Faith & Doubt Week Three: The Absence of God
It happens mostly at parties or fund raisers. As soon as people find themselves in my presence and they either are informed or already know that I am a minister, they invariably move our conversation in the direction of God, Church, Faith, etc.
I think it's because they think I won't have anything else in common with them. I mean how could a pastor possibly care about sports, politics, art, music, movies...? So, I'll hear things like, "So, you're a pastor? Wow, I used to live near a church..."
Most of the time people will share their experiences in church or they'll give me their opinions about the state of Christianity (usually bad). But from time to time I will run into someone who has been so incredibly wounded by Christianity that they can't believe that God exists--or if God exists, that God is good.
I have to admit... The Absence of God is a formidable objection to faith. I know because it's shaken my own from time to time. When I say the "absence" of God, I mean the perceived absence or silence that we experience when we feel as though God is not "on the job." We experience God's absence in the form of our doubts--doubts that become questions that burn within us: "Where is God in the middle of loss? Where is God in the middle of war? Where is God in the starving children of the world?"
In medieval times when someone was up for sainthood, a lawyer-type was often selected by the church leaders to speak against their selection. This person was called The Devil's Advocate. The original intent for the Devil's Advocate was to give the decisions integrity. Honest doubt is the Devil's Advocate that honest faith requires. The Absence of God is one of those deep fears that each of us has to face in one way or another. Even Jesus faced it on the cross when he despaired and cried out the Psalmist's prayer, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"