Because I am a person who struggles with faith obstacles, but who also writes about things that I can’t deny are miracles, I worry about those who might be injured by what I write.
Are you OK? Are you really OK?
While I write on faith from time to time, it’s not one of my dominant subjects. That’s because I don’t consider myself an expert in that area. Good religious leaders and people like my wife, who never stumble when encountering faith obstacles, are far more qualified to write on faith than I am. To me, faith is a curious thing. I know that it works, but I can’t figure out why; and particularly when it doesn’t work sometimes when I think it should. (At least not the way I imagine it should.) So, when I write on faith, it’s usually for one of two reasons. Sometimes I have seen the results of faith (though I have usually been undeserving of such an experience) and wish to share the experience to buttress the faith of better believers than I. The other reason that I’ll write on faith is to try to reach people who are a little bit more like I am. They are people who really want to be better, but whose Creator chose to give them different gifts than minds and hearts that are naturally drawn to faith. Those are the people I wish to reach, today; those like me, who struggle with faith obstacles.
Because I am a person who struggles with faith obstacles, but who also writes about things that I can’t deny are miracles, I worry about those who might be injured by what I write. Every time I hear people praise God for saving a loved one, I am edified on one hand. On the other, I am terrified that there might be a grieving mother within earshot, whose prayer wasn’t answered and who now weeps at a tiny headstone and wonders why.
If faith obstacles trouble you at this time of year, I feel for you. I would argue that your feelings are very legitimate.
It took little orphans from an atheist country to teach me what child-like faith was. They helped to remove some of the faith obstacles that had hindered me for most of my life. And since much of that story played out over a series of holiday seasons, the true story I wrote is listed along with other stories of Christmas and miracles. While that story is one of the most touching experiences I ever witnessed, and it enhances or confirms faith for many, I sometimes worry about readers whose hearts are tender and injured because of individual circumstances. Often, prayers are not answered in the way a believer wishes, through no fault of their own and that can cause faith obstacles. I would hate to think that my writings tore open old wounds or increased new ones.
So often when our faith doesn’t produce the results that we desire, we are tempted to wonder if God’s love is really universal or if He plays favorites. When we succumb to such temptations, they become faith obstacles. I believe that part of the problem comes because of our mistaking miracles as demonstrations of God’s love rather than witnesses of his power. Of course, that doesn’t make it easier. And because of that, many find it difficult to continue with religious activity that has often been an important part of their lives. Sometimes it’s a loss of faith based on a lack of results. I believe that more often, it’s because of pain, feelings of rejection by an Eternal Parent, or outright anger toward the same. Nothing acts as a larger faith obstacle than when a child feels betrayed by a parent, whether in the physical or spiritual sense (and whether or not there has been an actual betrayal).
Few people become happier in their lives when they withdraw from faith and religion when that is what they have practiced, especially when the separation is due to faith obstacles.
I particularly worry about my friends who are more like I am during the holiday season, when stories of faith fulfilled, answered prayers, and miracles, are more prevalent than at other times of the year. It must sometimes feel like a scab being torn from a wound, time and time again. If faith obstacles trouble you at this time of year, I feel for you. I would argue that your feelings are very legitimate. I would say that it is easy to find justification for turning away from former beliefs that now seem to bring you more pain than comfort. I would agree that there is little in the way of logical argument to discredit your position.
But if like me, logic is where you turn when you can’t find answers, please consider this: Few people become happier in their lives when they withdraw from faith and religion when that is what they have practiced, especially when the separation is due to faith obstacles. Even fewer become better people when changing such a path. While I am a firm believer in the quote by Blaise Pascal, that “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction,” I am also convinced that no greater good has been accomplished than what is done through the tool of religion. When religion is used to further good things, it works. That is all the evidence you need. The religious principles you follow(ed) produce(d) good results far more often than not. We don’t need to understand why faith and religion work (when used properly) and that is the beauty of the enigma.
So, if you or a loved one is kind of like me when it comes to faith obstacles, please don’t let this holiday season get you down as others celebrate past and present miracles. Take the time to put disappointment aside and reconsider. Let anger and frustration over isolated instances dissolve and do what you feel is right, whether or not the details make logical sense. After all, the principles that have been a part of your life work regardless of whether or not the details and formulas add up. And as much as people like me would like to have the details and formulas add up, we have the answer to the equation which means that the equation isn’t quite as important. There is no need for the details to create faith obstacles. That makes it easier to do what you feel is right and what brings you the most happiness, even if everything doesn’t make sense.
And during this season of holidays, regardless of your religious position or beliefs, my family and I would like to wish to you and yours, perhaps the most profound words ever spoken, sung, or penned by a lyricist: “Peace on Earth. Good Will Toward Men.”
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