Rethinking My Beliefs about God Apart From Traditional Christianity

Perhaps Why God – Yes God – Created Negative Emotions

In Life, Love, Relationships, Suffering on January 20, 2011 at 10:08 am

I like the fact that I have the freedom to write whenever something comes to mind which I feel is worthy of writing about. Forced writing is never any fun, and it often causes me to do some very dishonest writing.

And often with my freedom to write honestly, some sort of personal confession, whether written or kept personal, sparks my blog posts. This is going to be one of those posts.

My confession has to do with why I became so involved in a religious institution for thirty years of my life. Sure, I was told it was God’s will that I go to church as often as possible. I was also taught, or at least given the very consistent impression that religious rituals such as Bible study, prayer, tithing and partaking in communion were tangible expressions of my love for God.

I have had to come to terms with what I now believe are lies, and to forgive unknowing and well-intentioned souls who led me down this path as a child….

But I played a role as well. I have to admit that I used church and religion to fill my emotional hunger that was not filled at home.

And I eventually became angry with the institution that did not, or could not rather, give me what I so longed to possess which was human intimacy. Perhaps those who receive enough of this love and care are not so easily caught up in more and more church-going in order to satisfy an innate need. But then perhaps those emotionally healthy persons see the ridiculousness in such an idea anyway. That would be another topic, however.

Church and religious involvement did numb my pain, and for many years. But this came with a cost – the cost of human intimacy. I thought the church building was a refuge, but it became an isolation. I misunderstood my closeness to God as Bible study but I realize now that it was detachment from anyone who did not believe the same as I did. The ritual of prayer took the place of the cry of my deeper soul, tithing replaced true friendship and the bread and cup was simply a fake communion.

By avoiding the depth of reality, I could avoid my personal pain, but as a result I also missed out on… reality.

After letting go of my codependency upon religious institutionalism, I started to become more and more aware of my buried pain which I have written about in other posts. This hurt of course. But there is something about it that is becoming not only therapeutic but joyous life-giving. (Uhhh, I’m not really sure what else to call it.)

I’m discovering that my personal tears never really go away. They might rest for a while, but they appear again and again as I encounter others who are hurting from the same kind of pain. I can spot it from miles away because I know all about it. I know what causes it, what it feels like and all of the nightmares it brings. I can’t help but “weep with those who weep.”

And this is exactly what is fulfilling my need for human closeness. Can we get any more close to each other than when we go through something together? Think Vietnam. Cancer. Addiction. Coming out of a religious prison. Those friendships run deep and are bound by cords that are not easily broken.

I don’t want to be numb anymore. I want to feel. I want to feel the pain of the abandoned child in orphanages across the globe. As a parent, I want to know what the Holocaust mothers felt when they were separated from their children. I want to know the sense of being hungry, confused, unsure of myself… like the disabled, the sick or the homeless.

This is really painful stuff. And I don’t blame people for writing books on how to get rid of our negative emotions, or how to pretend they aren’t there, or on the thousands of ways to distract ourselves from them. I also don’t blame my parents for failing to get close to me. While real love may not be codependent, it damn well hurts to really know people. To really love your child means a living death should we have to witness some kind of suffering to happen upon them.

But I’ll take all the pain I have to in order to be genuinely connected. I’ve been on the other side of this equation for too long and I can say that love is worth the risk. This is because it creates something far more beautiful than the hard work it took to make it.

I think that anyone who has experienced intense loneliness would agree with me. But the motivation comes from more than just relief from feeling alone. Individual humans seem to make up only one body on a very grand scale…. So, to get close to others is essentially the same as drawing near to ourselves. We long for real relationships because we are entirely incomplete without them. We will even put up with the fake friendships or the abusive ones just to avoid too much solitude because we know that the self is missing its very own self.

And the icing on the cake of all of this realization is that opening my vulnerable heart to others somehow directly coincides with knowing God. “Ohhhhhh, so that’s why Christ mentioned something about ‘the least of these.'”

I don’t think people want charity. I think people want real life relationships. By identifying ourselves with the “least” of our fellow humans, our eyes are opened to Christ himself because Christ is the message of intimate love. That’s not something you study in a Bible class. That’s something you can only learn when you experience it. The truth isn’t confined to a holy book. It’s actually alive.

So maybe we need these negative emotions to create the depth of friendship which then gives us the capacity for a greater depth of happiness and fulfillment. And friendship, in a roundabout way, is how we know God.

Well, that’s how it makes sense to me anyway. Thanks for taking time to read my soul, dear friend. And I hope you have been inspired to reciprocate the favor.


  1. If ever I have felt a human heart, it has been now. The depth our troubles brings us together and we experience true life. Great writing Elizabeth. It’s absolutely dead on wonderful.

  2. EDK – thank you for sharing a portion of your heart and life and journey. appreciate you! 🙂

  3. Very, very well said. Of course it was, it came from your heart. You’re broken heart.

  4. Jesus is described as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. How can we be true followers – or allow Jesus to live his life in and through us – unless we also sigh and cry for the problems around us?

    Jesus is described as the Redeemer before Creation. This suggests that God knew that mankind would fail to live up to what he had been created to be. Mankind is incomplete until we allow Jesus to live his life in and through us – or allow the Holy Spirit to guide all we say or do.

    In the meantime we are all a mixture of emotions – and if there were no emotions there would be no understanding of the meaning of love and there would be no loving relationships.

    Life is a mystery. Where was God – Father – when Jesus was dying on the cross. Surely he was sharing the pain and suffering – and how can we understand that?

    There seems to be no way we could share the love and joy without sharing the pain and sorrow. No wonder so many people have a seriously distorted view of the Christian faith.

    I hope that makes sense – I often find it difficult to express some of my thoughts.

  5. That makes perfect sense, Peter. Thank you for sharing that.

    Thank you everyone for your kind and supportive comments. I appreciate you all.

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