First let me say that I am one who thinks it is healthy and helpful for people to question their faith at some point. Everyone has doubts and questions about their faith, but most people tend to bury or ignore them rather than to ever bring them out into the light.
I think a large portion of the apathy of modern believers is attributable to the fact that they are unwilling to ask the tough questions they have about the faith. Because of fear, they refuse to ask whether God really exists, whether Jesus was a real person, whether the Catholic Church is true and is guided into all truth.
But I ask, how can one really put faith in a God one has never had the courage to seek out? In fact perhaps the first act of faith – faith at least in truth – would be to face our fears and seek God Himself.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines faith as “Man’s response to God”. Man responds to a God He has met, a God who has ever been waiting for Man to finally let go of His own assumptions, his own fluffy hopes, his own rendition of “I did it My Way” – to finally open up to the real God and accept no substitutes
One way or another, we have to continually break past our ideas toward the real God, and this repetition of the formation of our concept of God and the proceeding iconoclasm is a lifelong process. Why is it necessary? Because God desires nothing less than a real relationship with us.
God doesn’t want to be our Santa Claus. He doesn’t want to be up on the shelf when we need Him, and He doesn’t just want to be an idea or vague impression that we comfort ourselves with. He also doesn’t just want to be our best bet – the conclusion we cling to because more of the evidence points in His direction.
If this was the kind of relationship God wanted, if he intended us to stop at any of these points, then what are we to do with the incarnation? The “word became flesh”! The creator entered His creation, the author entered His own story, to touch us, to speak to us, to teach us to love by example.
We tend to think that a relationship in which God is present, interacting with us, speaking to us, guiding our lives, and touching our hearts is only the lot of the very great saints. But we must face the facts here: 1) We are all called to be saints and 2) Not one of us has a valid excuse as to why we aren’t.
Every one of us has been given (and squandered) enough grace to be saints – 2 Corinthians 12:19 says “my grace is sufficient”. The only thing that has stopped this has been ourselves. Plain and simple!
But He still wants us! He still waits for the day that we grow discontent with a shallow relationship with Him, discontent with only hoping He’s there, finally ready to shed the imitations and idols in exchange for the “Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the TRUTH”. We really can have it, but we have to want it and seek it.
One of the reasons people aren’t able to really pursue God as a person, as I said before, is that we are really unwilling to ask tough questions.
These are actually very basic questions about who God is, whether He is really there, whether He really loves us – pretty fundamental questions if one is to enter into relationship! Nevertheless, though we have these questions but seldom drum up the courage to ask them.
There are TWO main fears that keep people from truly seeking God. Two main fears that the devil plays upon to trap us into wishy-washy faith:
Fear that God may not be real.
Fear that God might indeed be real after all.
Let me explain.
One of the first and most obvious reasons people do not ask the questions and pursue a relationship with God is that they fear He may not be real. The fear that is the source of this doubt is the fear that keeps people from ever pursuing the answers. There is a certain solace found in uncertainty.
Most people would rather hold on to a God they are “pretty sure” is real, rather than to attempt to seek out a real one. The problem with seeking a “real” God” is that there can be only two outcomes to the search: either He is real or He isn’t! This is dangerous! Usually too dangerous for comfort.
A God about which one is “pretty sure” can never be proven false. No amount of evidence can ever take Him away and some people prefer this solace to truth. But on the other side of the coin, one cannot have a true relationship with Him either.
It is much more comfortable to have a faith that never actually has to face the question “God, are you there?” It is not that we don’t want this type of faith. We wish we could meet Him, have confidence in His presence, come into relationship with Him, and put a confident, divinely gifted faith in this relationship of love. This is a kind of faith we all desire to have, but are afraid to ask for or to seek.
We think that to so desire such a faith may be presumptuously arrogant, unattainably obscure, or ultimately undesirable in that if we actually grasped at a faith which involves the encounter with the present and true God, we might instead find him absent and false.
The second reason that people fear to seek the real God is that they are afraid He might really be there after all.
To quote CS Lewis: “An ‘impersonal God;– well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads — better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap — best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps, approaching an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband — that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (“Man’s search for God!”) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?”
In other words, people are afraid of a God who actually makes a difference. A God about which we are only “pretty sure is out there… somewhere… maybe…” cannot ask much of us. Our lives needn’t change for such a God and we can safely contain Him as a bullet point on our list of priorities.
But what of a God who is alive? A master? A King? This is often more than we have bargained for, and perhaps we prefer to leave well enough alone. This is why people can have such a visceral aversion to the suggestion of miracles, apparitions, prayers being answered, and the like, even by “good Christians”. It is not as much our intellects being sensible as much as it is our hearts fearing a real God who is alive and can be ignored no longer.
In conclusion, I ask you to consider these two fears that may be keeping you or someone you know from truly seeking God.
Fear that He may not be real.
Fear that He may indeed by real.
But we must seek truth, brothers and sisters, and accept nothing less. God is indeed alive and waits for us. He awaits the day that we want Him enough to not be content with anything less than He Himself.
If you ask the questions, seek the truth, accept no substitutes, you will find God.
God the creator, God the author, God the conqueror, God the King. If you so desire it, you will find Him. Nay, He will find you.