Monday, September 1, 2014

A Shaken Faith by Lacy Ngo

Ever since I first had a special experience with God while I was in middle school, I have had a strong faith.  However, I had never seen true tragedy up close until my cousin died.  When my cousin was only in his 20s, he died in a freak hunting accident. He had only been married for 2 years.  He was an only child so his parents not only lost their only child, but they also lost future grandchildren. His death made me ask many questions such as, “why does a loving God let terrible things happen?”  I also began to question God’s will, and I started questioning prayer.  I bitterly thought, “Why do we even bother to pray, if God is going to do what ever he wants anyway?” I still had faith in the existence of God, but I was angry and cynical.  Although, I still loved God, I wondered if he really listened.  I hope this phrase makes sense, but the best way I can describe this time in my life was, I had faith and doubt.   At the time I was going to a church in Virginia, and I would say things to myself like, “Yeah, whatever, or I doubt it.” while the preacher was giving his sermons. I would gawk at the lyrics in some of the church songs.  The next year of my life is hard to describe because so many events kept happening simultaneously. All these events led to a huge growth in my faith.  The death of my cousin was the major source of this sadness, but other circumstances did not help my mindset.  The day after my cousin’s funeral my grandmother fell and broke her hip.  The very next day, my husband’s childhood home burned down along with many of his things and his parents’ things.  The floodgate of questions opened, but even in my anger, I loved God and wanted to understand.  I missed the closeness I felt to him before, so I researched.  But I also decided to be truthful in my search.  In other words, in the past when I didn’t understand a Bible story, I just let it go and didn’t question.  Now, I started reading the Bible and questioning everything.  I began to write down my cynical questions, even though I almost felt guilty writing them down.  I also began to say these questions out loud to my husband.  My poor husband just patiently waited and listened, but he didn’t know the answer to many of my questions either.  Then, when I started writing these questions down and saying them aloud to my husband, something amazing started happening. Whatever my question of the week was, the church sermon would address it.  Now this wouldn’t seem as amazing if my questions had been generic or common topics in sermons like ‘God’s love’, and ‘Jesus died for our sins’.  You see, many of my questions were more detailed.  For example, one day right before church, I asked my husband what he thought about a prostitute mentioned briefly in the Old Testament, named Rahab.  Rehab is usually not a common church topic, but in the next church service, our preacher started talking about Rahab.   My husband leaned over and said, “Isn’t that the woman you were asking about?”   I was shocked.  If this was the only example I would have thought it was a coincidence but it happened over and over.  So much so that my husband noticed, and he is not the most observant person.  Many of my questions were answered in these sermons; some were answered before I went to church; through research and learning.  Now, you would think a few of these events would have been enough for me, but I still felt bitter.  I had trouble praying, except for thanking God for blessings, because I felt it was pointless.  Now I am a scientific minded person.  I had done all of this research and read books; however, I was still missing that closeness that I had felt before.  One day, after yet another moment when the preacher answered another question, a peace came over me.  I felt the closeness again.  I had learned all the logical evidence, but what finally strengthened my faith again were all the moments when I saw God in my life.   When I gave my confusion to God, he helped me through it.  Below are some of the questions and thoughts that I had after my cousin’s death.  These are just my thoughts..  Like Job I don’t understand a lot, but these are just some personal thoughts that comforted me.

Question 1:  “Why pray when he is going to do His will anyway?” Maybe our prayers can affect God’s decisions.  However, since God is all knowing, He knew we were going to pray long before we prayed; therefore, he already knew what his will would be. In other words, maybe He formulated His will because He knew we were going to pray.  Maybe if we hadn’t prayed, God’s will would have been different.  God already knows His will because He already knows whether we will pray or not.  God’s ultimate plan is to help us know him, right?, so depending on what choices we make He has to plan His will accordingly. 

Question 2: Why do horrible things happen, and why do some people seem to get more than their share of suffering?
The story of Job’s suffering seems to say, our human minds are not capable of understanding the complexity of God’s will, and that some answers are not found while we are alive. During my search I read the book, Making Sense Out of Suffering by Peter Kreeft.  In his book, he writes “when a dog is caught in a trap, the hunter has to push the dog further in the trap, to lesson the tension on it, before he can get him out.  That hurts, and if the dog were a theologian it would probably question the dogma of the goodness of man, because it can’t understand what we can: the mechanism of a trap requires this push further in that causes such pain, but this is the way out.  God does the same to us sometimes, and we can’t understand why he does it anymore than the dog can understand us.”
           God does not let these things happen necessarily to punish or because we were not faithful enough, but he can see the complexity and see the ripple effect of different circumstances that we humans just cannot see.  Just like I don’t like to see my son suffer when he is scared to try something on his own.  Those few minutes of watching him suffer are painful for me as well, but I know he will be a happier person in the end.  Maybe this is the way God feels about us.  “All things work together for the good of those who love God” Romans 8:28.  Sometimes we learn and grow from our suffering and sometime our suffering helps someone else learn and grow. Jesus is a perfect example of something good coming from something very painful.  He died a painful death, but is rose from the dead and saved the world. 

Question 3:  How could God let someone so young die and leave so many to live with pain for years?

I like to think of it like this:  If heaven is eternity, then this time that we live without our loved ones is like they went on a vacation to paradise a couple of days before we do, but we are planning to meet up with them later.  That is, our time left on earth is almost like a couple of days compared to eternity.  Our loved ones are happily waiting for us to join them.