Dear 100 Hour Board,
What gives you faith that there is a God and that he cares about you? I grew up in the church but have struggled to feel like God is there, let alone that he cares about me.
-My Name Here
Dear Your Name,
So, I think there are two factors that really make the difference for me:
- My actions
- My beliefs
I believe that God loves us. However, there are times when I feel His love strongly, and times when I don't feel it at all. I feel like the strength of which I am able to feel His presence and love has a lot to do with the things I do. Now I'm sure you have heard a laundry list of things such as praying, reading scriptures, listening to talks, attending the temple, meditating, going out in nature, attending church meetings, listening to hymns, etc. I think that some of these things work really well for me, and some of them don't work as well. Personally, well sung hymns and long walks work great for me. Attending church meetings don't do it as much for me. Finding out what works for you will take some personal experimentation.
The second, and I believe more important factor is what I believe about God. I know a lot of people who struggle to believe in God or feel his love because their concept of God is a wrathful God, an unjust God, a slow to forgive God, and a God that withholds His love from His children. As I've grown, and as I've grown to feel closer to God, my beliefs about him have changed. We can get our concepts from a lot of places: our parents, our culture, church, scripture, our personal experiences with the world, etc. Sometimes there are experiences in our life that are hard to reconcile that confuse and frustrate us. For some that might be a personal/family tragedy. For some that could be questions about doctrines about the church.
If we believe in an unjust God, it's hard for us to love Him or feel godly love. If we believe in a God that plays favorites, or abuses power, or holds grudges it's hard to feel His love. Reconciling those personal beliefs is a process. I would love to write something more in-depth about that. Please ask another question or email me if that interests you. I'm really busy right now, but I'd be happy to explain more. Reconciling what I believe about God has made it a lot easier for me to love God and to feel his love. I think everyone will have different ways to do that, and may have different results, but I think it's something that can benefit everyone.
Hope this helps!
I am sorry you feel this way, because it is a very hard place to be. I hope that you are able to find some mode of peace.
To answer your question, I have a very strong sense of God. It's as though my soul is able to reach out, and grasp God. In the same way that I know where pictures are hung up in my apartment, and can summon an image of them in my mind's eye at any moment, I know that God is there. He might as well be in the next room. Except this room isn't separated by physical walls, but metaphysical boundaries.
It's also pretty common for me to say things to God as I'm going about my day. And sometimes I can feel God reaching out to me in turn. A raindrop will kiss my cheek, bringing with it a promise that it was Heaven sent. Leaves dance on the wind, and I feel the joy of Creation. Music will thrum in my bones and I can almost hear the melody of time and space and know exactly where I fit in.
Yet there are also times where it's as though I am stuck in a void. I feel nothing, and am powerless to even summon tears to my eyes over the treasonous lack of sensation. Or even if I'm not in this terrible numbness, sometimes it's like the spiritual limb I use to reach out to God gets stuck, vanishing all divine connection.
I don't know why those moments happen. I don't know why feeling God's presence is so easy for certain people at certain times, and so hard for other people--or even the same people just at different times. And I don't believe that there's an answer on how to be 100% guaranteed to breach the gap between feeling and not feeling. It definitely isn't righteousness. But despite all of that, I believe that it means something to choose to believe in God anyways. I choose to believe that when I say, "I have faith" regardless of the blackness stealing my sense of being that it carries divine import. I choose to believe that at some point the broken husks mortality has made of us all will be risen up and filled with light. The cracks of our broken hearts will shine and our tears will fall upon our Heavenly Parent's shoulders even as their arms clutch us tighter and tighter to them.
My heart aches for you. At times in my life, I have felt that way as well. Sometimes it is a sense of emptiness. Other times it feels like you can live your life and it doesn't matter so much... but I always came back to an aching to feel like God knew me and was proud of me. How could it come so easily to other people and not to me right now? All unsettling, all leading to many days of tears. There are a few things that help me feel like God loves me.
1) My love for other people. I really feel like I have this inexplicable compulsion to be compassionate. I'm not perfect, but there is just this strange pull in me that powers my love of sociology, my pain at the suffering of others. Sometimes, it's so overwhelming it brings me to tears. The amount of love I feel towards my fellow human beings of all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, cultures, and nationalities feels like it comes from a source larger than myself. If I feel that way toward other people, experiencing only a small portion of what feels like infinite love, I can only imagine how God must feel towards me... even if sometimes I can't feel it directly. I think I know it's there.
2) The love and kindness other people show me. When others take the time to help me, talk to me, calm me down, bring me food, hang out, give me advice... I feel loved. Not just by those people, either. There's an environment of love all around me. It changes the way I see things. I feel like God is in all things, so God can be in the way I feel love... therefore, They love me. Call me naive if you want, but I also feel like there has to be some level of guidance in the world to put me with Pebble. I just feel like even in the midst of stress and hardship, there are things and people in my way that help me feel like God is extending Their love to me.
3) The planet. I just feel like a heartless, mindless, cold, calculated, purely physical and nonspiritual universe couldn't make the planet we live on so beautiful and intricate. Maybe you think so, but it just doesn't make sense to me. I've traveled a decent amount. I hike a lot. I wake up early enough to see the sunrises. I just... I see the world we live in and I feel like there has to be some kind of organizing force out there that contains the capacity to love, otherwise, what's the purpose of the beauty in the world? It didn't have to be this way. Regardless of the truth of it, the beauty of nature makes me feel loved by God in some definition.
The other thing I think is important to remember is that sometimes the way we talk about and define things limits our true understanding of them. We talk about God in a way that is limited to a body that looks and acts like a human body, because that's what we are familiar with. But God isn't limited by our definitions of Them/Him/whatever. If you are struggling to find love within the Church's cultural definition of God, try to release yourself from those bounds. God is bigger and better than we can comprehend or describe. I personally believe that all of the unifying forces of love and humanity and goodness and beauty that exist in the world and the universe count as God's love. We even say "God is love" but love is just a feeling, right? It's just an idea... to me, that saying means that all love is God's love, somehow, someway. Figure out what "feeling God's love" means to you. It doesn't have to mean that you feel some type of 'personified presence' or that love only feels like the way you feel love from your parents, siblings, friends or SO.
I hope that helps you. I love you!
I could share everything I've experienced, but I couldn't translate them for you. My belief is made of layers and some of those layers were deposited before I can even remember. Without the first foundational layers I never would have accumulated the faith I have today.
I believe the base layer for many is the unconditional love of another human being. I think God hopes we will get that from our parents but He knows that not everybody will, so He provides lots of opportunities. The purpose of unconditional human relationships, aka familial love, is to 1) show that unconditional, unchanging, and robust love is possible in a world full of complications, 2) prove to us that we are worthy of that kind of love, and 3) show us what God's love looks and feels like so we can recognize it, even when it is obscured by mortal living and separation from God.
So if you are looking to feel God's love, thereby knowing He exists and cares about you, I would examine the relationships in your life. Is there anyone in your life who loves you like that? Is there anyone in your life who you love like that? In my life, these relationships have been the basic founding evidence of God's love. I hope it isn't hard to come up with a few. And I hope you will spend dedicated time thinking about what they would do for you and what you would do for them. Maybe you don't find God there, and that's okay. But I think you will find something very close to the function of a loving God.
I love you. I may not get the chance to prove it to you or get to know the special things about you that could give that love shape. But I generally love people, and there are very few things I wouldn't do for you. Email me if you need proof and we'll figure it out.