I am 14 years old and a freshman in high school. I grew up in the church and believed in God, but now, I am not so sure. I see what is going on in this world, this country, and my hometown and I have to wonder if there is a God, where is he? I have friends whose parents both work full-time jobs and just barely have food on the table. She told me yesterday that they couldn’t even afford a single Christmas present this year. I see people starving not only all over the world but right here in my town. I read about human trafficking and people doing opioids to escape their pain.
I see people in my school that are so stressed out and have such low self-esteem that they hurt themselves or do whatever it takes to be liked. I see Instagram and Snapchat pictures of smiles on their faces but I look in their eyes and see nothing but hurt. I know I am loved, but there are so many people my age who do not feel loved or do not know who they are.
I have friends I go to church and Wildlife and now Younglife with that are having these same issues and are leaving the church or just quit believing. I want to believe there is a God, I want to believe there is hope and love in this world, but I am struggling.
Mr. editor, I am 14 years old, I should not have to worry if today is the day I go to school and someone will shoot me and my friends.
So, is there a God and if so, where is he?
First, thank you for your letter. I want you to know that you are not alone in feeling this way. It does not matter if you are four or fourteen or forty-four, we are all frustrated with the world we live in.
I am not a theologian, simply a writer, and I will do my best to answer your questions.
A simple answer to your question, where is God, would be that we, or some people, asked him to leave our schools, we told him we didn’t need him and we stopped praying, we told him we could do it on our own. So, he simply left.
But like I said, that is a simple answer and also the wrong answer because I do not believe he left at all. I see teenagers every day that are making a difference. You probably see them, and maybe you are one of them, that take a stand against bullying, that reaches out to someone who is hurting, even if that person is not in their “circle.” They are the ones that will do what is right, not what is popular, no matter what others will think about them. Kylie, that is where you will find God.
I know our church collects gifts to give to those in need and can’t afford Christmas presents. Not only our church but churches and communities and individuals that give to the needy, like your friend’s family, so that they can have a Christmas. I know this time of year is hard for families with financial hardships, but when you see others giving and volunteering to help those in need, that is where God is.
I see the same news and social media you see about the evil in this world, such as human trafficking and drug overdoses. That’s what the news wants you to see, but they do not show the good that is out there. You truly have to search for it to know that for every bad news story, there is a good one. The Bible says seek and you will find.
I ask you to do that Kylie, turn away from the news feeds and search for good. Organizations like ECPAT-USA, ecoatusa.org, who are also international, or Polaris Project, polarisproject.org. Even right here in central Ohio there is Out Of Darkness Columbus Ohio, outofdarknesscolmbusoh.org and Live United Delaware County, liveuniteddelawarecounty.org.
There are thousands and thousands of other organizations and individuals that are fighting against evil in this world. That is where God is Kylie.
How do I know God exists? Take a look at our planet Earth. If it were positioned just a few inches from where it is located, it would not exist. Think about that Kylie. If the earth was located less than half the size of your iPhone, it would not be able to support human life. Scientists can’t even disagree with that.
How else do I know God exists? Well, it is you and me and every other human in this world. None of us are exactly the same. Who could make billions of people and not one of them is the same? How could billions of people exist that are all unique down to the tiniest DNA in their bodies if they were not created by God? Do you think that could happen by chance? I do not.
I did not always feel this way. Unlike you, Kylie, who grew up in church and knew about God and his love from the moment you were born, I did not. I did things my own way and ran my own life and was desperate to change the way I was living and one day I just stopped and turned around. I let God, who was pursuing me my entire life, catch me. And when he caught me, my life changed. I fell to my knees and I wept. Which was strange to me because I was raised to not show my feelings. To keep it all inside and be tough like a man. But that very moment God caught me, I was overwhelmed with love. As I learned about God, I learned about who he made me to be and what my identity is in Him. Not what everyone else thinks of me, but what God thinks of me. That changed my life.
