For the longest time I could not understand why a “loving” God would take away the father of a twelve-year-old son by letting him die at such a young age. How could a loving God take a boy’s father from him who so desperately needed and loved him. Even worse, how could that same loving God put a stepfather in his life that would emotionally, physically, spiritually, and sexually abuse him from the age of twelve to seventeen and beyond? What kind of a loving God, a loving father, would do that to his child? So, I fully understand where you might not believe there is such a thing as a loving God. Neither did I at one point in my life. However, today things are much different.
There is another very real issue that is seldom if ever discussed; the correlation between our earthly father, our father here on earth and our heavenly father, the father we can’t see. Let’s start with a question. What does God look? This is one of the main reasons Jesus came to earth, “to show us “The Father.” The issue then becomes that we relate our father here on earth to how our Heavenly Father is supposed to be and treat us. Let me explain.
Let’s say we were abused by our father, stepfather, grandfather, or any authority in our life here on earth. This could be emotionally, physically, spiritually, or sexually; abuse is abuse. In a young person’s life this can create a profound and deep hurt, distrust, confusion, dysfunction in relationships and a host of other dysfunctional behavioral issues. According to the Bible our earthly fathers are to treat us as God would. With love, kindness, understanding, gentleness, forgiveness, and patience. He is to love us unconditionally. Yet, our father here on earth has been unable to display any of the attributes of God as I just explained. So, now someone comes along and tells us that this God in Heaven, this God that is somewhere in the universe, this God we cannot see, is going to come along and love us unconditionally. This God is going to forgive us without judgement, fulfill all our needs, and will never leave nor forsake us. Who are you trying to fool? This secondary issue which no one talks about, I believe, can be more detrimental to believing in God than the first one. I have had both men and women, without provocation, use this exact scenario for why they struggle believing in a loving God. It does no good to talk about the problem without talking about a solution. So then, what is the solution?
How do we overcome these very real roadblocks in coming to believe that God is real and loves us? All I can do is share my experience with you. I can say that this is the way I have helped many more men and women overcome these roadblocks and come to believe that there is a God that loves them unconditionally. He is nothing like their earthly father. A quick disclaimer, once a person has come to believe, their work is not done. That person or persons still have a lot of work ahead of them as the journey is likely to only get harder. The condition of our recovery is based solely on our spiritual condition; thus, it will be important that we maintain some sort of daily spiritual practice, which might include prayer, mediation, and reading the bible. The most difficult part I have found for others is staying connected to a likeminded community of people. This means walking away from a lot, if not all of your so called old “friends.” I guarantee you that you will find out really quick who you real friends are. Let’s go on to talk about how I overcame all my obstacles in connecting with God again. First a short synopsis of why I turned from God.
Growing up in an abusive home left me very confused about a lot of things. To make matters worse, somewhere along the line we started attending church. I can only guess it was because my mother and stepfather’s life were so out of control. I would also say that my stepfather was looking for a way to relieve his guilt related to him abusing not only me, but also my mother. Although I was carrying a heavy burden and big secret on my shoulders, I did find some solace and peace with the youth group at our church. At the age of thirteen I gave my life to Christ in hopes of finding a deeper sense of peace and belonging. I did, at least for a while. Unfortunately, my stepfather and mother continued abusing me. Often times hiding behind a scripture they twisted to justify their actions. This combined with a pastor that knew about the abuse and did nothing about it and my youth pastor who figuratively speaking, slammed the door to his mentorship with me in my face. I’d had enough. If this is what God and the church about, then the hell with it all. That was the day I started my thirty-eight-year dance with the devil.
As much as I didn’t want anything to do with God if he indeed did exist, in the back of mind I always believed that there had to be something out there bigger that myself. While camping in the high country looking at the majestic mountains, the millions of stars at night and the way the landscape and sky blended and flowed together with such eloquence and beauty, it was hard to deny that there was indeed a God. Even with that, the thought would leave my mind as fast as it entered it. My therapist was very wise when it came to her approach about God. When I would bring up the subject, she would turn the conversation around to be more about spirituality than religion. A concept I had never experienced. It opened my mind and allow me to start seeking the truth about God and religion. I started seeing things from a different perspective. I wasn’t being judged or condemned for how I was believing or for my anger towards God.
When I entered into the Betty Ford Center and saw the word “God” highlighted and underlined I immediately said to myself, “We have a real problem if God is involved in this.” Well again my counselors, much like my therapist talked about God more from a spiritual realm than a religious realm. In fact, they were talking about the same God I grew up with and believed in as a teenager, yet this God was not at all anything like the God I was told about. This God was loving, kind, forgiving, understanding, full of grace and a gentleman. What a concept. Essentially what my therapist, counselors in treatment, and A.A. sponsors allowed me to do was to research the truth about God. To find the God of my understanding. The God of my old understanding was one that molested me, beat me, abused me every way possible, and ignored me. That’s not the understanding of God I have today. Today he is the God I mentioned above, loving, kind, forgiving, understanding, full of grace, a gentleman and so much more. So, how did I ultimately find this God?
Let me ask you, how many times have you used the prayers from the foxholes? I certainly used them a lot. I used them when what I know today is, I overdosed on cocaine and alcohol and just knew I was going to die. “God, please let me live, I have my children and wife to take care of. I’m not ready to die.” He answered those prayers many times for me, I’m still alive and helping others. Or how many times were you looking at the very real possibility of going to jail for driving under the influence? I had a night where I was, well let’s just say very intoxicated. I was driving rather fast when a car made a sudden lane change into my lane and I was unable to stop. I ended up totaling that car. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The driver of the other vehicle admitted it was his fault. Even so, after being interviewed by six officers I knew I was going to jail. Again, I prayed, “God please get me out of this, and I promise I will _____________.” An officer walked up to me, handed me back my license, insurance and registration, then told me to have a great night and drive home safely. When I was researching God, I took a little walk back through time and discovered that as Deuteronomy 31:6 says; Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Through all the years of abuse, the near-death experiences, the shame, the pain and yes, even the success, God never did leave me nor forsake me. It was hard to deny He existed anymore. Of course, I did my part by remaining strong and courageous.
I would invite you to sit down and look back on your life. Look at all the times you called out to the God you didn’t believe in for help. Take a hard look at each situation, I would bet you will see where that God you are struggling to believe in, is the reason you are here reading this blog. He and he alone kept you alive when you should have been dead or locked up in jail, possibly for life. We have an amazing God that is alive, real, caring, loving, and forgiving.