“If God wants me to believe in him, why doesn’t he show up and say so?”
It’s a natural question, often asked. I remember struggling with writing a two-paragraph assignment in 5th Grade. As we typically do with hard things, I put off doing it until the evening before it was due. I remember sitting in my room, struggling to get a couple sentences down on paper, when inspiration struck. I looked heavenward and said, “God, I’m going to turn around for two minutes. If you really exist, do this assignment for me. If the paper is done when I turn around again, I’ll believe in you forever!”
Sadly, when I turned around 120 seconds after, the page was in the same sorry state in which I left it. The creator of the universe didn’t swoop down to complete a report on tree frogs. I shrugged and figured he must not be real.
Nevertheless, the question remains. If God wants to be known, if it’s so important that we believe in him, why not just appear and work some miracles we can all see?
The first, and best, answer to this is that God already tried this. It didn’t end up solving things. You may remember some of his greatest hits from the Old Testament, including:
Those were just the major ones from the first two books of the Bible. God has appeared and worked miracles many times over, up to and including taking on human flesh and walking among us. No matter what he did, no matter how big the display he put on, we never ended up understanding him, let alone believing. Everybody who saw was amazed. Everybody who saw also fell back into trusting something else eventually. All of them fell short of what they were meant to be, even having seen God up close and personal.
If we were honest, we’d admit that we would end up the same way. Every one of us has had a watershed moment in our lives that we swore would change us. “From this moment on, I pledge that I will…” (Or the more directly-religious bargaining, “God, if you get me out of this I swear I’ll never…”) How many of those really stuck? The Bible also illustrates that every promise we make, we also break…including and especially our promises to God. No matter how much we protest that we’ll change and believe now, we don’t.
Jesus didn’t die on the cross for us because we believed so well. Jesus died on the cross for us because we were not capable of believing well. He didn’t sacrifice himself for our awesomeness and teachable nature, he gave himself so even mixed-up people like us could enter into God’s embrace.
This was the miracle for all times and all places. This was the moment when we shifted from, “If we live and are healthy and whole, God is with us,” to, “Whether we live or die, no matter what happens today or any day, we are God’s.” That is a far more powerful relationship with God than simply, “When good things happen, I know he’s there.”
Next Time: What about other miracles? Are they still real?