What do you do when you want to throw it all away? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
People on Facebook have been talking about someone who has said they just can’t believe in Christianity anymore even after years of being in apologetics and producing media on this. Now a number of people are coming out with their own views on the matter, which I understand and I don’t condemn. Some are blaming Calvinism, which I don’t care for, or presuppositionalism, which I also don’t care for, but i think there is something else going on here.
Now with so many people entering into this discussion, why am I jumping in? Do I think I have something to contribute that others do not? Indeed, I do, and this is not because of anything arrogant, but it is because of similar life circumstances. I can contribute that I have been through divorce as this person has.
Divorce is betrayal and rejection through and through. It is a pain that stabs at me every day still. Imagine what it is to think someone loves you so much that they want to share every aspect of themselves, nay, their very lives with you, and then in the end they reject you. You, the totality of you, all that is you, has been cast aside. You have been declared no longer worth it.
Now we all know theoretically that our identities should not be determined by other people, but you are a fool if you think that this doesn’t hurt. This leads to pain. Intense pain. I have said before there were times I would be ready to go to bed at night and see a bottle of Benadryl and briefly think, “You could.” I never came close, but it was there. There were some times I did think maybe I should check myself into a hospital for a few days. Again, never did.
I can say on my end, that I have a hard time today trusting people. I can say my thinking gets caught up in difficulties from time to time. I plan to date other women, but I also worry about self-control now seeing as I have been there before and as a divorced friend told me, “It’s easy to move on auto-pilot.” This is all real. I also realize some people will look at me with a scarlet letter.
I fully understand if at those times it feels like God has abandoned you.
My friend wrote also about the Christian subculture and this is something I have the biggest problem with. People treat prayer like they can pray for an hour and it just comes so easily. People treat Scripture as a magic book and it’s such a joy to read every day and you learn something new. People talk about how you are supposed to feel as a Christian and that you are supposed to hear from God regularly and speak as if you have some secret hotline to God.
It’s individualism, and it’s a cancer in the church.
When people talk like this and suffering comes, they don’t know what to do then. After all, if your Christianity has been based on your emotions before, what happens when those emotions turn negative? When you don’t have them, what do you want? Do you want the emotions, or do you want what the emotions signify?
When I was married, there were times I had a deep feeling of love for my wife. There were also times that I did not. However, I always had a deep love for her. Today, I still want the best for her. The feeling was nice when it was there, but it wasn’t part of my diet to be expected.
What happens though if I focus more on the pointer instead of the reality the pointer pointed to? I am pursuing a feeling. It is like an addiction. If I have that feeling, then I love her. If I don’t, then I don’t. That leads to chaos. Would I want my love for my ex-wife to be based on a feeling?
The same can happen when we look at it in reverse. How do I know God loves me? If I base it on a feeling, what happens when that feeling goes away? Does God no longer love me? In the end, am I pursuing a feeling as a way of certainty?
I understand when my friend spoke about how if his son wanted comfort and to know that his Dad loved him, he would give it in a moment. I get that. It makes sense to us. It is easy to look at Matthew 7 and see about a son asking for bread or a fish. Doesn’t that apply here?
No. In Matthew 6, Jesus had been talking about food and clothing. The same is still going on in Matthew 7. Jesus is talking about provision for daily staples. This is not to say that God cannot give other things and that He doesn’t, but those are not promised.
So what if God did do what we ask and provided for us an experience of His love every time? Could we not get caught up in ourselves more? Could we not get caught up in experiences? What happens when that experience fades into the past? Do you need another hit.
The thing is, if I want to know if God loves me, and I understand that struggle, I need to trust what He has already said. It is written large in Scripture. How do I know I am one of His? Because I am trusting Him. I am not perfect, but I am striving.
What about pain? Pain can be the crucible that gets us more like Jesus. I can say that every pain I went through was horrible, when I was going through it. Years later, I look back and I am thankful I went through it. I suspect some time in the future, I will say “That divorce was horrible when I went through it, but I am a better and more holy man for it.” Hopefully, that will be when I am married to someone else. Maybe I will even have some of my own children with her.
I do want to say though that I get the silence of God. The problem is not really God, but it is a Christian subculture that is rooted in experience. Let’s also point to another sad reality about divorced people. We are quickly often isolated.
You used to do things with other people as a couple. It wasn’t you got together with your friends so much as you and your spouse got together with other couples. Those couples can like to hang out with you then, but, and I’m not saying everyone did this, when you become single, those couples can go away. Christians can also look at you in church as a lesser Christian.
Not only that, you have to explain your divorce so often to everyone. Divorce is treated like it’s the unpardonable sin and every time you have to repeat it, you live it all over again. The church is too often ready with condemnation instead of consolation. We are to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep and when you are going through divorce or suffering with it, you are mourning and weeping. I am thankful some people did just that. I am thankful that I found DivorceCare. I am thankful I had people who had been divorced who walked with me through it and I hope someday I can do the same for someone else walking through divorce.
To my friend, I hope I got a lot of what is going on correct, not because I want to be right, although I do, but because I want you to understand that I can relate. I also see you are asking the question about Jesus and who He is and I think that is a great place to go. It’s really hard to say anything negative about Jesus and I think really looking at who He is is the way to go.
I also encourage you to not believe anything just to believe it. I have not done that with my Christianity. For every position I have a strong stance on, I have a litany of reasons for why I embrace it. There are some issues I don’t argue and I just don’t care about. (Calvinism vs. Arminianism being one of them.) Don’t believe anything just to be consistent or to fit in with the people or look good in popular culture.
Be real. If things suck, say they suck. If you are angry with God, be angry. No sense hiding it. If you want to cry, then cry. Mourn. I had a friend come by on my next to last day in Georgia who was in the area when I found out I had to clear out because of the divorce and he saw me bawling my eyes out and never thought less of me for it.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out and talk if you need it, and I encourage this to everyone else. Before trying to win someone back to Christianity, just be a friend. Listen. Care. Besides, I suspect if you do this right, the Christianity will fall back into place anyway.
I understand the crickets, but I am also thankful for them. They have caused me often to go back to what is more foundational and not transitory. They have pointed me to what I really believe and what it is rooted in and not being based on feelings means I have a firmer foundation I can rely on when things get hard, and they do.
Here for you, if you need me.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)