How Do We Come To Believe If We Don’t Believe? Part 1

“Some of us won’t believe in God, others can’t, and still others who do believe God exists have no faith whatever He will perform this miracle” (AA Twelve and Twelve, 25).

When we come into rehab, or into the rooms of AA, we often come with conflicted feelings about God. Maybe we’ve been wronged by the church, or we’ve never believed, or we’ve professed belief, but we still fell into the trap of addiction, so now we’re not so sure. We wonder where God was, if He even exists, what He could possibly do for us and why He would want to.

But at every turn, we have the program, the literature and our recovery fellows telling us to trust God, to believe He can save us, to rely upon Him and to turn our wills and our lives over to His care. While it sounds OK, many of us don’t even know what most of that means on a practical level. What does believing in God really look like and how are we supposed to recover if we honestly don’t have much faith at all?

You’re Not Alone

How Do I Start Believing In God When I Haven't-ChristianDrugRehabAA knows that most of us stumble through the doors with our faith mostly shipwrecked, if we ever had faith at all. The good news is, you’re not alone. While you see the other members of your group praying and professing God’s work in their lives, know that most of them have been in the very place you’re now in. They got over the hurdle of faith, and whether you want to or not, if you stay sober and continue in recovery, you probably will too.

Each of us comes into the rooms believing different things about God and having had different experiences with faith, but all can come to believe. See where you fall on the spectrum.

Those Who Don’t Believe

For some of us, religion was an institution of our childhood. Once we grew up and became educated, we didn’t see a place for it. Perhaps we professed atheism or agnosticism, and even scoffed a bit at those who continued to adhere to something that to us seemed so backward, antiquated and unscientific.

However, while religion and the spiritual life seemed not only impossible, but also undesirable, we had to admit that there was something different about many of the people who professed faith. We might have been curious about it, but we hadn’t really explored this on our own. Now we’re being told to believe and it seems pretty overwhelming. How could we be anything but insincere?

For those of us who are desperate, there is little room for argument or questioning. Our lives are glaring evidence that we haven’t known what was best for us. We want to get well and we see that people who are trusting in God, whatever that means, are recovering. We want that too.

Here’s a suggestion: Suspend the debate and just give it a try. If believing that God can save you from your addiction is too much, remember that Step Two is really saying that we believe a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. For many, thinking of their AA group as that power greater than themselves is a way to get started.

As you get further away from the addiction by amassing sobriety, you may find your heart more naturally welcomes the idea of God. In the midst of our drinking, we drowned Him out, and sobriety may bring a new perspective or awareness. There is no need to resist these feelings if they come naturally. Though many of us felt safe and in control by professing our atheism and/or agnosticism, we’re now safe to see what else is out there. But if you feel your heart and mind moving in a different direction, explore it.

“The minute I stopped arguing I could begin to see and feel. Right there, Step Two gently and very gradually began to infiltrate my life. I can’t say upon what occasion or upon what day I came to believe in a Power greater than myself, but I certainly have that belief now. To acquire it, I had only to stop fighting and practice the rest of AA’s program as enthusiastically as I could” (AA Twelve and Twelve, 27).

Those Who Have Been Wronged By The Church

Others of us may have wanted to believe and perhaps experienced those seeds of belief taking root at some point, but the church—those claiming to be ambassadors of God—hurt us in some way, sometimes gravely. We didn’t know how God could allow it, and we vowed we wouldn’t be associated with the kind of people who would damage others in the name of God.

This is a normal response. However, it confuses God with those who have come to God seeking salvation. People, even those in ministry, are sinners. They struggle with temptation, addiction and regular, garden-variety sin. And that sin pours out into the lives of others, often in very unholy, destructive ways. While it is hard to do, we have to try to separate God and who He is, from sinful people in need of a savior.

Your Higher Power doesn’t need to be the God of your childhood. As an adult, it is time to know God as He is and to develop your own mature understanding of Him. The surest way to get to know God is through His Word—His primary means of revealing Himself to His people. Pray that God would help you to know Him truly and apart from any negative experiences you may have had with the church or other Christians.

Continued In: How Do We Come To Believe If We Don’t Believe? Part 2