and mundane to believe as a Christian believes, but I cannot leave Jesus; he has the words of eternal life.

    (Chaplain Mike: notice how I kept to the rules of making the paragraph no more than four sentences by using a semi-colon in the last senetence. 😉 )

    • You could have gone the “Paul” route, Joanie. His sentence in the original Greek of Ephesians 1:3-14 is 105 words long!

      • Wow, that’s a long sentence, Chaplain Mike!

        I also know it is not good form to start sentences with “And” or “But,” but I do it anyway.

  28. I believe in God because there’s never been a time in my life when I have not felt his presence in some form. I have seen my own family blessed abundantly and enjoying the fruits of peace and righteousness—God’s gifts, while other relations or friends who were otherwise the same as my family in terms of education, upbringing and material prosperity have struggled through endless painful broken relationships, troubled lives and more. The only difference between my family and others has been a consistent acknowledgement and submission to God in our lives. It’s not a matter of pride but just of personal experience that I have been graciously allowed to be a part of. And as I grew up and to this day, God has blessed me in similar ways, taken care of me always, kept me out of trouble when left to myself I would have been really sorry and more. I love deep theology, but my personal experience with God all my life long is why I believe.

  29. I believe in God because I see what Christ has done in the lives off those closest to me, and, from the Bible, I can see what God did in the lives of those who first met and followed Christ. Their challenges are my challenges, their doubts are my doubts, and their hopes are my hopes, and if I can know that their lives were changed and the lives of those around them, then I can know that my life and the lives of those around me, can be changed, reflecting the image of the Father.

  30. Christiane says:

    I believe in God because I feel His Presence in my life, not just in providential ways, but I sense His Presence through a certain well-being and peacefulness that doesn’t leave me in times of trouble.

    • Christiane says:

      “My soul, seek the Only One . . . My soul, you have no part with
      the earth; for you are from heaven. You are the image of God: seek
      your First Image. For like strives after like. Each object finds
      its rest in its center and element — fish in water, fire in its
      upward movement everything strives to its center. My soul, you are
      an immaterial spirit, immortal. . . In Him alone you will find
      your rest. ”

      St. Tikhon of Voronezh

  31. Chaplain Mike: you asked us to put ourselves in your shoes in the situation you described.

    I believe in God because he walked where you walk; he stood where you stand; he asked the question you asked. “Eli, eli, lama sabachthani.” He had a friend who also committed suicide. He knows how to love you when it all goes sideways.

    I think my reasons are pretty self-explanatory.

    Pax. John

  32. Brother Bartimaeus says:

    It doesn’t matter if I believe in God, as what matters is that he believes in me. He believes that I can make a difference in this world, and that with his help I can ease people’s suffering by caring for and serving them. I know this because he’s sent people into my life to ease my own suffering at difficult times and to give me great joy at other times. I know this because he gave me this Bible, which says that by following him he’ll do exactly that and all I have to do is ask.

  33. I’ll write then read what others are saying. I believe in God because the alternative is hell. Not just the destination but for me it would mean a hell now in a life consisting of disintegration, emptiness, insanity and utter despair. Even tho I can still doubt God and be a bit nihilistic, I could not imagine existence without him.

  34. I believe in God because without God there is no hope

  35. I believe in God because He did for me what I could not do for myself.

    I spent over 20 years trying to deliver myself from a hopeless condition, when I surrendered and asked Jesus to help me I was delivered and hope was restored.

  36. I interpret my experience of beauty, love, creativity, intelligence, community, a material universe unable to create itself from nothing, and powerful transforming stories of forgiveness, self-sacrifice, and divine self-revelation — passed down from culture to culture for millennia — as proof of a transcendent Truth that I would have to be unbelievably arrogant to reject without greater evidence to the contrary. Like everyone else, I lack perfect certainty, and so I prefer to bet my life on a belief in purpose and in the hope of immortality, rather than on radical doubt and meaninglessness.

  37. I haven’t read any of the other answers yet, I’m answering for myself first.

    “It’s because I see God in the person of Jesus Christ. He lived an impoverished life, died a gruesome death, but then came back to life victorious over death. When all seems hopeless, and it often does, I find hope in Him.”

  38. I believe in God first and foremost because I am compelled by the life and person of Jesus. I cannot read his words in the Gospels without feeling a timeless and inexplicable connection to his life, ministry, death, and resurrection to my own life 2000 years later. I also believe in God because through the natural world, I find a connection with what I can only call the divine when I contemplate its wonders. Sometimes, for a brief instant, even in the midst of suffering, I see the veil to heaven turned back, revealing the deeper reality and joy behind all existence, and I can’t call that anything but God.

