Some people think it is easy for us who are believers. That is, we who believe in the Divine, it might appear to outsiders that our belief comes effortlessly and automatically. Maybe we’re just naive.
But the silence of God can be deafening.
I don’t blame those like Christopher Hitchens, apostle for atheism, who ridicule us. I see where he is coming from. God is silent for him, because he is looking in the wrong inner places and the wrong outer places for the wrong signs.
A few days ago, I walked the streets of Jerusalem. It is a city hidden most of the time, or at least hidden from me in my place seven thousand miles away from its stone walls and narrow streets.
Jerusalem is just there.
Sometimes I find it hard to believe in Jerusalem. I am looking in the wrong places, within and without. I expect something that disappoints by not arriving.
Some people cover the silence of God by manufacturing counterfeit evidence and imitation miracles. Some people hope in hope more so than in God. Still others create their own images of the hidden Omnipresent.
We saw that in Jerusalem. We saw those who make icons and decorations and who paint the historical characters like superheroes whose feet never quite touched the ground. Frescoes and brass incense vessels and wood and glass create an atmosphere that smothers me, but for some it seems to be a sort of surrogate for the invisible Eternal. Visiting their churches, I find myself believing in God in spite of the garish decorations of the centuries.
God is like Jerusalem to me. He is real when I do not see him, when I do not hear the clamor of his streets.
I do not hope in hope. I hope in a Shepherd who watches and sees all, though he usually remains hidden.
To not believe in him would be harder, because I actually find the Christopher Hitchens style of empiricism naive. I believe in God because he made me like he is. I find my own nature and that of the billions who share this life with me too much like the Compassionate One to doubt him.
I know him and he knows me.
Someone from a World War II death camp scratched on a wall, “I believe in the sun when it is not shining.”
Now is not the time when the Omnipresent completes the healing of this world. But Jerusalem stands. It is one more sign among many. If you look in the right places, within and without, it is unbelief that is naive. God cannot be denied, only doubted.