I think that I’ve always believed in God. I had a Catholic upbringing, but the God I was introduced to in the Catholic Church is not the way I ultimately came to understand God.
For one, there were all these rules in the Catholic Church, as there are in many churches. I couldn’t eat an hour before mass, I had to confess my sins to a priest who just seemed scary to me. Then I had to say 10 Hail Mary’s after confession to ‘wipe my slate clean and be forgiven’.
Then there was the rule that children had to be baptized as a baby in case they passed away. Then they had to have their first communion, then confirmation, and so on with all the sacraments.
I think the one that really gave me pause was the way the church handled divorce. If you were divorced, you could no longer be remarried in the church. But, ultimately, if you paid enough money, the church would absolve your marriage.
Absolving your marriage, particularly where children are involved, to me was like saying your spouse never existed, and therefore neither did any children you had together. That was incomprehensible to me. And the way money talked in the church seriously disgusted me.
People also seemed more interested in what others were wearing to church rather than having a heart for people.
Nothing I encountered in the Catholic church seemed like love to me. Yet, at a very young age, somehow I knew God was love. I had that belief that God wasn’t as complex as people made him out to be. But, how could I know that if I hadn’t been taught it?
I ultimately learned there was more to God. And there was more than one path to Him.
Once I grew up and married, I spent a lot of time in the Baptist church when we moved to Mississippi. The Baptist church was so different from the Catholic church. People were seemingly much kinder and warm.
They took care of their own more. If someone was sick or if a death occurred in the congregation, people put love into action. They’d drop off food, take up a collection to help the family, etc. And families themselves just seemed to have a kind of togetherness I hadn’t seen before.
But at the same time, some of the Baptist churches I attended had an overarching theme — condemnation of sin and many times, the sinner. And, while I knew sin was bad, I felt as though people could go overboard about it. There were also certain types of sin they deemed worse than others, like drinking alcohol and dancing. Meanwhile, gluttony didn’t seem to be an issue.
And, I felt a major Biblical quote was ignored in both churches:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
God knows we sin. It’s human nature. So He sent His son to stop all of those manmade rules and showed His love for us anyway.
Now, I’m not saying that it’s good to premeditate sin. But we are just likely to do so because it’s how we are.
Another thing that put me off about both churches was the common thread that you had to be their religion to be saved and have salvation.
Why would God create people to have all of this diversity and save just one group of people? He wouldn’t.
I believe God loves the Christian, just as He loves the Muslim, just as He loves the Jew, just as He loves the Buddhist, and yes, just as He loves the atheist or agnostic. We are all His children.
If we have three children, and one of them is very close to us, but the other two don’t want to have anything to do with us, does that mean we no longer love them? Of course not. They are our children. It’s the same with God.
Then there’s American evangelicalism. Unfortunately, American evangelicalism has taken over the Church.
And its tenets have spread well beyond the boundaries of typical evangelical churches.
We’re seeing a growing culture of self-proclaimed Christians who are becoming more intolerant, more bullying — and it’s alienating people even further away from God.
It’s easy to see why so many lose faith when a dominant religious culture is not kind.
But, God’s love is so much bigger than the imperfections created by man’s distorted views of religion and faith.
My path to God was different than those taught in a church building.
Though I won’t ever close the door to worshipping inside a church building, I’ve learned that faith is much more than that.
I’ve found faith in God in my own way. I pray to Him throughout the day and feel He is always near me.
I’ve also learned that God’s church is not a building. It’s humanity itself — living our faith out in the world through the example of His son, Jesus. Showing mercy, kindness, forgiveness, and love in a world that so desperately needs it.
So, why is faith easier for some than others?
I think there is no easy answer.
Ultimately, I believe it depends on the individual personality at play. But, at the top of the list, I think it’s because some of us make God more complicated than He really is. It’s easy to see this in organized religion where manmade rules abound.
While it’s true that the Bible and the major religious texts of most faiths have what seem like rules in them, I can only give my thoughts about the Christian bible. Most of us who are Jesus-lovers follow Him because of His approach.
When Jesus came into the world, He was very different than the God presented in the Old Testament. Jesus considered the world to be His brethren. He lowered himself and reached out to those that the rest of society deemed unworthy. He reached out to those cast out. He showed kindness. He showed them mercy. He showed forgiveness. He showed them Love.