  39. MOD NOTE: Kaci, I appreciate your thoughts, but you gotta play by the rules.

  40. I believe in God because of the way that the human condition and nature reflect the words of Scripture. Only the Story of God found in Scripture can explain both the extreme goodness and total depravity and brokenness–emotional, spiritual, and physical–of humanity. Only the Story of God offers a solution to that sin and brokenness, through Jesus Christ. Because the Story of God offers the only explanation of our reality and the only resolution of the brokenness of that reality that makes sense, I believe in Christ risen from the dead, dying in my place, raised from the dead so that I might have life.

  41. There is no way to prove God exists, or doesn’t exist. So I don’t say that I believe in God so much as that I HOPE in God. If God truly exists, then all our tears will be turned to joy, and all our suffering will be turned into gladness. If there is no God, I would still rather hope that there is.

  42. Initially I believed in God because I was raised to do so, but as I grew older and experienced the joys and struggles of life, I continued to believe in him because that’s the only way both the good and the evil in life make sense to me. In such a screwed-up world, the good must come from someone or somewhere, and our thirst for more good suggests that it’s out there somewhere. In short, my very longing for God in the midst of this screwed-up world tells me that he must be there. Plus, many times when I go to him in prayer, I sense his presence encouraging me, strengthening me, and making me better than what I’d be left to my own inclinations.

  43. Because someday I will see my mother again. Because after she died of a stroke, when I was seventeen, I could cry out to a God who had suffered just as much. Because when we asked Him “Why?”, He answered from the Cross. Because He promises *life*, somewhere beyond all of this.

  44. Michael says:

    Well, this is five sentences with questionable run-on-iness- that’s the best you’re getting. 🙂

    “I have felt his presence in my life, in my world, since I was very small; that part of me that recognizes truth recognizes that I am a broken, sinful person; but, that same part of me realizes that despite all the pain and suffering I see in the world, there is ultimate justice and love and mercy out there as well, and that love and mercy is there only as a result of God’s existence. This is not something that I want to believe; it is something that in my core I know to be true: I know that despite my wretchedness, despite the fact that I do not deserve love and forgiveness, God offers me love and forgiveness every day, every moment of my life. I am eternal, but I am only a visitor to this world; and one day I will finally get to come home…and how was that made possible? Because God loved me (and all of us) so much that he sacrificed his only son, merely asking us to have faith him him in exchange for eternal life. The sacrifice and resurrection of Christ were an act of such ultimate, magnificent love that I really have no choice but to believe in, love, and worship God.”

    • OK, but honestly, the girl in the room would not have heard all that.

      • OK, but if we’re REALLY supposed to answer the question as if we were in the room, then I would hope that none of us would have said any of these things. I would hope we would have said something more like, “Sometimes it’s really hard to believe. What do you think about it?” and then just sat down to listen.

  45. Because I needed a redeemer. Because I needed love. Because I needed grace and mercy. And there was only one place I could find that – and it was in Jesus Christ.

  46. (with my hand on her shoulder) “I believe in God now because everything within me testifies alongside with every emotion I see you expressing, now against the pain, despair, hopelessness and meaninglessness and cries out with you for love, healing, hope, reconciliation justice and wholeness of LIFE itself within our families. I have seen and can tell you that those who live holding on to God, to all that God means for good and healing in this world, do bring a light and peace among their families and friends that cannot be quenched by the worst pain and darkest despair. I can’t explain it, but I’ve seen that trusting the steadfast, loving and holy God is more solid than anything material, particularly at moments such as this.”

    (Am I cheating because I, too, am a hospice chaplain?)

  47. I believe in God for many reasons, but mostly because I have read and known so many people who have experienced God and I have seen what that experience does for them and the real hope and love and light it brings to people who are experiencing a dark and hurting world.

  48. Because it benefits me to do so.

  49. gammell says:

    I don’t know if I want to get into all the details of it, but I like what Michael Spencer said in one of his Coffee Cup Apologetics (which is geared toward limited conversation time). He said when you know time is limited, you should focus on Jesus.

    That’s a good word.

    I believe in God because I have found no other satisfactory answer to why there is something rather than nothing. Then I look around at the world and my heart cries out that there is something wrong with the way things are. I believe that in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus I have a solid promise that we are not abandoned by God to fix what we cannot fix. In Jesus, I see God breaking into the world and showing what things should be like, what they will be like, when sin, sorrow, sickness and death are finally destroyed.