Today, I responded to an atheist:
- While I admit that there are difficult and even troubling portions of the Bible, the reasons that I believe it far outweigh the problems. Perhaps someday I'll be able to share some stories with you over a cup of coffee.
He had challenged me about the “contradictions” and morally questionable Bible teachings. Sometimes, I respond aggressively. I might challenge the atheist this way:
- “Demonstrate how this is a contradiction and prove to me that there is no way to resolve it,” or… “If God is just and righteous and He created this world, He has every right and duty to judge!”
Instead, this is what I plan to share with him:
Often, I feel like the Psalmist: “My soul is downcast within me” (Psalm 42:6). Today, my soul was very downcast within me. I was too down to focus on any of my work. There was only one thing I could do – crawl into bed with my Bible.
Thirty years ago, my depression and panic attacks were so severe that I didn’t know if I could continue until the next day. I tried to read the Bible, but it was hard for me to concentrate on it or to even believe in it. Sometimes, I was only able to rest it on my stomach as I prayed for sleep. At other times, I was able to read little bits of it, but there were times when something extraordinary took place. An elementary phrase – like “Gods heard him” - would explode into my consciousness for a mere second, like a lightning bolt. The event was so stunning that it would utterly drive away any vestige of depression. For the balance of the day, I was left awed – stunned - by the power that I had experienced.
This stopped happening as my depression and panic ebbed. No more explosions. However, God’s Word is still able to edify me and to drag me out of my downcast-ness like nothing else – like none of my five highly-recommended psychologists. Even though they confidently advised me that I was a good person and had the necessary resources, none of their words were able to even dent the hard shell of my depression – only God’s Word!
The Psalmist wrote:
- I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. (Psalm 34:4-7)
I know that there will be more troubles, fears and tears, but when I have found myself broken by life, I have also found the Lord very present through His Word.
I am temperamentally a skeptic. I still don’t understand these phenomena. I sometimes wonder, “Is this really happening? Is it God who has really delivered me?” I cannot deny what I have experienced on so many occasions. And this has only happened through the Bible. Admittedly, I am perplexed by some things I encounter in His Word, but I am also convinced that I have encountered my Savior in these same words.