The fact that Jesus lived never leaves me. I believe in his life and that he died a criminal’s death on a Roman cross. I believe in his resurrection from the dead too. I believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be: God.
Then why do I doubt God’s existence at times?
Why do I look around me and wonder if there really is a God? This isn’t a philosophical type of wondering. I’m not thinking on problems such as how evil can exist if God is good and loving.
I’m thinking at times that maybe God doesn’t exist at all.
Yet I never doubt Jesus’ existence: his life, death and resurrection. How do these two mindsets square with each other: assurance of Jesus’ existence and occasional doubt of God’s existence?
I have no idea.
Presence Is Powerful
This is where the wisdom of the Incarnation comes in. God knows that we believe more easily what we can see, hear and touch. Separation, rather than making the heart grow fonder, tends to lead to disaffection.
In the early days of God’s relationship with people he walked with them. Adam and Eve spoke to God as they spoke to one another, experiencing his presence in the Garden of Eden as they experienced each other’s company.
The relationship becomes more and more attenuated as time goes on. Cain speaks to God directly, as does Noah. By the time of Abraham and Sarah, God speaks but for them and their family he is described as a visitor or Angel of the Lord. This trend toward separation continues with Moses, who speaks to God but does not see him plainly as he appeared in the Garden to Eve and Adam nor as an Angelic visitor as Sarah and Abraham did.
And so it goes through the history of God’s interactions with his people until some Israelites act as if God doesn’t exist at all since they’ve never seen or heard him.
Whom have you so dreaded and feared
that you have not been true to me,
and have neither remembered me
nor taken this to heart?
Is it not because I have long been silent
that you do not fear me? (Isaiah 57:11.)
God promised to reverse this trend, and the long slide toward forgetting God ended with a return to the original relationship: God walking with his people. It ended with Jesus.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. …
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3, 14.)
Jesus – the Word who is Creator God – spent a lifetime on earth as a human. He had family, made friends, worked with his hands, and taught people what it means to have a relationship with God again. John, one of those who knew Jesus best, wrote a letter emphasizing that his relationship with Jesus was real:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1.)
It is this testimony from John and others who knew Jesus in the flesh – Peter and James and the rest – that convinces me he existed and did what the Bible says he did. It all rings true. And if these people who knew Jesus and wrote about him are correct in what they say they heard and saw, then what Jesus said about having a relationship with God is correct too.
And that means God is true.
Rising and Melting Doubt
So when I doubt God’s existence, it doesn’t stop at mere wondering doubt; I go all the way to thinking it isn’t true. The surprising thing about this denial of God is that when I think about Jesus there is never a doubt that he existed, and that he always has and always will. As John recorded in yet another book, this is what Jesus says about himself:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8.)
When the doubting failure to believe in God’s existence comes, the answer isn’t to reason myself back to believing in him. It’s to focus on Jesus and the fact that he really lived and lives.
I have no doubt.