Kylie, I have made many mistakes in my life. I have been divorced twice and tore apart my family because I was selfish and did things my way. Christians are humans and like all humans, we all make mistakes. After I accepted God into my life, seven years ago the unthinkable happened. My wife had an affair. It started around this time of year and I kept hearing a voice, or having a sixth sense if you will, to check her emails. Call it God trying to get involved before it got too far or call it the devil trying to tell me to look at what I helped your wife do, I do not know, but I ignored it because I trusted her. Until I could not ignore it and I found out the truth. In my anger, rage, hurting, and how could you, I wanted a divorce. Then on January 17th, I could not sleep. I was tossing and turning and crying and at 2:37 am, I felt the need to bundle up and take a walk. I remember the exact day and time because it is the first time I heard God speak to me. As I walked outside and tears streamed down my face and I yelled at God why, how could he let this happen, I looked up and saw the many many stars. In the stillness of the cold night, I heard him say stay, this is not about you, it’s about her and I need you to stay and be strong and help me help her come back to us. Over the next few weeks, a peace came over me and instead of yelling and saying hurtful things, I spoke words I never thought I could speak. They were not my words but God’s. Seven years later, even though not all is perfect, no marriage is, we are still proof of God’s grace, forgiveness, mercy, and love.
Kylie, Only God can heal a man like me, a marriage torn apart by an affair, and the brokenness of the people in this world.
We only have to be still and ask for him to help us and tell us what to do.
My dad did not believe in God. Thankfully, to his wonderful wife, my mother, who had a heart of gold and to his caretakers over the last few months of his life, and maybe to the way I lived my life after I accepted God, he accepted that Jesus is his lord and savior and invited him into his life shortly before he passed. I wish he could have had more time to know how much God loves him but in my grieving, I also knew that I would see him again. Only God can heal the grieving and the hurting Kylie.
Kylie, I wish everyone your age, or any age, knew what their true identity in Christ is. I believe that if everyone knew how much they were loved, how they were chosen to be born and that there is a plan for their life that there would less hurt in this world. I wish that they defined themselves as God defines them. That they would understand that false identity comes from the brokenness in this world. Trust that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and that they were forgiven and that there is a better way to live this thing we call life. I wish that they would find their plan and purpose for what God has for them, not what this world tells them they should be.
Kylie, do not choose happiness. It is an emotion like sadness or anger or excitement. It comes and goes with circumstances. Choose joy and love Kylie. No matter what you are going through choose to love, choose to be joyful. That is where you will find God.
You can choose what your heart will follow, Kylie, and what your heart follows is where you will be. Choose goodness, compassion, empathy. Choose to follow the good in the world and people will follow you because they will see how you live. Kylie, that is where God will be.
I recently saw the movie Overcomer. I could tell you a million quotes that I wish every teenager would know in this social media world where everything is based on smiles and likes but one I would like to share is this: people always try to tell you to look like this person or do something this way because it is popular but knowing that God loves you and he made you, why would you want to be anyone else.
Be yourself. Kylie, When you realize and accept that, your self-image and your identity and your view of the world will change. Filter out the negatives and live in the positives.
You, Kylie, are a child of God and you are here for a reason.
Kylie, I wish this world was not what it is. I wish and pray today when you go to school that it won’t be your last day on this earth. But, I beg you Kylie, do not live in fear. God does not live in fear. Live with hope Kylie, go out today and change the world. Be the one who shows the world that God is alive and well and that he lives in you.
Kylie, even in the bad I see all around me, I choose to see the good more. From the morning sunrise to the evening stars, from the leafless trees of winter to the first flower that blooms in the spring. From the first breath a baby takes to the last breath someone breathes. There is a shell that covers this unseen world and people choose to believe in what only they can see but there are mysteries in the unseen that we will never fully understand but it is as real as the next breath you take. You must have faith, hope and love, Kylie. That is where God resides and that is where you will find him. From the beginning to the end, I choose to see God in all of it and that is how I know God was here yesterday, he is here today, and he will be here tomorrow.
Kylie, God is alive and well and he is in you. He made you and he saved you, he loves you, he blesses you, he protects you, you are chosen and he died for you, Kylie. If you will find it in your heart to believe how much you are loved and chosen then you, too, will see him everywhere for he will be with you everywhere you go.
In the good and the bad, in the laughter and the tragedy, seek him, Kylie. He is there.
And that my dearest Kylie, is how I know that God exists and that he is here today.
