Archive | Doubt

Why is God Silent? A New Look at an Old Problem


I have never seen, heard, smelt, tasted or empirically experienced God.I have groped for a sign of his presence, love, even his very existence! Angels, Jesus, a sound, or some type of miracle would be sufficient. I remember two years ago when I was going through my depression. . . . Wait. I am getting ahead of myself. . . .

Here is a question I got through an email a while back:

The Question

Mr. Patton,

I have been a believer for quite sometime – since I was eight. It’s a miracle, however, that I believe at all. I grew up in a Oneness Pentecostal home that was very legalistic and rigid. Since then I have changed a great deal in regard to my beliefs. I very much believe in the Trinity, justification by faith, etc. So you could say I’m pretty much orthodox now.

But with all that said, I have been having a bit of trouble with my faith. I’m kinda having a hard time believing in God or praying to him because I just don’t see the point in it anymore because I feel like he doesn’t answer. In fact I feel as if it pointless because he isn’t here – right here, spatially – to speak with me. I dunno I just feel like with all that I have happening in my life a face to face relationship – a person to person conversation – is what I need from him. And I can’t have that. I mean it is as if God is a distant uncle to whom I send letters (prayers), and he sends a postcard. Is it enough to just say that God has spoken through his word so he doesn’t need to speak now? I don’t feel like it. Why couldn’t Jesus have just stayed here, albeit in a ubiquitous form? That way I could talk to him. I know he is the Father’s representative to man and for man so why not stay here where he can be physically accessible?



My friend,

1. Your Problem is not Uncommon

Thanks so much for writing and for your honesty. Your thoughts, it might comfort you to know, are not uncommon. The problem you speak of is called the “hiddenness of God” in theological circles. Why is God so hidden? It is hard to know exactly why, but the fact of his hiddenness is something the Bible speaks to very clearly. In Acts 1 the angels say, “Why do you stare into heaven. . . He will come back just as you have seen him go.” In other words, you will not “see” him again until he comes back. Christ told his disciples in the upper room before his death that it is “better for you if I go because I will send the Comforter.” I often think “it is NOT better for you to go because I cannot see or hear the Holy Spirit.”

2. God is “Silent” in My Life

I believe that naked belief (i.e., without empirical experience) is what God calls on us to have right now. We do have to “limp” through this life without having seen God or Jesus, yet believe in him. I don’t have any perfectly sound theological reason why God is not more empirically evident in our lives (though I will give some thoughts below). My more charismatic friends would disagree, as you probably know. However, I have called and called to God to show himself to me. In my darkest times (and against my better theological judgement), I have groped for a sign of his presence, love, even his very existence! Angels, Jesus, a sound, or some type of miracle would be sufficient. I remember two years ago when I was going through my depression. I stayed up all night crying, sitting in my car in the garage yelling at God, asking him to just do something – anything! The silence at that time was deafening. It was painful. It hurt my feelings at a very deep level that the all-powerful God would not perform the simplest of tasks. I thought, “God, if you are so great and love me so much why are you so silent? Why now? Why when I am this depressed? Just do something!” Continue Reading →

Concerning My Laments (Something I Really Need to Say)


Sometimes, after I write a blog post I find people who get the wrong idea. Ever so, often I have to bring my staff at the Credo House together to explain something to them about myself. Then, they get worried. Many of the constituents of Credo House also get worried. My doctor even called me in to his office after reading a post last year. It is all very understandable to me. It is difficult for me to see the looks on people’s face . . . those looks of concern coupled with their inability to do anything about the situation is often followed by a distancing of themselves from me, or the ministry. Others come in with all the answers. They know exactly what is wrong with me; and, it is normally some sin which, somehow, they are able to discern.

I get it. I get why people sometimes think I am about to lose it.

“Staff,” I begin the meeting ever so often (especially when there are new people), “I want you to understand something about me and this ministry. I reserve the right to write on the blog some things that are very atypical and unconventional for someone like me who is the leader of a ministry such as this. You will often see things on the blog that I write about myself which make it look as if I am completely falling apart. . . .” I go on to explain what I am going to explain now.

I just got a message from someone who does not like the way I use this blog sometimes. Here is what he/she said:

Okay Michael you’re entitled to be, “messed up”, as you say. Now what? What are you going to do? Your problem is highly psychological in nature. Are you willing to see a competent therapist? Are you willing to face that the issue may lie within? Or will you only lament? I want you well for the record, but using your ministry and blog for long laments and people patting you on the back telling you how brave you are for revealing your inner anguish isn’t going to resolve your ongoing sadness, depression or melancholy.

My response, whether you agree or not, is important for people to hear:

[Unnamed Person], you may not believe this, but these laments are truly helpful to a great number of people, and have been for quite some time.

