That God is real, is an obvious belief of believers. We believe in the reality of God; even so, we often don’t delve into the belief much beyond the point of learning more about our belief, which, of course, is good. However, we often don’t dare to trouble ourselves too much beyond that point, until trouble strikes for which there seems to be no answers and no help. When trouble strikes, we are pushed beyond belief into a territory of significant personal risk, a risk that can even destroy belief. We discover some very human, very real, very grownup essential questions that we greatly fear. We fear the questions because they expose the depths of our neediness, and the possibility of an astounding disappointment.
Some of the questions we fear asking are:
- Does God really do anything that is for me personally?
- Does God care about me, specifically?
- Does God feed me, I mean touch my troubled, questioning, starving heart?
- Does God meet my needs, tangibly and undeniably?
The questions are not scary in and of themselves; daring to find out the answers is scary. To be in need and then discover that the answers to the questions are a series of “no” is a potential savage disappointment. The possibility of the negative result can make us do anything to stay away from the questions; it can make us do anything to avoid being in that kind of need, which ironically will ultimately create that kind of need.
To block the fear of discovering the negative, we avoid the questions altogether. To have to conclude that God is just one last fantasy of our wish to matter leaves us stranded. We are stranded with a belief in a God that does not personally touch our lives. This belief is less useful and more impotent than believing in rocks. If you fall on rocks, you could be terribly hurt. If rocks fall on you, you can be killed. Life of hard knocks or death leaves me having to make my own way, basically alone. Experiencing the reality of rocks matters more than a belief in God. The rocks are very real.
The reason we even ask the questions is because we don’t really believe in just believing. We actually crave being cared about and being strengthened; from the inside-outwards, we need to matter and to belong to a God who is with us in this life, all the time, no matter what happens and no matter where it happens.
For God to be the God who answers the questions with a “yes” is essential, or we are all lost to whom we are made to be and become. God’s “yes” is what makes Emmanuel, God with us, so profound, and our questions so daringly essential to ask. We have to know in a way that we can experience as a witness. We have to witness his personal care that touches our hungry hearts in a tangible, undeniable form, or our belief is useless when life on life’s terms strikes.
By being thrust into neediness, we find the questions. Then, we find whether or not God is “just” real or Emmanuel, God is with us, personally, specifically, in detail, intimately, always present and never not present, though sometimes slow and sometimes fast.
I have worked in the field of recovery of heart, in many capacities, for almost thirty years. I have seen God quietly move into the questions with a “yes” for thirty years. I am a witness to what I have seen, and more importantly, I am a witness to what I have experienced myself. Not one of the people I have seen experience Emmanuel has done so without the questions. I have also seen that once the questions have been experienced, the witnesses live with faith that God is present even when it seems that God keeps saying, “no.” They can live in the memory of having known Emmanuel’s presence, until they experience the “yes” again. They honestly cannot do otherwise. Their belief has become a relationship of intimacy and daring. They dare to have gratitude because of the “yes” they have experienced, and the “yes” they know will come again.