Reasonable Doubts Blog

Challenging God

Posted in Defining faith by Cheryl Berman on the June 17th, 2010

In Israel on Yom Ha’Zikaron regular television programming is canceled and clips about families who lost loved ones in Israel’s wars are televised. There was one clip from this past Yom Ha’Zikaron that stands out in my mind. It was a clip about a religious family who lost a child in the recent battle in Lebanon. The sister, who must have been in her twenties, explained that when she first found out that her brother was killed she was unable to mourn. She didn’t know how to react. She was frozen. She said that after the funeral she went to parents home and found her mother in the kitchen looking at the ceiling cursing at God. Her mother was screaming profanities and the sister was terrified. She said, “Mommy stop! What are you doing?” She said that she thought lightening would strike her mother. And the mother heard her, turned around, and gave her daughter the most powerful lesson in faith a mother could give her child. She said, “God is all-powerful. He created this entire universe. He is all-knowing. There is nothing that escapes God. He can take a little bit of my anger.”  The sister explained that from that moment she was able to mourn.

I think there many powerful lessons we can learn from this mother’s remarkable statement. But what stands out to me was that this woman recognized the most important aspect of faith: she sensed that faith is a relationship. She probably wouldn’t spell it out that way (or perhaps she would) but she clearly sensed it very deeply. Think about your most intense relationship (spouse? Child? Parent? Friend?) You could be furious with your parent. You could yell at your spouse. You could be disappointed with your child. It doesn’t imply a severing of that relationship. It means you need to work on the relationship. Self-reflect. Communicate your feelings. Challenges to a relationship speak to it’s complexity.

It is the same with God. You might experience suffering. You might want to challenge God. You might want to question His wisdom, His justice, His power. Go ahead. Faith is a relationship. When suffering hits it could be a very confusing time and doubt might ensue. But challenging God doesn’t mean your relationship is false. And doubt doesn’t mean you never truly had a relationship. It means you need to self-reflect. Communicate. Work to re-establish what has been broken.

It is also important to note that if faith is a relationship it is not  intellectual assent. Relationships are rarely intellectual. Sometimes they are even completely irrational. You could love someone despite his snoring or her neuroses. The fact that your love is irrational doesn’t make it untrue. Relationships are not judged that way. Similarly a relationship with God, faith, is not determined by intellectual arguments or counter-arguments. It is a connection that lies somewhere beyond the propositional claims of our right brain. The trick is how to relocate it when it is lost.  Communicating your doubts is a good first step.

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