One of my roles is to help recovering addicts include God in their recovery process. No small task. To start the process I like to hear their stories…that is, how they saw God growing up, if at all; how they related to God through a religion, or nature, etc.
After a while, some clear themes emerge. It is VERY rare that someone in recovery tells me a good story about their spirituality. If they have found God it was usually after a long detour through some kind of bad religion. As a pastor (another role of mine) it’s been enlightening as to how LITTLE the church has helped people find God. Really sad. But there are other reasons that keep people from God. Let me list what I’ve learned.
Reasons Why People Struggle to Find God
- Meaningless church/religious experiences. As mentioned, it’s rare that people tell me how attending church helped them to know God. It’s usually something they had to endure for a season (usually through confirmation…a training process for kids in middle school) before they opt out. Parents want their kids to get the basics of faith but no more. The lesson kids get is that church is irrelevant and God is distant, so pay your dues and leave.
- Bad experiences with “believers.” This covers a gamut of experiences that turn people off from God. The basic response is: if this person is a true believer then I don’t want anything to do with what they are into. Here are a few examples of bad experiences:
- judgmental attitudes
- historical craziness like the Crusades witch burning, or “Jones Town Massacre.”
- Small Mindedness. This could be included in the point above but is broad enough to be worthy of its own point. If you consider yourself an open minded free thinker, any kind of religion can pose a threat. Religion, by nature, channels your thinking into a set format. So religion is the enemy. “Believers” often think in such narrow, simplistic ways. Personally, this is something that I find embarrassing about fellow believers. They like to make things simple, i.e. black and white, pat answers. Don’t confuse me with science or the facts. To them, the beauty of faith is that it solves all complex problems with a few Bible verses. But what they love is the very thing that causes a revulsion in the free thinker. The free thinker sees faith as something that reduces you as a person.
- Tragedy. I’m surprised how many people either quit on God or never give God a chance because of a tragedy. There’s nothing like a death to kill faith. It’s interesting how they could handle the injustices in the world until injustice struck THEM. Until they got up close and personal with suffering, they were fine with God. (Surprisingly, the same experiences bring others to faith.)
- The invisibility of God. Maybe the number one struggle I hear is that it’s hard to believe in something/Someone you can’t see. People want to touch it and feel it to know it’s real.
I’m not going to attempt to answer these obstacles here, just note them. I’m curious what else you would add to this list. Please leave a comment below.
I will say that if you focus on the person of Jesus that you can bypass all five of these concerns (I’m not trying to be simplistic in saying this. I’m just saying that these five issues are often meaningless smokescreens that cloud the true issues of faith.) Whenever my doubt surfaces, whenever believers make me mad and make me want to give up on the idea of church, I always remind myself that Jesus was a historical documented person with multiple eye-witness accounts of his life, death and resurrection. My struggle isn’t with life’s problems or people that disappoint me, it’s with whether or not I accept the claims of Jesus.
What causes you to struggle with believing in God?