Updated: Jan 20, 2021
In A Grief Observed, CS Lewis journals his thoughts and emotions after the tragic loss of his wife/lover who succumbed to cancer. Over the years I have personally observed a great deal of grief experienced by hundreds in the first few minutes of their loss. I'd be lying if I told you that all those experiences have not had an effect on my own thoughts and beliefs about God. Lewis made this statement in the throes of doubt and uncertainty following the death of his wife.
"Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not, 'So there's no God after all,' but, 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'"
I really appreciated Lewis' raw and honest thoughts and especially that he allowed his very personal reactions of doubt and unbelief to be published. If you grew up in conservative Christianity and come to have serious doubts related to your beliefs, you tend to keep those tucked away for fear of being found out. There isn't much room to stand up and say, "I am afraid I'm losing my faith." I wonder how many closet doubters exist in the ranks of Christian soldiers.
In the world of first responders there is this thing called cumulative post traumatic stress. It may or may not eventually evolve into a post traumatic disorder but most responders find that over the span of a career the cumulative effect of all the trauma they've seen, touched and smelled results in a slow slide into emotional isolation, emotional numbness, cynicism, and doubting the goodness of God, if they believe God exists in the first place.
The cumulative effect of my own journey as a first responder chaplain has brought me into the realm of questioning and doubting God. Yet, I've prayed more than a few times, "God, help me in my unbelief." I've questioned how decent, seemingly loving human beings could spend an eternity in hell because they didn't formally "accept Christ." "God, is this 20 year old who hung himself in your care as I pray over his body or is he suffering a fate worse than that which brought him to a noose?" I see Christians who have far greater sin in their lives (including me) than some of the dear people I've come to know on the calls I've been on as well as many officers and firefighters who are not "walking the walk" but seem to be living their lives with high moral standards.
CS Lewis found himself going down the road of believing dreadful things about God. He could feel the slide toward the abyss. Life can and will put us all on that road. Maybe you can't relate whatsoever to the journey of Lewis or my own honest confessions of doubt. In some ways, I envy those who just continue to find that everything in life makes perfect sense. Everything in the Bible makes perfect sense. Everything that happens happens for a good reason. Everything that happens is a part of God's will...His plan. No doubting. I'm sorry but that's not me.
True doubters and unbelievers who want to believe and who seek true faith find that living in the tension of belief and unbelief; who have faith one day and great doubt the next can actually become free from religion and discover a deeper sense of spirituality related to God and the true way of Jesus. Those who come to God must first believe He exists. I do.