Consider it sheer joy, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and it gains a chance to grow. So don’t try to get out of any difficulty prematurely. Let it do its work in you so you become mature in faith, and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 (The Msg.)
I saw a discussion between Alistair McGrath and Richard Dawkins awhile back. At one point, Dawkins makes a comment regarding the Christian’s reaction to natural disasters. “I find it bewildering to note that natural disasters actually increase the faith of believers.”
Of course he finds it bewildering. How could it be anything but bewildering to an atheist to see people not just coping but actually thriving and growing stronger in the face of horrendous circumstances. What Dawkins actually means is, ‘Because I can’t understand this type of behaviour, there must be something wrong with it.’ Arrogance, pure arrogance.
Of course Dawkins and other atheists find it bewildering. Of course they are befuddled over the fact that they don’t experience God’s presence or power. Of course they are filled with dread in the face of disaster. They have no connection to God except to fall prey to the delusion He has sent them and to eventually be overwhelmed by His wrath. For Dawkins to be bewildered by a Christians’s faith is like someone who has never held a job and who lives on the street expressing bewilderment because, “Those who go to work every day always seem to have money. I just don’t get it!”
Now, don’t get me wrong. It's wonderful to experience joy, and peace and contentment and confidence and hope. Atheists and Christians alike enjoy these places of being. However, events in life, such as the death of someone close, chronic illness, abuse or some other form of tragedy can challenge or deplete these feelings. For Christians however, any joy or hope that is depleted by suffering is immediately replaced by the presence Jesus. What is even better is that the presence of Jesus is BETTER than confidence, peace and joy. In fact, Jesus seems more than an adequate replacement when those feelings are in short supply. As it says in Psalms, "Those who wait upon the Lord are like Mt. Zion, unmoved by any circumstance."
And that is what Dawkins finds so bewildering.
The presence of Jesus is something that atheists will:
. Never get
. Never comprehend
. Never experience
To anyone who adheres to the lies of satan, the power and strength of Christians does indeed appear incomprehensible. They can do nothing but misinterpret the actions of followers of Jesus. They can only project on to Christians the fear and rage that they themselves experience in the face of dire circumstances.
When disaster strikes, both atheist and Christian immediately become aware of the reality of God, but for very different reasons. The atheist thinks of God in order to blame Him, curse Him and say to Him, “This is why I refuse to believe in you.” When the atheist realises that most of Jesus’ followers don’t react like s/he does, the thoughts quickly flip into what Dawkins said to Alistair McGrath. “I find it bewildering to note that natural disasters actually increase the faith of believers.”
Rather than explain the reason for suffering (something that atheists petulantly demand from the God they don’t believe in), Jesus gives believers a way of coping with suffering. The purpose of the faith that God gives to believers is not to generate good feelings. The purpose of the faith that God gives to believers is to sustain them in the absence of good feelings. When a disaster strikes, the Holy Spirit that lives in each believer begins to infuse hope and peace and security into the soul of a Christian. For the believer:
. Tragedy is shown to have MEANING.
. Suffering takes place within the CONTEXT of God’s plan for the individual.
. Loss and pain are not a waste of time but have a PURPOSE above and beyond our own existence.
The Spirit of the living God is a presence that is palpable, tangible, real. In times of tragedy, it’s God’s Spirit that comforts. He counsels. He corrects and He guides. The Spirit of the living God increases our faith and our desire to worship Creator God regardless of circumstance.
In the face of painful circumstances, rather than peace and comfort, the atheist is filled with incredulity, rage, and hatred toward a God that the atheist claims to not even think about. It sucks to be God’s enemy at anytime, but it’s most certainly true in times of disaster.