He said he no longer believed in God.
I asked, “Why?”
What he said next, I could not get out of my head.
In this first month of 2022, I focused on holistic health, or what I refer to as PMS at its Best: physical, mental, spiritual health. I believe that our overall wellness is interconnected to every bit of our being. It all ties together. When I am physically tired or stressed for example, I do not think as clearly or rationally. Or when I retreat from difficult situations that need addressed, instead of feeling better, I feel more consumed. And when I live in this world as if I were an accidental creation with no purpose, I more easily sink into the messes of this world, instead of rising above. The heaviness of life itself then becomes more hopeless.
I don’t profess to be an expert on holistic health or on today’s subtopic of spiritual health. But I wonder, do we need to be experts to take responsibility for our health and wellness? To become more self-aware? And to care for ourselves in a way that validates, “I am worthy of being my best?” It’s certainly wise to listen to professionals and to become more educated, but in the end, we are our own deciders. For me, I want to make decisions that help me live well so I can, in turn, contribute my best to others.
And he said he no longer believed in God.
“Why?” I asked.
He is a local entrepreneur who recently, after reading a chapter in my book, Momentous Living, where I describe washing stinky feet in Honduras all in the name of God, shared with me that he had served 13 years in Iraq and Afghanistan as a fighter pilot. The death and pained faces that he had witnessed, and the stench that he had smelled of bodies piled like sandbags, changed his mind about God and his holy upbringing.
The pilot described how he had become desensitized to war. One time he sat down beside a guy who had just been blown in half by a landmine, his intestines hanging out of his rib cage.
“How bad is it,” the young man asked, perhaps through lingering adrenaline.
“It’s a flesh wound,” the pilot said. “You’ll be up in running in a few days.”
Then the young man died. He was probably 22 years old.
“If there is a God,” the pilot said, “then why would He allow that to happen?” That being all of the above.
His question is not new.
I am not one to try to evangelize people. But rather, I find myself being pulled into penetrating comments like, “I no longer believe in God.” I could not shake this pilot’s remark from inside my head or from deep within my soul. His words tugged at me like a lost child. I couldn’t stop wondering from where his words had originated.
There’s so much I don’t understand about spirituality, religion, divinity, call it what you will. I just believe there is a deeper dimension (I call God) that goes beyond our heads and bodies—a guiding force in my life. I started to tackle this taboo topic in the Honduras chapter in my book, the chapter the pilot had just finished reading, and then I explored it a bit further in the next chapter.
“So, can I prove there’s a God? No. But what I can say is this: I sense something bigger than me, through people, circumstances, and creation.” —Momentous Living, page 50
Spiritual health, to me, encompasses allowing ourselves to be taken into places that challenge who we are and who we can be. Contemplating our Whys? when we would rather not. But still mustering perseverance to explore places that make absolutely no sense, and knowing perhaps there won’t be black-and-white answers, but perhaps a little more purpose and reassurance in our direction and existence.
I don’t have an answer for my pilot friend as to why God would allow such pain and evil. Who am I, after all, to try and make sense of such senselessness? I just appreciate his vulnerability in sharing such a larger-than-me comment and the opportunity to enter into the wounds of our world with a fellow human being. And maybe by disclosing burdens, we can collectively face another day, and in the process also contemplate why that is.
My friend said he still believes in angels, as they are protectors.
But God is out.
I emailed my pastor and asked what he thought about this story. He emailed back saying we could easily have an hour conversation! (The exclamation mark is his). I understand the emphasis. There’s so much to discuss. But in short he wrote this:
“I agree that the health of various parts of our lives intersect. I believe God created our whole being which includes the physical, mental, and spiritual and that they DO overlap and intersect.
Additionally, the problem of pain is a reality. While there are some robust theological answers for it, there is a sense of mystery. If you read the book of Job there are all these questions about suffering and at the end of the book God does not give Job all (or any!) of the answers that he is looking for, but simply reminds him of who he is.”
My pastor also shared some other meaningful thoughts; but alas, I need to end this post as I’ve already headed down a path that truly deserves more attention than 1,000 words.
So…let me attempt to wrap things up by saying this: whether or not we agree that spiritual health is foundational to our overall wellness, I think it’s important to be open to exploring comments like, “I no longer believe in God.” That is a powerful statement. One deserving pause. And one deserving serious contemplation. Maybe more of this story will unfold and find itself in other writings throughout the year. I hope so. I’m open to where it leads because Why? is a legitimate question worth legitimate time and discussion.
Tomorrow, we welcome February, where I’ll transition from exploring Holistic Health to taking a look at “Strong and Strained Relationships.” Regardless of whether or not you are in a romantic relationship, this Valentine’s Day month will explore what healthy relationships look like, the tension in all relationships, and how to answer the question, “To Love or To Leave.”