Not without thinking hard about what a God should be like, if there is one. Not without giving up being angry that there isn’t. And not without giving up hope that there still might be.
Not everyone meets the first of these conditions. And those who don’t, don’t really have a right to an opinion on the matter. This does not mean, of course, that they will refrain from offering any on the subject.
But for those who do meet this condition, it may be harder than they expected to let go of both yearning for and believing in God.
It is certainly harder to stop being angry about having to do either. Consider, by way of illustration, just a few of many I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-it-anymore statements from my classes, counseling sessions, coffee-hour conversations, and from books by admired and respected authors:
- I stopped praying a long time ago after it finally dawned on me that I never got any sign that anyone was listening;
- It just didn’t make sense to me anymore that I had to get God to love me by always believing and doing only the right things;
- The God I wanted so much to believe in was never there for me when I needed him;
- This God you talk about must have grander things to take care of than paying any attention to someone like me;
- Here’s the long and the short of it: God is simply someone I’m going to have to learn to do without, whether I want to or not.
Each of these statements has a poignant story behind it — of struggle, conflict, crisis, rejection, dejection — but most especially of incompleteness. Even though their tellers sometimes bridle at the suggestion, their stories lack authentic endings.
Or at least, the kind of endings which elicit a sense of satisfaction and closure. Instead, both the statements and the stories always make me want to hear more. I want to know if they truly reflect the passing away of fear, anger, and sadness about giving up on God.
What I most usually find is that they don’t. Why? Perhaps because, as St. Augustine once wrote, the human heart is restless until it finds its rest in God.
It’s almost as hard for us to give up on God as it is too hard for God to give up on us.