I watched you for what seemed like hours as you tended your rose garden. I never understood why you would want to have so many roses and why you would want to spend so much time out there. You would always say you loved the way the dirt smelled. You would spend countless summer days bent over the garden, sweat dripping from your brow, pulling the weeds and pruning the roses. You would come inside sweaty, dirty, and looking exhausted but you always had a smile on your face.
I don’t get it I would say. You would reply, what’s their to get. It’s my time to do what I love and it’s my time I spend all alone with God. You should hear the conversations we would have. I would always reply I don’t know if I want to and we would laugh.
Even in the dark cold days of winter you would get bundled up and go outside to walk the path through your garden. Talking to them, touching their dead branches. Of course, I didn’t get that either. Why on earth? You would always say that they aren’t dead. There is life inside of them. They are like a lot of people in this world. Walking dead but there is life in them. It’s up to us to bring that life out. Waiting patiently, for today they may appear dead but with tomorrow there is always hope.
You are like that. You had a natural beauty that I was instantly attracted to but it was your inner beauty that would light up my heart. You could walk into a dark room and it would be like someone turned on the lights. It is the type of person you are.
Until one day you were taken from me. A teenager was texting and driving and ran into you. Neither of you survived. God needed his angel back and I had to pay the price. At your funeral the pastor recited your favorite bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Forget you God. If this is your plan then I don’t want any part of it. I looked out the back window and saw your rose garden. In my grief, I ran outside and I pulled and broke and cut every rose bush. I screamed and hollered your name. I screamed at God.
Out of breath, cut, scratched, and bleeding from the thorns, I dropped to my knees and let my tears water the lifeless dirt.
Summer turned to winter and, like the days , my heart grew darker and colder. I didn’t know how to live without you. I didn’t want to live without you. God should’ve taken me with you. My pain was too much to bear.
I looked out the window and saw the bare garden. I finally understood what you meant. Even if they appeared dead, at least they were still there. Now there was nothing but bare dirt. I grieved more as I recalled that day I destroyed what you loved.
As seasons go, winter turned to spring. We had an early spring this year. I looked out the window and could not believe my eyes. Somehow in the very back of the garden, barely visible from where I stood, a rose bush had survived and now had two roses blooming.
I ran outside as fast as I could. I had to touch them to see if they were real. As I did, I could swear I caught a faint scent of you. Then in the spring breeze I could swear I heard your laughter. I immediately dropped to my knees and grabbed a handful of dirt. It smelled so full of life.
In that moment, I felt my heart start to beat again.
I went out and bought as many rose bushes as I could find. There had to be at least a hundred of them and I was going to fix what I destroyed. I was going to fix your rose garden.
I labored for hours that first day. I went to bed exhausted, sore and smelling like dirt but I would wake up refreshed, ready to start again. I realized I could not do it on my own.
I looked at my phone, hesitant to dial their number. I dialed anyway. I called the teenagers parents and they came over to help. I think all of us healed a little bit that day.
I watched every day as your garden came back to life. I spent hours out there talking to you. I slowly learned to talk to God again.
Summer rolled around and I was still in the garden. Sweat rolling off every inch of my body but it was okay. I stood up to take a break and I swear I felt your hand touch mine. I closed my eyes remembering what your touch felt like. I looked down at my hand but yours was not there. I started to lift it up when a beautiful butterfly landed in my palm. Then a sliver of light fell right on it, giving it its own spotlight. I smiled, then the butterfly fluttered toward my face and touched my cheek, as if giving me a kiss. Then it flew to a nearby rose and I did something I hadn’t done in a long time.
I said your name out loud. Kim?
Then a summer breeze picked up and I swear I heard it carry your laughter. Tears fell down my face but I smiled.
In your rose garden I found life again. I found you again. I found God again.
I miss you every minute of every day but it was right there and then that I knew I would never be alone.
March 29, 2015, a driver following his GPS drives his SUV off a ramp to a demolished bridge in East Chicago, Indiana. His wife died in the accident. The road was marked with orange barrels and signs saying road closed.
In 2009, a driver in West Yorkshire, England followed his GPS up a steep “road” that continued to narrow until he stopped- on the edge of a cliff with his car dangling over the edge. The driver got out safely and said he trusted the GPS to get him where he needed to go.
In 2011, three women in Bellevue, Washington blindly followed their GPS down a boat ramp and into a lake. All three got out safely but the car was submerged in the lake.
