Thursday, January 13, 2011

The nature of comfort

Went to my second bible study with my church since moving to the area a year and a half ago. I guess some things get off to a slow start. I could say it was from all the church searching/switching and also my attendance of the Intervarsity bible study on campus, but really it's priorities. Doubt is a strange circle. It's hard to prioritize something I do not trust. That then takes me away from the community that might enlighten me to the answers of my doubts. Of course my doubt also reminds me that I'm not exactly placing myself in places where I could be enlightened to other varying beliefs.

We studied the first chapter of II Corinthians, a passage that reflects upon the suffering, comfort, and integrity of God in Christ. It seems to me that the nature of God's comfort in suffering comes from a knowledge of His character. Paul's comfort came from a knowledge of God's power (over death and over all). Others in our group were comforted by God's character of being ever present or faithful (a presence in times when one might otherwise feel alone). Paul asked the Corinthians to find security in God's integrity (when others might seem fickle).

For myself, I always wonder if the comfort I have felt in times of need comes from a head knowledge of God's character as expressed in the bible, or if there is the actual presence of God reaching down and comforting me. It would be more convincing if in a time of need, I did not need to know the character of God in my mind and yet I still could feel His comfort. Instead it seems to take reminders from His Word or reminders from other believers to get me there.

I suppose I also know when this specific doubt began. You might think all Jehovah's Witnesses spreading their news on the streets should just be ignored; but after being trained in Christian evangelism, I really wondered what the Jehovah's Witness had to say, what they thought was so compelling about their own belief. So after being approached one incredibly rainy day, I stopped to talk, in the rain, getting soaked. That young man had plenty of his own stories to tell of Jehovah's Witnesses experiencing god's love, god's peace, god's joy, comfort in times of need. The stories were no different from those within Christianity... and no less enthusiastically related.

I guess one thing that struck me tonight is that Paul was a real person. Okay, that was obvious, but Saul was also a real person. Even if I sometimes doubt the validity of the bible, the people of the bible existed in history and there really was a Saul character who went around killing Christ followers, and somehow, in a miraculous moment, he became one and went around planting churches, being persecuted and being in danger of being killed. Who would do that unless the miracle actually happened and it really showed the existence of Yahweh God? I always -- perhaps stupidly -- ask God to reveal Himself to me -- if he really is there -- in a miracle that I cannot deny. Perhaps Saul's story (and others like it) is the closest i will ever get to knowing a miracle of God. Christians often cite the disciples willingness to die for Christ after his death and resurrection as evidence of a truth, since only truth would be worth dying for. That never caught with me; they were already for Christ to begin with and would have been fickle for changing their minds, but if Paul is a real character, then he really was reacting to truth.

Of course my doubt then reminds me of the miracles that people of other faiths also claim of their deities. I become more and more convinced that whatever one wants to believe, one can find the arguments and examples... I'm not sure I even know what I want to believe. I suppose that's why I continue to live within the field of doubt.


  1. You have many valid reasons for not trusting religion. In the world around us we see, time and time again, religious leaders and people of religious faith (or, perhaps more accurately "people of professed faith") behaving and conducting their affairs that do not harmonize with what they claim to represent.

    Always a crazy thought to me, was that people who claimed to represent the teachings of Jesus would willingly take up arms against other human beings who, in all likelihood include other members of the soldier's faith.

    Hardly indicative of the kind of unity Jesus taught and not much of a display of the kind of love he said would be seen among his "true" followers.

    Jesus though did say that "true" followers would be easily identified by the love they showed to one another, that they would be "no part of the world" as he was no part of the world (he was not involved in politics or political conflicts of the world). His followers would listen to his voice, be unified with his teachings and be obedient to his commands. These ones would be targets of persecution and lies...

    In my own quest to find a Christian group that fit the description I was stunned to find that, on a global scale, there is one.
    These Christians refuse to take up arms against any fellow human (and take prison sentences in stead. In WWII- concentration camps, they were the They are unified in their conduct and actions around the world. Their congregations are like tight knit communities of an extended family, they stick to the bible, and they carry out the work Jesus commanded his followers to do. Like Jesus and the early apostles, they are not paid for ministering, and they have a long track record of being persecuted and lied about.

    I accepted a bible study from Jehovah's Witnesses, and it was like the lights had been turned on.

    Jehovah's Witnesses can not only tell you what they believe- but they can show you the reasons why. (most religions can only tell you what they believe- but not provide the reasons based in the bible, historical research, science- yes, science- and the like.)

    I can relate to your field of doubt.
    Maybe consider asking Jehovah's Witnesses to study the bible with you. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out what the message they preach really is.

  2. Sorry- I mentioned concentration camps and then ... well- the story is not as interesting as what I meant to write there:

    Jehovah's Witnesses (or Bible Students as they were known at the time) were the only group imprisoned in the camps for their religious stand. (Jews were there for their "impure" blood lines- but Witnesses were there because, unlike the Churches as a whole, they refused to support the Nazi regime in any way) The Holocaust Museum in Washington DC has a website that details the stand Witnesses took. It is very interesting.

    Anyway- just my 2 cents.

    Have a great day!

  3. Was Paul without God when he was still the Pharisee Saul, persecuting Christians? Evidently not. Though he did bad things, it was in ignorance, which is why he was finally corrected. He had a genuine zeal for God, but it was just as he later wrote of certain other ones, that "they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge." (Romans 10:2)

    And it's worth noting that God himself recognizes individuals in all religions with real sincerity and zeal as his own, yet he gives them this command, "Get out of her [false religion], my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins." (Rev. 18:4) To do this requires careful study of what the Bible really teaches.

    That's how to overcome the doubts, by building your faith not on merely emotional experiences, but with the solid foundation of accurate knowledge of him and what he asks of us.