proof of God

On a Christian forum recently I asked, “What is your proof of God?” Awhile back, sitting in a friend’s living room before a party, I was asked a similar question. “What is the best proof for God?” I’ve never really been all that into apologetics so I’m not entirely solid on all the popular historic proofs. But, I think a reason for that is they are not personally all that convincing or helpful, to me or to others. The proof of God that matters is the proof that God gives us. And that’s what I answered in that living room before the party. The best proof is God’s Spirit in our lives. It’s the Spirit who proves God to us. Everything else is just commentary.

But the Spirit works in different ways in each of our lives. Not always in ways that would be proof to other people, but are certainly at the root of our own faith and commitment. Having this proof, this personal proof, is I think important. Because when the fire comes, all the rest is often burned away.

Here’s my answer to “What is your proof of God?” It’s my personal answer. Very personal.

I grew up in a Christian home. I remember Easter 1979 (or ’78) as the day I sat on the lawn of my Wesleyan church and repeated the words of the minister asking Jesus into my heart. I was about 4.

I don’t remember being particularly religious but I was a pretty good church kid.

We moved away from that town and to another one far away when I was in 4th grade. I spent a lot of time alone and that seemed to have awakened something deeper. I remember being about 11 or so and saying to my mom I felt called to be a pastor. I remember speaking in tongues at my pentecostal church and otherwise feeling this deep, deep move of God in my life.

So, I suppose God was always poking at me.

But it’s in college that I found what I consider my personal ‘proof’. And it came in two directions, in two forms, at opposite experiences of life.

The first was my sophomore year. A variety of ups and downs had pushed me into a constant state of prayer and seeking God. This began to open up new experiences. I remember October of 1994 during a 4 day holiday where the campus was almost entirely empty. I read Paradise Lost while sitting int the cool fall weather out on the big lawn of the campus. Something about that awakened me. God visited me, sat with me, enlightened me. I would finish reading and get up to go to lunch or finish for the day and I would be awakened to reality. It was a weekend of epiphanies, in which I felt heaven, felt so much peace and hope and love. I think its why I’ve never been attracted to drugs or drunkenness. Those pale in comparison to the fullness of life I felt during that time with God. I felt him, and all his work, in this amazingly profound way. Again and again through my sophomore year I had these kinds of experiences. God showed me himself and gave me a view into his view. I can’t prove it to someone else, but neither can I deny it to myself. It was profound. And even still, when I don’t have that kind of epiphanies, those moments speak to my heart and say that God is more real than what we think is real. Deeper and farther and more whole and more still and so much everything.

My junior year I returned to the school. But the season had changed. Rather than feeling this immense awareness of God’s presence I experienced the opposite. A debilitating dark night of the soul where God went utterly silent, where no matter what I did I couldn’t feel his presence. My heart and soul emptied. Every spiritual feeling was gone. I was utterly alone–which happened to coincide with a breakdown of my friendships at the time.

The feeling, the awareness, all the mystical or spiritual stuff was gone. I felt totally lost and abandoned. My prayers went to nothingness and returned empty. My soul became emaciated, just when I was pressing way forward in spiritual disciplines. My efforts to reach God returned blank.

I was stuck. How do I have faith when there is nothing there? The emotions and spirituality was utterly empty. I faced a dilemma. God was nowhere.

How do I live?

My whole faith was dismantled. I feel like my sophomore year was the pinnacle of my first faith. I advanced through emotion and spirituality and came into the presence of God. Then he retreated. I was left isolated. Piece by piece everything my religious life depended on was taken apart. The fire came and burned it all away.

I was left with nothing. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t hope. I couldn’t stand.

So burned away that it exposed the foundation. And, in fact there was a foundation.

That’s my second proof. I realized I absolutely, utterly believed that Jesus walked out of that tomb on Easter morning.

This wasn’t just a faith answer. I had no faith, see. I had studied the Bible and history. I was absolutely convinced that Jesus walked out of that tomb because of how history resonated with that action. I studied the New Testament and studied early church history and saw how much these men and woman lived in a way that reflected a true historic event. There’s not enough room to give the details of why I think this, but there are a lot of details there.

On that foundation, me answering the most basic of Christian questions, I began to rebuild. Because if Jesus walked out of that tomb, then what was taught, what he taught and Scripture taught was real too. That resurrection was the evidence of a greater reality. So instead of rejecting the rest, that I no longer felt, I began to walk a long road back to understanding how to find the answers for my persistent questions. Answers that I knew were there, because Jesus loved me, this I know.

And that ‘proof’ has taken me on a long and winding path, that has changed an immense amount of what I ‘knew’ during my first faith during my first 20 years. But this ‘second’ faith, this rebuilt spirituality, is so much more at peace and has so much more real hope and real confidence and real joy, even if I really do miss those epiphanies of my sophomore year. I suspect that there will be a season again of that as I go onward in this rebuilt faith.

Higher up and farther in.

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