And there’s nothing complicated about that. But man continues to insist on making God and faith a complicated matter.
And life is complicated enough. So some people run from faith and religion because of this.
There are three major reasons why I believe some find it easier to have faith in God than others do.
- People look to man instead of to God. Many people grow disillusioned with the church. The current Christian climate isn’t helping things. So many in the church are not representing God accurately. There’s not enough love, acceptance, and tolerance in the Christian world right now. And if something makes me angry or upset, it’s that. Because as a Christian, I feel we bear a responsibility to the world and to God to show a full representation of Christ’s love. Some look at man’s rules instead of God’s love. Some have been hurt in the church and don’t want to have anything to do with it anymore. I have loved ones who’ve been hurt in the church and turned away from God in part because of it. When some lose faith in other people, they lose their faith in God as well. But, our faith should never rest with man. It should only be placed in God.
- They become disillusioned with the world. Let’s face it. Bad things happen. It’s easy for anyone to wonder where God is when mass shootings occur, when we lose loved ones, or life just generally sucks all the time. But, we need to remember that much of the bad things on Earth are because of the choices of people. And the rest is just life. Life is a natural continuum of living and dying. It’s just the way things are. But, for those who have faith, they believe death is not the end. There are good forces and bad forces at play. But, the way I look at it, I continue to have faith because I believe that it’s not only good for my soul, but it’s necessary for the rest of humanity. If all the seeds of faith suddenly disappeared tomorrow, where would the world be? Hopelessness would suddenly pervade society. And, while many people feel hopeless, something keeps most of them going. I believe it’s a small seed of faith that hasn’t yet been embraced.
- Ego gets in the way. I’ve often been told by atheists and agnostics that Christians and others who have faith in God are unintelligent and can’t think for themselves. Now, you know, I may not have a 160 IQ. But, I’m no dummy either. But, it does take a certain amount of humbling yourself to have faith. Because having faith is ultimately saying, ‘I don’t understand this, but I’m going to believe it’ll work out.’ It says, ‘it’s okay that all of my questions and reservations aren’t answered. I’ll wait and have trust.’ It’s saying, ‘I don’t know everything and that’s ok.’ Ego says, ‘I’m better than someone else.’ It says, ‘I’m right and they’re wrong.’ It says, ‘I’m never changing.’
The truth is that when one comes to God, it’s believing in something bigger that’s outside of yourself. It’s knowing that you can’t control everything around you and that’s okay because you never were meant to.
And it’s okay to have doubt. Heck, I have a long list of questions I want to ask God when I meet Him at the pearly gates. He didn’t create us to be without feelings, thoughts, or opinions. I’d like to think that if we’re angry because of injustice in the world, it’s because ultimately we want good in the world. We care.
Most of us would rather that the world would not suffer. And those feelings can only please God. He wouldn’t want us to celebrate or rejoice at the sufferings of others.
It’s okay that we’re human and have questions, have doubts, and experience crises of faith. It’s okay to say we don’t understand.
And it’s okay that we’re not perfect and God never expected us to be.
I have faith because I want to believe in something greater than myself. I have faith because I believe good always wins in the end. I have faith because I don’t have to know everything nor do I want to. I don’t want that responsibility.
Ultimately, I have faith because the very thought of not having faith would make me feel hollow and empty. And, I’d rather be filled with hope.
Is faith easy?
Nothing worth having is easy. It takes commitment and we have to work at it. Whether or not to have faith is a choice that everyone eventually makes. And because we decide to go for it doesn’t mean that we never falter in that faith.
We are human. God gave us a brain. He also gave us a heart. We sometimes feel wounded. We get tired. We want things to be better now.
Faith is a commitment like other commitments in our life. Just because we get angry at our spouse doesn’t mean we give up on them. We continue on in our marriage because it’s something worth fighting for. Because we have faith that it’ll work out okay.
Faith is a personal decision. I believe that God wants everyone to come to Him. He loves us all, no one more than the other. And He is patient in His wait for us.
I can’t convince anyone of the reality of God. God gave us the free will to make choices in our lives and to believe or not believe. And I would never condemn someone who chooses not to make that choice.
Instead, I’ll have faith and hope that someday all would know of God’s abounding love.
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