Sunday, October 01, 2006

The faith not to ask "Why?"

A reader writes that, after a tragic event, she found that faith sustained her. She recommends that I too need such faith. Here are excerpts from her email:

Like you I have these burning questions- they all tend to begin with ‘Why?’

Two months ago my mum committed suicide in the most tragic of circumstances. My parents were happily married for 30 years; we still are and were incredibly close. I miss her...Only a year ago she was the fit and healthy women that I always knew, never any history of problems. Suddenly bang, mental illness (incredible anxiety, psychosis was the root cause) struck her down like a cancer in the brain.

My sister, my dad and my mum are born again Christians and active church goers. I wasn’t. I quit Sunday School when I was 14. Like you I saw too many holes in the supposed theory.

I sat on the fence for a very long time over the last 14 years. Decided it was a comfortable place to be, that way I didn’t have to commit to anything.

Then this happened.

I can only describe in laments terms the prayers and support I have received from my friends and Jesus over the darkest two months of my life have impacted me.

And I would argue that this was the very time I could question ‘Why?’ and completely turn my back on Him, forever. Don’t I have circumstances that warrant that?

I still have the questions, I always will. It keeps me awake.

What stops me going crazy? What really keeps me going? What eventually helps me get to sleep and stop asking the Whys?

All I can say is FAITH. FAITH I never knew was possible. And I know that FAITH will eventually bring me peace to all the Whys.

Brainwashing, perhaps. The fact that I am so desperate, perhaps.

I used to laugh at people like me. I used to think they were so needy, in times of crisis they could cling on to the false hope of a God.

You are intelligent, I can see that from your writing, you are probably far cleverer than myself and I am not going to try and pick points in your site I could argue with. You would win and I would come back to the same answer. FAITH.

I have no doubt you have done some incredibly deep soul searching; you are seeking peace and clarity which is why you wrote this site. God has perfect timing- that I believe. But I will be asking Him all the whys when I get there before I have chance to drive myself round the twist on this Earth!

I hope you find what you are looking for, I really mean that.

I could be patronizing and pray for you. I could put God to the test and ask him for fires from the sky. But when you are hammering on the door asking for it to be opened I don’t think it will be- it’s just not the way it works. Trust me, I know.

The world is a terrible place; you only have to switch on the news. I weep.

What makes me keep going, and not just keep going, but even now have a little joy in this life? Him.

I can’t do it justice with an email, it comes from inside me that I think non- believers don’t want to or can’t get.

I can only tell you that when you find it, that in itself is a miracle.

Take care and may you be truly happy.

First let me express my sympathy for this woman in the tragic loss of her mother. That surely must have been a difficult time for her.

She admits that she has questions about her faith, questions that keep her awake. She says she could argue with points on my site, but admits that I would probably win. And she asks rhetorically, "What eventually helps me get to sleep and stop asking the Whys?" She answers, "All I can say is FAITH." And so we find that the questions and arguments against her faith matter little to her. Somehow she has learned to stop asking why, and has turned to faith. She has learned to believe in a particular theism, and has learned a technique--FAITH--that allows her to shut out the questions at night and get some sleep.

Is she brainwashing herself? Even she admits it may be brainwashing, and may be caused by the fact that she is desperate. And yet she finds a peace in faith that is very real to her. She clings to it, even if it means forcing the Why questions out of her mind.

She is telling me that she can't answer the questions, but faith keeps her going, so therefore this faith is good.

Now I understand the need to find hope, a need that is so great that many turn to an ersatz hope. Faith, positive thinking, "name it and claim it", are just some of the ways that people have learned to force a hope into their minds regardless of reality. But I find that forcing hope into one's mind while ignoring reality is not good. Eventually reality comes crashing in.