In 2011 in East Brunswick, New Jersey a driver came to a T instersection. His only choices were to go left or right. Instead he followed his GPS and went straight, straight over a curb and into a house.
These are just a few of the hundreds of articles out there about people blindly following their GPS. They don’t trust their own eyes, common sense, or warning signs. I won’t even begin to tell the stories of crashes cause by distracted drivers that were looking at their GPS instead of the road right in front of them, totally ignoring stopped cars, people crossing the street, stop lights and stop signs.
I know my GPS has many times told me to turn the wrong way on a one way street. Many times it has taken me off a main freeway onto a bunch of slow side streets just to put me right back on the freeway a few miles later. I could’ve saved so much time if I followed my common sense but I was in a new state and I didn’t know. I know now and when I go there and the GPS says to get off, I stay on the freeway. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times it will tell me there is a long delay ahead and I never see the delay. Did it get cleared up in the fifteen minutes for me to get there or what happened? Only the GPS knows I guess.
Did you laugh when you read these stories? Did you say I can’t believe they would do that? Did you say use some common sense people? Has anything like this happened to you? I ask, what about you? Do you use your GPS wisely? I’m not talking about the man-made GPS. I am talking about the GPS, God Positioning System, that God has given all of us.
How many times are we going through our lives and we do something we know we shouldn’t and we hear that little voice in our head saying don’t do this. This is wrong – and we do it anyway. How many times do we do it again when we know what a bad decision it was the first time. We simply ignore the GPS.
How many times has God asked you to talk about your faith, spread the Word, make disciples and we ignore God and keep quiet. I know I have done this more times than I would like to admit to. Fear. God are you sure? You want me to go clear over there to the other side of the room and talk to someone. Look at all those people in between us. By the time I get over there they will be gone anyway. We unplug the GPS.
Could you imagine being Abraham? I’m not even talking about sacrificing your own child here, that’s for another story. I’m talking about if God said “hey you, gather your things and head out. I won’t tell you where you are going or for how long you will travel but just go, and I will lead you.” Would you do that?
What about Moses? After wandering the desert for forty years God says
at which Moses replied,
We all say who am I God? Why should I go? Can’t you send someone else?
What about Jonah?
He was swallowed by a giant fish then he was given a second chance.
What about Noah? He could’ve said no God, people will think I am crazy building an ark. What if he didn’t build it to God’s specific directions.
What about Jesus? Jesus was betrayed by a close friend, falsely arrested, accused, tempted, condemned, beaten until almost dead, crucified on a cross, and died alone and deserted by most of His followers. Yet He was never lost!
What about you? Are you following where God is asking you to go? If you head that direction but then realize the road is full of potholes and obstacles, do you turn around or keep going forward? Do you tell yourself you know a better way even though God is telling you to go a different way? I truly believe that sometimes God will have us crash into a building if that’s what it takes to get our attention. Sometimes He will have us hit rock bottom just to get us to ask Him for help.
God has given each of us an inner compass. A sense of right and wrong. Morals. Some of us choose to ignore these things and do what we want to do. Some of us will listen to the man-made GPS and not the God made GPS. Some of us choose to sit on the couch and not go anywhere.
When you are lost don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you run into an obstacle, don’t be afraid to go through it. When someone is telling you to go in the wrong direction, don’t be afraid to ask what would Jesus do? We can’t live this life living blindly. God has given us a purpose and a direction. He has also given us free choice to follow our ways or His ways. What GPS will you follow?
How easy it is for us to follow this world and its directions but not God’s directions. God doesn’t see only where you are at, He knows where you are going.
On July 15 I wrote God I Am Tired. Most of it was about being tired of all the rain this summer. We have had enough but our friends in California could use some. Since then we have had very little rain. We had a storm last night but other than that nothing of significance. Our forecast is for seven straight days of sun and no more than a pop up shower. Did you see the rain in California this past weekend? On July 18 San Diego had a record for a day in July with 1.03 inches of rain. Then they received another .66 inches Sunday making July the wettest month on record. As of Monday morning they had a total of 1.7 inches, the old record was .92 inches. Los Angeles had .38 inches of rain over the weekend. Lancaster 1.59 inches, Riverside 1.37 inches, San Luis Obispo 1.28 inches. More rain was expected for July 20th. Coincidence or did God hear my cries for less rain?