I think you probably ought to try to understand this in a way not dissimilar from the approach David or Jeremiah [most of what they wrote were laments about their pain made public] wrote. By the way, you sound (and believe me, I do understand) as if you would likely chastise them for what they wrote. If not, why [chastise me]? Continue Reading →

When the Sadness Doesn’t Leave


I don’t know how long ago it was. Probably 2010. That was a big year for me. Not a good year. It was the catalyst for a lot of change. Not good change . . . I think I need to stop and return to this in a bit.

There are many of us that are prone to brokenness. I am not necessarily talking about this subject in a good biblical sense. Some people handle it well, but a lot of us remain confused, always waiting for the the next disaster. There is a deep mire in this world in which so many of us get caught. We are sad and grope for some light to shine through the darkness.

Personally, I attempt to deny my sadness as just being an itinerate foe that will leave soon. However, it never does. My wife and kids can see it in me. I try to hid it, but this unwanted friend has already made his presence known in a thousand different ways. There has been so much advice, so many interventions, but no one really knows what to do with me. They are often worried. I’m tired and find very little joy in my life. The most productive thing I do around the house is worry. I can’t find the peace that I preach.

Don’t get me wrong. Though my belief has suffered some terrible trials; and, this wrestling match with God has left me beaten and bruised. I know Whom I have believed. Yes, from time to time I have a bout with doubt, but it normally does not last. I am just sad. And everyone knows it.

Let me back up.

I think I remember when it started. It was not evident what I was doing, but it was a conscious willful choice. For years I had been strong (or so I thought). For years my faith did not flinch. I was so hurt and confused by my sister’s suicide, but I did not know it. Being so intimately acquainted with her issues and depression in the years before her death was more than I could handle (though I was not consciously aware of it). Standing strong and moving back home after my mother’s aneurysm damaged me (though I was not conscious of it). Watching my father waste away due to his sadness bruised my heart (though I refused to let myself recognize that fact). This is especially true because of my hope that I was going to bring Christ into his life through intentionally investing so much thought, time, emotions, and prayer. This hope (as far as I know) was never realized. Then he died. Continue Reading →

When We Misinterpret God

Sad Girl - When We Misinterpret GodThere have been times, too numerous to count, when I went one way, suspecting the Lord was heading in the same direction, only to find out the heart-breaking reality that God was going a different direction.

People seek to confirm their worldview (belief system) in their experiences. Christians are no different. I am no different. I’m constantly looking for events, I call them “God-sightings”, that evidence what I already believe. We can become so reliant on such events that the events themselves become the anchor for our faith. This is understandable, but very dangerous.

C.S. Lewis Misinterpreted God

I am haunted by the words of C.S. Lewis in his A Grief Observed, (loosely quoted):

It is not as though I have quit believing in God, it is that I have come to the point where I say, “So God, this is who You really are.”

In 1956, at the age of 58, Lewis married Joy Gresham. At first, it was a benevolent legal marriage due to Gresham’s need for British citizenship. However, they eventually fell in love. Continue Reading →

Living with Unanswered Questions

Some of you have a lot of questions about the Christian faith. I am especially talking to those of you who are “seekers,” who, according to your own testimony, would become a Christian so long as you get past all the hurdles. But there is also those of you who are Christians but your commitment has been placed on hold until you get some answers. Many of you have been on this quest for years but no one can answer all your questions sufficiently. Therefore, you remain content in your agnosticism or your nominal faith.

“How did the first sin come into being?”
“How can God be sovereign and humans remain free?”
“Where was God during the Holocaust?”
“If God is so intentional, what about all the waste in the world (miscarraiges, extent species, unneeded body parts, etc)”
“Why does Paul seem to have a different view of faith, works, and salvation than James?”

And a thousand other questions that never get answered. Sure, you have heard the options, but none of them are sufficient for you to say you have found “the” answer.

I get this. I empathize with this way of thinking. After all, I live in a western world. I am a child of rationalism. I was fed from the milk of Descartes and his modernistic idealism. Because of this, I am not naturally comfortable with mystery, unanswered questions, tension, things I don’t know. This is especially the case when it comes to questions about things that affect the direction of my life.

However, my basic thesis here is that thinking that you need to have all the questions answered before you make a commitment is not only unhealthy, but it is wrong.

Not too long ago I sat on an airplane waiting to fly out of Orlando back to Dallas. The plane was delayed for quite some time as, for some reason, the preflight checks were taking longer than normal. Unfortunately, it gave me time to think about all the things that could go wrong with the plane. I wondered how many components they had to check. Think about it. Do they really check those things well enough to put more than two hundred people thirty thousand feet in the air? “What if they missed something?” I thought to myself. There are just so many things to miss! I worked myself into a panic and then had to calm myself by attempting to reintroduce common sense.

When it comes to faith, many of us have the same types of questions that keep us from ever really relaxing. All the things we fail to check. All those things we could be wrong about. These possibilities cause us to lose our joy and replace it with doubt and spiritual panic or just make us perpetually indecisive.

