I have some online
friends that I met through this web site. We have had many thoughtful correspondences about grief and I learn a lot by their
willingness to share with me. One of my most challenging letters came from an online friend I'll call Tom. He wrote that he
had been to my Soulful Signs page and he was skeptical. He wanted to believe in God and an afterlife.
He had been raised to believe that he would be reunited with his loved ones in Heaven, but he was having a hard time sustaining
this belief several years after personal tragedy.
His difficult question?
How do I know that there is a God and an afterlife? What makes me believe? Tom is an educated, intelligent and rational
man. I thought a long time before I could reply, especially knowing that he was grieving the loss of his entire family.
What follows is nothing more than my personal opinion offered to a friend because
he asked me. My truth may not be your truth. We all must search for answers and come to our own conclusions.
You ask big questions! What makes me know in my heart that there is a God and an afterlife? You
may not like my answer: I don't know. I simply choose to believe because I don't like the alternative. It's a matter
of personal choice for me--I prefer living with belief in God.
I am more in line with the 17th Century French scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal: In a nutshell, he decided that a belief in God enriched his life and reasoned that if there were no God, well, then the
fact that he chose to believe in God didn't matter much when he died. No harm, no foul. But the reverse might not be as pleasant...
Tom, sometimes we think too
much. I call it suffering from analysis paralysis, a phrase borrowed from a popular 12-Step program. I do not believe
we can think our way to God but I do believe we can think our way from God. I have no answers about why
bad things happen to good people, why you lost your entire family, or what heaven is like.
only thing I can control is my personal choice to believe in God. My decision to believe makes my life better and if I'm wrong
it doesn't matter, does it? In an ironic twist, I think the fact atheists try so hard to prove that there is no God proves
in fact that there is one, but that's just one woman's opinion, after all.
I read once that the act of searching for
God is itself a spiritual act. We don't have to find any answers as long as we keep searching because God put the desire to
search in us. Do you suppose that God never tires of our prayers, but grows weary of us when we don't pray? You know the old
saying, it's not the destination that counts, only the journey.
do not believe that the search for God is ever comfortable or easy. God exists in places of pain and suffering, not in the
palatial latte-serving generation of churches. I am very suspicious of smug believers or people who search for God too high
up and too far away. The God of my understanding is in all of us, not "out there" somewhere. We experience God's
love through loving each other, animals and the natural world. But I also have a motto: If you think you have all the answers,
keep searching for God!
to the other half of your question about an afterlife. Again, I have chosen to believe in life after death because I like
the idea a whole lot more than nothingness. If I'm wrong, well, my belief in reunion with deceased loved ones causes me no
harm on earth and makes my grief a lot more bearable while I'm here.
The author CS Lewis believed that two things proved we
were spiritual beings: 1) We are uncomfortable with our bodies, and 2) We are fascinated with ghost stories. He wrote that
to him, these two things proved that we are not human beings trying to be spiritual but spiritual beings trying to be human.
If you have not read Lewis' A Grief Observed, I recommend it. He wrote it after his wife died. You can order it through most online bookstores and probably find it at
your local library.
When I listen to the news, I question why God doesn't intervene in such an evil
world. Doesn't He care about us? Or, are we nothing more than a bell jar experiment in some madman's lab? Other times, when
I marvel at the beauty of the seasons, remember the love of my parents, or caress a cat, I know there must be some Grand Plan
and a wonderfully imaginative Master who cares deeply for us. I often ponder: Does God laugh and cry with us?
I believe that we have brains because God wants us to use them, but I can't prove
anything and I have no answers. I'm just a fellow traveler on this weary road. The only thing I can do is exercise my free
will and choose to believe in God because I don't like the flip side. And guess what? We all get to find out someday. Hope
I helped you a little in your search for God. I'll leave you with a favorite quote:
most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.
Good hearing from you,