My wife and I met online. Of all the dating sites she just happened to be on the one I was on. Of all the women I was looking at, she was the only one that didn’t have a picture. When we first started talking she asked if I wanted one and I said no. Our first date was the first time I saw her. Eleven and a half years later we are still together. Coincidence or God’s plan?
We drove four and a half hours to go to Gull Lake Ministries in Michigan only to meet an amazing Christian couple who I have a lot to learn from who only live two miles from us. If we had never went there we would’ve never met these new friends in our lives. Coincidence or God’s plan?
Karen Kingsbury talks about angels walking and how she got the idea on an airplane flight. In forty minutes she had over thirty pages of outlines, characters, etc. I would write down her book Angels Walking to read but never read it. Until 8 months later when I start to blog and how the characters in it are like me and some of the things I blog about. Coincidence or God’s plan?
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist. He had a choice to make. He had a visa to leave his country and come to the United States before the Nazis took his country and send him to concentration camps. What to do?When he returned home, he found it. A piece of marble was lying on the table. His father explained that it was from the rubble of one of the nearby synagogues that the Nazis had destroyed. The marble contained the fragment of one of the Ten Commandments — the one about honoring your father and your mother. With that, Frankl decided to stay in Vienna and forgo whatever opportunities for safety and career advancement awaited him in the United States. He would later write that even in the worst conditions, even in suffering, life can have meaning. He would write the best selling book Man’s Search For Meaning. Coincidence that one piece of marble survived and wound up in his dads hands or God’s plan?
Have you ever totally slept through your alarm and was running late to work only to find out there was a terrible accident right at the intersection you would’ve been at if you had woke up on time? Have you ever started out on your morning run wanting to go one way but something tells you not to go that way, then you find out on the news that another runner was attacked on that route you wanted to run?
There a alot of stories out there of guardian angels. I have heard of a girl named Diane walking alone down a dark alley and seeing a guy standing there. She prayed to God for protection and she walked right by without any harm. Then the girl twenty minutes behind her was attacked. Diane read what had happened and came in to identify the attackers. She asked the police why he didn’t hurt her and he said “because she wasn’t alone. She had two tall men walking on either side of her.”
Another story of a beginning surfer who went out by himself one morning so he wouldn’t be embarresed with all the times he fell off. He was the only one on the beach and the water. He fell off and was caught in a riptide. He thought for sure he was going to die but then another surfer came up beside him and gave him his board. He got to the shore and looked out in the water to thank the other surfer but no one was there.
Do you have any stories of “coincidence” or of angels? I would love to hear about them.
A little conversation with God I read a few years back that I have never forgotten.
Me: God, can I ask You a question?
Me: Promise You won’t get mad
God: I promise
Me: Why did You let so much stuff happen to me today?
God: What do u mean?
Me: Well, I woke up late
Me: My car took forever to start
Me: at lunch they made my sandwich wrong & I had to wait
Me: On the way home, my phone went DEAD, just as I picked up a call
God: All right
Me: And on top of it all off, when I got home ~I just want to soak my feet in my new foot massager & relax. BUT it wouldn’t work!!! Nothing went right today! Why did You do that?
God: Let me see, the death angel was at your bed this morning & I had to send one of My Angels to battle him for your life. I let you sleep through that
Me (humbled): OH
GOD: I didn’t let your car start because there was a drunk driver on your route that would have hit you if you were on the road.
God: The first person who made your sandwich today was sick & I didn’t want you to catch what they have, I knew you couldn’t afford to miss work.
Me (embarrassed): okay
God: Your phone went dead because the person that was calling was going to give false witness about what you said on that call, I didn’t even let you talk to them so you would be covered.
Me (softly): I see God
God: Oh and that foot massager, it had a shortage that was going to throw out all of the power in your house tonight. I didn’t think you wanted to be in the dark.
Me: I’m Sorry God
God: Don’t be sorry, just learn to Trust Me…. in All things , the Good & the bad.
Me: I will trust You.
God: And don’t doubt that My plan for your day is Always Better than your plan.
Me: I won’t God. And let me just tell you God, Thank You for Everything today.
God: You’re welcome child. It was just another day being your God and I Love looking after My Children.