I’d been a Christian my whole life—I’d even taught Sunday School and preached in nursing homes, so when this question rocked my world, it came as a complete surprise. I’d never expected to question God’s existence, but after suffering from a lingering, painful illness, this question could no longer be ignored. Was God really real?
I suppose the root of my doubts stemmed from the deep sense of betrayal that I felt toward God. I had served the Lord faithfully, and in return I’d almost died. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I was in near constant pain. If God was real, why hadn’t He delivered me from my illness? Where was He when I needed Him the most?
After a while, my questions spiraled in on themselves until my life felt like a big black hole of misery. I knew I should have more faith, but it’s hard to be “spiritual” when your hair is falling out and your teeth are all loose. It’s hard to sing songs of praise when every movement causes horrible pain. Anger became my status quo, and I turned that anger toward God.
By the time the question of God’s existence fully formed in my mind, I was actually hoping that God wasn’t real. After all, if God was just a myth and all of the beautiful church services I had experienced were just examples of mass hysteria and delusion, then I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. I could be mad. I could die in anger. My suffering would be over. But if God was real, then I would have to deal with my anger and try to reconcile the fact that the God I had loved had let me suffer—and that seemed just too hard to do.
Eventually, after months of struggling with the question of God’s existence, I walked up to the secluded lake behind my house. My body was so wracked with pain that each step was agony. I thought about turning back, but staying inside the four walls of my bedroom was driving me insane—I had to get out. Gritting my teeth, I struggled up the dusty path, dragging my feet, willing my body to move. I remembered how I used to run up that very same path, secure in the knowledge that life was a marvelous gift and that God was good. My lips twisted in bitterness. I was so angry that I felt bile rising in my throat. How things had changed.
When I finally made it to the lake’s shore, I collapsed on the grass and looked out over the water. Was God really real? Even as the familiar query formed in my mind, I tried to shove it away. But as I rubbed a muscle knot in my leg, I knew it was time to face the question. Sitting on the fence was making me miserable. I needed to decide what I believed.
The knot in my leg grew worse. As I tried to breathe through the pain, something flew past my face. I lurched back and blinked in shock as another tiny bird flew past my ear. All around me, birds began swooping and speeding past me as quickly as lightning bolts. As I watched, they darted over the water chasing gnats and then swung past me in a lovely arc. The sight was exhilarating. I couldn’t believe how fast they were flying. They were coming within inches of my face—it was almost like they were demanding my attention…
I blinked a little. Turning away from the birds, I looked down at the grass below me. Each strand was radiant with different shades of color. I picked a blade and looked at it closely. It was lovely. I wondered why I had never noticed that before. Looking out over the water, I saw the sunlight being reflected in shimmering diamonds. I gazed up at the puffy clouds floating in the deep blue sky. Beauty was all around me. I paused. How could such beauty form out of random blind luck? Didn’t there have to be a design? And if a design—then a Designer?
As my leg cramped again, I rubbed it absently, ignoring the pain and concentrating on the beauty of the lake. Was God really real? If I decided that He was, it wouldn’t be a decision based out of dewy-eyed naiveté. I knew life wasn’t always fair. I knew bad things happened. And I knew that sometimes God allowed bad things to happen. If I decided to believe in Him again, I would have to deal with my anger and disappointment. I would have to choose to serve a God that I didn’t fully understand in light of a painful illness that I couldn’t ignore.
Was God really real? Even as the question formed in my mind, I sensed a waiting. An almost hushed atmosphere fell on the lake. The sparrows stopped circling. Things became quiet.
Looking down at the blade of grass in my hand, I said softly, “Yes. God is real.”
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19:1-3