The Search for God



I have some online friends that I met through this web site. We have had many thoughtful correspondences about grief and I learn a lot by their willingness to share with me. One of my most challenging letters came from an online friend I'll call Tom. He wrote that he had been to my Soulful Signs page and he was skeptical. He wanted to believe in God and an afterlife. He had been raised to believe that he would be reunited with his loved ones in Heaven, but he was having a hard time sustaining this belief several years after personal tragedy.


His difficult question? How do I know that there is a God and an afterlife? What makes me believe? Tom is an educated, intelligent and rational man. I thought a long time before I could reply, especially knowing that he was grieving the loss of his entire family.


What follows is nothing more than my personal opinion offered to a friend because he asked me. My truth may not be your truth. We all must search for answers and come to our own conclusions.


Dear Tom,

You ask big questions! What makes me know in my heart that there is a God and an afterlife?  You may not like my answer: I don't know. I simply choose to believe because I don't like the alternative. It's a matter of personal choice for me--I prefer living with belief in God.

I am more in line with the 17th Century French scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal: In a nutshell, he decided that a belief in God enriched his life and reasoned that if there were no God, well, then the fact that he chose to believe in God didn't matter much when he died. No harm, no foul. But the reverse might not be as pleasant...

Tom, sometimes we think too much. I call it suffering from analysis paralysis, a phrase borrowed from a popular 12-Step program. I do not believe we can think our way to God but I do believe we can think our way from God. I have no answers about why bad things happen to good people, why you lost your entire family, or what heaven is like.


The only thing I can control is my personal choice to believe in God. My decision to believe makes my life better and if I'm wrong it doesn't matter, does it? In an ironic twist, I think the fact atheists try so hard to prove that there is no God proves in fact that there is one, but that's just one woman's opinion, after all.

I read once that the act of searching for God is itself a spiritual act. We don't have to find any answers as long as we keep searching because God put the desire to search in us. Do you suppose that God never tires of our prayers, but grows weary of us when we don't pray? You know the old saying, it's not the destination that counts, only the journey.


I do not believe that the search for God is ever comfortable or easy. God exists in places of pain and suffering, not in the palatial latte-serving generation of churches. I am very suspicious of smug believers or people who search for God too high up and too far away. The God of my understanding is in all of us, not "out there" somewhere. We experience God's love through loving each other, animals and the natural world. But I also have a motto: If you think you have all the answers, keep searching for God!

Now to the other half of your question about an afterlife. Again, I have chosen to believe in life after death because I like the idea a whole lot more than nothingness. If I'm wrong, well, my belief in reunion with deceased loved ones causes me no harm on earth and makes my grief a lot more bearable while I'm here.

The author CS Lewis believed that two things proved we were spiritual beings: 1) We are uncomfortable with our bodies, and 2) We are fascinated with ghost stories. He wrote that to him, these two things proved that we are not human beings trying to be spiritual but spiritual beings trying to be human.


If you have not read Lewis' A Grief Observed, I recommend it. He wrote it after his wife died. You can order it through most online bookstores and probably find it at your local library.


When I listen to the news, I question why God doesn't intervene in such an evil world. Doesn't He care about us? Or, are we nothing more than a bell jar experiment in some madman's lab? Other times, when I marvel at the beauty of the seasons, remember the love of my parents, or caress a cat, I know there must be some Grand Plan and a wonderfully imaginative Master who cares deeply for us. I often ponder: Does God laugh and cry with us?


I believe that we have brains because God wants us to use them, but I can't prove anything and I have no answers. I'm just a fellow traveler on this weary road. The only thing I can do is exercise my free will and choose to believe in God because I don't like the flip side. And guess what? We all get to find out someday. Hope I helped you a little in your search for God. I'll leave you with a favorite quote:


The most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.

Albert Einstein

Good hearing from you, 


Go to next section: The Many Faces of Grief

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How complicated and individual mending is,
the time required for healing
cannot be measured against any fixed calendar
Mary Jane Moffat
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