Let me illustrate: Years ago I was involved in an engineering project in which a new team was convinced that they could update our large factory. Blind enthusiasm filled the meetings, as they discussed their grandiose plans to rebuild the factory. Those who had experience with such rebuilds in the past, and warned of problems and questioned the unproven technology were regarded as negative. There was no room for questioning the plans, or testing the new concepts before installing them. "Of course they will work! Don't be so negative." And then I watched as the factory was brought to its knees, the old equipment having been removed, and the new equipment dysfunctional. I watched as the old equipment was retrieved from the garbage dump and put back together again to get the factory working.

Now you tell me: Was this blind faith good? Was all of the positive thinking that ignored reality a good idea?

There is a problem with a blind faith that ignores reality. There is a problem with the person who recklessly goes into debt, runs roughshod over the feelings of others, and takes needless risks, all the while forcing himself to believe that all will end up well, for God is on his side. Such faith is asking for trouble.

The gambler who recklessly borrows and wastes his money while maintaining the false hope that he will win it all back has a faith that is not grounded in reality. The terrorist who intentionally flies an airplane into a building in the hope that God will honor the martyrdom has a faith that is not grounded in reality.

So I find that faith and confidence must be grounded in reality. To do that, one must ask, "Why?" One must open her mind to all sides of the issue, and to all questions, to firmly establish herself in reality.

I can have confidence, not because I ignore the questions, but because I find so much to be confident in. There is indeed something marvelous about the human mind. I have a human mind, and I know many people that possess marvelous human minds. (And yes, there are a few around me that surely must also have a marvelous human mind, but sometimes it is hard to tell!) Seeing the wonders of the human mind, I can have hope in what we can accomplish. The hope does not ignore the evils that can be present in humanity, but it sees a reason for hope in spite of the troubles.

So I prefer a confidence based on reality and an honest look at the hard questions. I see no need for a faith that forces away the "Why" questions.

1 comment:

TigerNooga said...

"The Faith to NOT ask Why?"

It is sad that at the time we humans need the most support, we are told that we cannot ask why. Why not? If we have Faith in something which is supposed to be absolute truth, then this should be the thing which provides us the most support, and the most answers, when we need it the most.
Being told that you can't ask questions is like a mother or father telling a child to "just shut up, you don't need to know", when doubts arise.
This will not bring inner peace, or happiness because no matter how much you try to suppress your feelings, they will always be there. It will eat at you from the inside forever.
I have been where she is. My Mother passed away 6 years ago. My Father was the pastor of our Church, he was involved with another woman, and divorcing my mom, when she died, and mom had also been going through Chemo-Therapy. I had plenty of questions, none of which had any answer from a Biblical standpoint.
Oh, people were quick to give me the "we can't know the mind of God", or "you need to forgive and forget", or "God has some purpose". However these all rang very hollow when viewed against their other statements of: "the victory we have in Christ", or the "all things work together for good to them that love God," or "God will bless those who love him", verses so gladly shouted from the pulpit.
I began to see that something was very wrong here.
I decided to go back to square one, and check out the Bible for myself, and find out what was true, and what was not.
Beware to those of you who have never read the Bible for yourselves, or examined it yourselves, outside of what you have been taught about it. The Bible does have a lot of problems.

I have not jsut believed the devil. I have not just wanted to justify some wicked sinful lifestyle. (In fact I live pretty much like I did as a Christian). I was not some atheist or agnostic who set out to disprove the Bible. I was a born again Christian who wanted to get to the truth, and I found out that the Bible is not it. It became clear that the Bible could not have been written by an all-knowing, perfect God, and be so full of problems, contradictions, errors, and support for immoral lifestyles and actions.

I am happier knowing that I do not have to have a blind Faith in something which will never be explained to me, will never make sense to me, or in fact will never even be told to me. God did not ordain, allow, cause, or stand by in apathy as my Mother died, or yours. It was just life, or the end of it happening. If it really was somehow the will of an all knowing God, and we are not allowed to even ask why, then this is a very cruel God.

Who am I to judge God, nobody, and I don’t, but I do judge that this book cannot be from him. God, (if it was him who really created me), gave me that ability.