Though we need to be diligent, informed, skeptical, and wise in our faith, we need to be careful that we don’t work ourselves into an impossible situation. I don’t know how many people I have talked to who are always one fact, one verification, or one piece of evidence away from belief. Often, no matter how many reasons we have to believe, we simply cannot trust. “Yeah, but what about _______?” is the most common thought in our head. It goes on and on. There are always other possibilities to explain the evidence.  Even if the other possibilities are highly unlikely (“well, maybe there is some explanation for the resurrection that we don’t know about”), with this mindset in the driver’s seat, these doubts serve as legitimate reasons for us to suspend our faith commitment. Continue Reading →

Seven Reasons Why Christians Doubt

I want to briefly give you some of the more “mundane” causes of why we, as Christians, might experience doubt, whether it be doubt in the existence of God, doubt in his love for us, or doubt in our salvation.

Personality causes: Some people are prone to doubt because it is in their DNA to doubt. Just as some people are more outgoing and others are more socially reclusive. Many of us have a hard time believing anything due to the skeptical nature of our personality. In this case, it is fairly easy to discover if this is a contributing factor to your doubt. Are you skeptical about everything in life? Do you have problems in your marriage due to a lack of trust that is not warranted? Do you find it hard to trust people, even your closest friends? Are you afraid to get on rides at the amusement park that others believe are perfectly safe? There are strengths and weaknesses to this type of personality. The solution is to rationally pursue the truth so as to make a sound judgment and let your thoughts adjust accordingly. Don’t give your personality undue control. Use it to your advantage. (And lay off your wife!) Continue Reading →



So much of what I write on this blog is hard for me to admit. Certainly, I don’t want people to always see the real me. I would rather show just enough to demonstrate that I can empathize with your plights and then extend my chest to show how my strength remains. But on some days I don’t have any strength. Some days I am weaker than any of you. The problem is that I forget these days when and if they pass. When this happens, I lose a part of me and am not able to be honest with myself.

Fear. I have never really known what it is like to be afraid. Of course, I have been scared. I suppose the most fear I have ever had was the day I attempted to disarm a man who was threatening suicide. I had never been shot at before. Now, I have. It was scary. But all is well, and the man is okay.

However, today, I am scared. I know what you are going to ask. The same thing I would ask you: “Scared of what?” I wish I could tell you. The best I can express it is to say that I am scared of living. I am scared of the future. I am scared of myself. It started a couple of weeks ago. There was a nagging insecurity about my future. I began to think that my life was unstable, irresponsible, and filled with stupid decisions that have created a situation of unrest.

Can I take care of Kristie and the kids? Am I going to be able to put bread on the table? Have I invested enough in their lives? Who am I to think I can take care of my mother? Is it too late to make up for all of my mistakes? Is the real me a fake? Have I bitten off more than I can chew in about every area? Who will be there for all those I hold up if I were to die? Continue Reading →

Why it is So Easy to Doubt Christianity

Christianity is the easiest religion to doubt. In fact, I think I would go as far to say followers of Christ doubt their faith more than followers of any other God. I have spoken about this previously in a slightly different context, but I think this idea will help alleviate some of the problems associated with the vast number of people who believe that they can no longer maintain their faith with integrity. There is reason for your doubt, and in some ways it is very understandable.

The “easiness” of doubt concerning Christianity is not difficult to understand when you think about it. I mean . . . after all . . . there is just so much to doubt. Wait a moment. I don’t think I put that down well. You are most certianly hearing something different than what I am saying. Let’s go in this direction: the less you know, the easier it is to believe. Or, maybe you have heard it this way: ignorance is bliss. Now, let me unpack some of this.

My God expects so much. My God reveals so much. My God is so much. Faith is easy when it is one-dimentional. If my faith were simply a bunch of rules to be kept, it would be simple. If my faith were just a basic philosophy about truth, knowledge and wisdom, there would be no problem. If my faith were about some distant God who did not get his hands dirty with mankind, I think I would often be more at ease. If my God hadn’t loved me so much that he died for me, I would not raise an eyebrow. Had my God stayed silent and not written such an extensive book, I would have experienced much less intellectual anxiety. However, it is precisely because of these things that my faith suffers such challenges. When we suffer from over-exposure to the sun, we frequently get burned.

Let me put it another way . . .

Relationships are easy so long as we keep our distance. I know many of you, but I only know you well enough to continue to like and trust you. As long as our relationship stays distant, we are going to get along fine. But the moment I get to know you too well (and vice-versa) is the moment I begin to have problems. Add to this the expectations we anticipate in our relationship. Then things really begin to fall apart. I don’t want you to have any responsibilities toward me, nor me toward you. In that way, we cannot let each other down. I want us to have one of “those” kinds of relationships. You know: the kind that works! That’s what makes the relationship with your hair stylist so much easier than the one with your spouse—it stays one-dimensional. Continue Reading →