Look at the trees, and observe the effects of the wind. Look at the sky. Does it seem friendly to you? Does it seem silent? Does it frown? Is there anything (God) that brought it into being? If so, can God be known from these observations? If you feel angst, or if you feel alone, or if it seems that often times, God is rather silent, you are not alone. Perhaps you are observing trees, wind and sky, and nothing more. Maybe it's a good day to be an atheist, after all. Maybe the silence in the natural order is the silence of God, too. And the silence means no one is there.
What philosophers, theologians, and yes, biblical prophets call "the hiddenness of God" is a troublesome one. If God is there, why isn't he more obvious? Why doesn't he show up and appear to me, or at least say something to me? Even a whisper would suffice, but there's nothing. Maybe you've heard of other people who've had dreams and visions of Christ, or of God, but you have had no such luck. You have heard of other people experiencing miraculous healing, but your own body is wasting away, and you've buried two friends just this week. You have friends and family with cancer, and yet there are reports in Africa and Asia of the miraculous. The dead are raised, the blind receive sight, tumors disappear. But not for you. What gives? You are suffering loneliness, heartache, and physical pain as well. If any time is a good time for God to show up, it's now.
Perhaps you gave up on the notion of God long ago. Perhaps, because of your loneliness, heartache, and suffering, you are tempted to give up on God and just "live your life." Or, maybe you're like Ivan Karamazov: you don't reject God, but you reject the world he has made. God is absent, God is silent, and in your mind, God is unjust as well. There's too much pain, too much evil, and too much loneliness and heartache in this world for you to believe God is either there, or that he really cares and is good.
I feel like that sometimes. I struggle. It starts on the intellectual plane, and settles in my soul, putting me in a malaise. The intellectual questions of providence and evil, predestination and free will envelope my mind in a dark blanket, leaving me dull. I then despair at the attempt to reconcile these paradoxical notions. Yet, my intuition tells me that of course God is good. The Bible says he is good (and I believe the Bible). Further, the idea of a God that is both good and evil (cosmic dualism) is nonsense. A schizophrenic god is a contradiction and an impossibility. No, God is good. But how is he good, in light of all the aforementioned maladies? But, but but....
The attraction of atheism is, I think, more than an exercise in academics. Darwin may have made it intellectually satisfying to be an atheist, but he didn't remove God altogether. Theistic evolutionists believe in God, follow Christ, and live happy lives. No, I think atheism is attractive for many people (not all people) because of the hiddennes of God, and for unanswered prayer. Have you ever read Job? It really seems unfair of God to allow Satan to crush Job the way he did. I'd like to sit down with the Lord and tell him how I think it was wrong. However, the end of Job says, "Who is this that darkens my council?" Who am I to question God? You see the quagmire? I want to ask God some serious questions and tell him honestly what I think, and how I'm feeling. But if I do, will God show up in a storm and tell me to brace myself like a man, for now He is going to ask me some questions? I may as well soil myself now and get it over with.
Perhaps it's this existential angst of paradox that drives people toward atheism.
In my struggle with divine providence and evil and the goodness of God, I decided to pray. Jesus says to close the door of your room and pray to your Father, and your Father who sees you in secret will reward you. This is what I did. I went to the bathroom and sat down on the small bench near the bathtub. Looking out the window, I expressed to God how I felt. "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love." The hymn-writer of this song knew this pain as well. It is the pain of feeling like drifting away from the only source of life. "To whom else shall we turn? You alone have the words of eternal life." So the disciples said to Jesus after he asked them, "Will you turn away, too?" People were turned off by Jesus' words because he made an odd mention of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Good Jews don't do that! That's pagan practice. "Will you turn away, too?" No Lord. You alone have the words of eternal life. Where else can I go?
So I did just that. I told the Lord just how I was feeling. It felt courageous, but I was a bit scared, too. We are, in fact, to fear God, you know. God loves those who fear him (somewhere in the Psalms it says that). I do have to say that getting honest with the Lord was rewarding, and Jesus' words rang true. I was blessed after praying to the Lord for only a few minutes. Getting alone with God and dumping your pain, fear, and hurt on him is truly helpful. People often say, "He's big enough, Chris. He can handle your charges against Him." Well, that seems a little cliche. "Big enough." What does that even mean? How about compassionate enough, or patient enough? There is the storm though: who darkens my council? Not I, Lord. Lest I be like Job, and cover my mouth. Still, I did express my fears and doubts, and all that, and I'm still alive. I felt peace, too.