Believing in God – Or Not

“Do you think it very bad of a man not to believe in God?”

“That depends on the sort of God he imagines that he either does or does not believe in. Most people have totally wrong conceptions of God. A thousand times would I rather see a man not believe in God at all than believe in an evil god that could cause suffering and misery as if he were a devil. But if a man had the same notion of God that I have — a God who is even now doing his best to take all men and women and beasts out of the misery in which they find themselves — and did not at least desire that there might be such a God, then I confess I would have difficulty in understanding how he could be good. When one looks at the gods that have been offered through the years who are not worth believing in, it might be an act of virtue not to believe in them.”…

“I believe that, no matter how uninteresting he may say the question of a God is to him, the God of patience is taking care of him, and the time must come when something will make him want to know whether there be a God and whether he can get near to him. I should say, ‘He is in God’s school; don’t be troubled about him, as if God might overlook and forget him. He will see to all that concerns him. He has made him, and he loves him, and he is doing and will do his very best for him.”

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 23-24

I’m Excited!

It’s only been the last few years that I’ve learned that playing down the exciting stuff doesn’t take the pain away when it doesn’t happen. It does, however, minimize the joy when it does happen. It also creates a lot of isolation. Once you’ve diminished the importance of something, your friends are not likely to call and say, “I’m sorry that didn’t work out. I know you were excited about it.”

Now when someone asks me about a potential opportunity that I’m excited about, I’m more likely to practice courage and say, “I’m so excited about the possibility. I’m trying to stay realistic, but I really hope it happens.” When things haven’t panned out, it’s been comforting to be able to call a supportive friend and say, “Remember that event I told you about? It’s not going to happen, and I’m so bummed.”

— Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, p. 18

God’s View

When things feel certain, it is easy to believe — and sometimes things feel certain. Sometimes we are given the knowledge of more than a day at a time. We get a quick glimpse of the overview, of where we are being led and why. We see what God is doing with us. We get a glimpse of how it is we are being made larger and better. We even agree with God’s methods. Sometimes this happens, not often, and when it does, it is a blessing. When we get a glimpse of God’s will for us, we are often filled with gratitude. We are being made something with beauty and dignity. We are being made more than we dreamed of. We see ourselves as a part of the greater whole, and it is magnificent. God’s will has both ingenuity and grandeur to it.

If we could just see where God is leading us, we would all cooperate more of the time. All of us like to be made something larger and better, and we are willing, when we see what is larger and better, to go along with the temporary discomfort we may feel as our growing pains. The problem is that we so often cannot see where God is taking us. We hold such a small part of the larger picture. We do not see how our temporary discomfort is leading us to anything worthwhile. Feeling uncomfortable, we blame God. We feel abandoned and trifled with. We do not trust that God has us in his care and that in that phrase care is the operative word.

Being Known

When you keep your relationship with God exclusively fact-based and rational, it’s easy to make judgments about others and yourself. Such judgments reduce your anxiety and increase your sense of safety and protection. However, this way of being also has the curious effect of increasing the isolation you feel, both from others and within your own mind.

If you allow yourself to be known by God, you invite a different and frankly more terrifying experience. You are now in a position of vulnerability. If you permit others to know you, they can make their own assessment of your worth. They can react to you. You give them power to be affected by you and in so doing to affect you. You grant them the option to love you or to reject you. In essence, you must — must — trust another with yourself.

However, I will argue that it is only through this process of being known that you come to know yourself and learn how to know others. There is no other way. To be known is to be pursued, examined, and shaken. To be known is to be loved and to have hopes and even demands placed on you. It is to risk, not only the furniture in your home being rearranged, but your floor plans being rewritten, your walls being demolished and reconstructed. To be known means that you allow your shame and guilt to be exposed — in order for them to be healed.

— Curt Thompson, MD, Anatomy of the Soul, p. 23

Shining Like a Star

Who is to hold the space for a woman’s greatness? In many heterosexual relationships, a man is threatened by a woman’s greatness, finding a variety of ways to make her question her own beauty and strength. A secure man is not threatened by a woman’s intellectual or emotional power but celebrates the opportunity for joyful partnership that it offers him. The conscious question is whether a relationship can handle two stars.

We must relinquish the paradigm of men as power with women as support and instead embrace the image of both men and women as powers, with each supporting the other. Any man who holds a woman back is not a man a woman can afford to be with. A woman has a mighty and sacred task to perform on earth. She will not be able to fulfill her function if she remains with a man who derides her glory.

— Marianne Williamson, A Woman’s Worth, p. 73

The Way Home

Religion is simply the way home to the Father. Because of our unchildlikeness, the true way is difficult enough — uphill, steep, but there is fresh life with every surmounted height, a purer air gained, more life for more climbing. But the path that is not the true one is not therefore an easy one. Uphill work is hard walking, but through a bog is worse.

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 22

Wholehearted Living

Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.

— Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Restful Thankfulness

When we rest in God, we begin to have a different experience of God. It becomes less about our striving and more about our receiving. God is the great giver, and too often we are too busy and too self-driven to be able to receive. We ask for help, but then we hurry blindly on, and when our help arrives, we do not pause to acknowledge its source, we just grab for it and keep on moving. “God help me” we pray, but when God does, we are often too preoccupied to say “Thank you.”

A friend of mine is worried about money. She is afraid of ending up out on the street. Each month she worries about where her rent money will come from. Each month her rent money does come. God opens some new door to her, and the flow enters where least expected. My friend does not thank God for this continued support. She is focused, always, on her notion that the support will soon stop. In this way, there is no way that God can ever do enough for her. No matter what miracles occur, she always wants more. Wanting more, she is blind to the fact that what she has been given time and time again is enough. We do not want enough. We want more.

— Julia Cameron, Faith and Will, p. 90-91

Asking for Help

People might think helping is hard, but really that’s the easy part; just look how good it makes people feel. Look how happy all those Red Bend ladies were about chipping in. It’s the asking that’s so painful. It takes real courage, real strength, to say you’re not strong enough to do it alone.

— D.J. Schwenk in Front and Center, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, p. 196