Q. A recent posting on CNN's Belief Blog discusses how people can lose faith when faced with traumatic events. The article relates former First Lady Laura Bush's experience after being involved in a fatal car accident in 1963. Bush missed a stop sign and hit a car driven by a friend, killing him. In a 2010 interview with Larry King, Bush said she remembered saying, “Please, God, please, God, you know, let him be OK,” and told King, “And you know, it was like no one heard.” She says she lost her faith in God for many years after the accident.
Andy Frost, head of evangelical group Share Jesus International, recently published a book called “Losing Faith” about people turning away from God. He cites four reasons why people lose faith: People don't “feel” God all the time; their church has hurt or let them down in some way; they begin to doubt the nature of God when it comes to human suffering; and they feel their beliefs don't stand up to scrutiny.
Have you ever had cause to stop and question your faith in God? Yes. Of course. Every day, pretty much. The reasons for the questions change, but the questioning never does.
And I’m OK with that. In the Episcopal Church we don’t view faith as a commodity — as something you have or don’t have, something you can definitively get or lose. Our understanding of faith is far more fluid, dynamic, and messy than that. It’s more of a sliding scale, an evolution, an organic process with cycles, seasons, ebbs and tides, peaks and valleys.
And questioning is a living part of that faith, at least as much as certainty is; questioning is expected, even valued for its own sake.
For me personally — maybe weirdly, I’m not sure — of the four causes for doubt that Andy Frost lists, the only one I don’t wrestle with on a regular basis is the one about human suffering. I know that’s the big one for a lot of people; but for me, it’s not. I don’t believe that God causes things to happen in human life, at least not in any direct, wish-granting kind of way, so that question isn’t a crisis for me.
The other three questions plague me all the time, though: not feeling God’s presence, doubting the relevance of church, and being frustrated with the inadequacy of theological doctrines. Barely a day goes by that I don’t wrestle with one of those.
Luckily, the God I’m in love with loves to wrestle:
“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.... Then [the man] said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ ....Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’” (Genesis 32:24-30).
Yes. I question God every day.
Then we have coffee.
The Rev. Amy Pringle
St. George’s Episcopal Church
La Cañada Flintridge
How we respond or react to a traumatizing event in our lives is a matter of choice. It is different for each individual.
For me, what would be called a traumatizing event has only served to turn me in the direction of a deeper faith in God, the one power and the one presence.