The testimony of Nick Watts. Nick is the Music Minister at Bacon Heights Baptist Church in Lubbock.
I tried to disprove the existence of God, immediately after finding my 19-year-old son dead in his bedroom from suicide.
I looked at the most recent, most compelling evidence to make God sound like a ludicrous alternative. I looked at the best arguments from the best atheists, both in modern and historical times. You must understand that I wanted desperately to know, in those first 48 hours after finding my son, that there was no God. God’s non-existence would have made more sense to me than “a loving God who would allow my son to suffer so much from clinical depression that he would take his life.”
But atheism failed me. The words of the best, most intelligent atheists rang hollow. Their rebuttals and refutations against the existence of God were, in my opinion, incomplete, short-sighted, and at times, ludicrous. While the atheists scream loudly trying to speak for their evidence, the theists, in my opinion, simply step back and allow the evidence to speak for itself. For the arguments of theists were akin to the familiar statement: “You don’t need to defend a lion; you simply open the cage and allow him to defend himself.”
In the end of my investigation for a God-less universe, I found myself like Peter in John 6. (I tend to so resonate with Peter – impetuous, speaks before he thinks, reckless at times, etc., but always passionate.) By chapter 6 of John’s gospel account, Jesus has fed the thousands, healed the sick, and cast out demons. But now, he’s teaching the crowd what following him really means. The response is heartbreaking. For most of them, it turns out, had no interest in following Jesus. They wanted the sizzle, but not the substance; the blessing, but not the commitment. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, they wanted grace that was “cheap” rather than “costly.” In short, they wanted an “A” in the course without doing the homework. And, in verse 66, John records, “It was at this time many of those who followed Jesus turned away and deserted him.” Jesus then turned to the twelve and asked, “Are you going to leave me too?” Peter replied, “Lord, where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
After trying as hard as I could to prove God was a fairy-tale, I found myself repeating those exact words stated by Peter, 20 centuries ago. Can I prove the existence of God in a laboratory? No. Frankly, I don’t want a God I can explain – the Incarnation, the Trinity, etc., are all inexplicable. A God we can explain would be … well, more like a man than God; at best, a super-hero. But what I was reminded of following my son’s death was this: The evidence for the existence of a transcendent, outside-the-laws-of-physics, “wholly other” (as Soren Kierkagaard described him) is not merely compelling, it’s overwhelming.
I cannot overstate how I felt in the moments immediately following finding my dead son: I. Hated. God. But, God – who we see in the person of Jesus Christ – held me. Even as I fought to run away, he wouldn’t let go. The same love that drove Christ to the cross drove him to love me deeply, holding me tenderly in his arms. He was patient with me, allowing me time to scream at him, accuse him, and even hate him (all of these emotions, by the way, are found in the imprecatory psalms in our Bible).
Despite the best I could hurl at God, he never left me. Ever. He nursed me back to psychological and emotional health. And, in those early hours, when I began to investigate whether I had been wrong all my life about him, He didn’t punish me – he loved me. In the darkest moment of my life, Jesus whispered to me, “I. Am. Here. I’ve got this. Trust Me.” I do, my King. Where else would I go? You have the words of eternal life.
To those of you trying to figure out life’s pain, know this: God is faithful; his Word is true. “He is close to the broken-hearted, and he saves those who are crushed in spirit” — Ps. 34:18; Jesus did exist, lived a sinless life, and died on a Roman cross. The tomb is still empty. And, that changes everything.