Spiritual beliefs can significantly impact the health outcomes of cancer patients, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer. Spiritual well-being is associated with reduced anxiety and depression. In addition, those with stronger faith in God’s love retain stronger social relationships despite their illness.
Of course, a skeptic could claim that the study reflects psychology rather than divine reality: If I believe God cares for me, my emotions will reflect this (false) assurance. I will want to share his love, whether such love actually exists or not. But could this reasoning say more about the psychology of the skeptic than the existence of God?
If I refuse to believe that someone exists, no evidence for that person’s existence will convince me. Suppose I declare that the Queen of England is a myth. You show me pictures of the Queen, which I dismiss as fabrications. You introduce me to those who say they know her, but I claim that they’re deceived or deceivers. You even arrange an interview for me with the Queen, but I conclude that the woman is an actress hired to play the role.
When philosopher Antony Flew was an atheist, he accused Christians of refusing to consider any evidence that would count against their faith. However, the same could be said of skeptics who will not consider evidence for faith. (Flew was not among them, later converting to belief in God’s existence.)
There’s a paradox here. On one hand, our faith is clearly based on falsifiable evidence, specifically the resurrection of Jesus. As Paul noted, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). On the other, God’s character does not change (cf. Hebrews 13:8), so circumstances should not alter our view of him. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), no matter what happens in the fallen world he created.
When David was hiding from King Saul, his location was betrayed to his enemy. He complained to God that “strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life” (Psalm 54:3). However, David did not abandon his faith: “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life” (v. 4).
Circumstances did not change the character of God. They never do.
Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) lived in an isolated cell so she could focus entirely on the Lord. She received life-altering revelations of God’s unchanging love, among them this assurance: “We are his bliss, because he endlessly delights in us.” She learned to find peace and rest in God’s love, “for all things which are beneath him are not sufficient for us.”
And she received this revelation, a truth that stopped me when I first read it: “The Lord revealed this to me in the completeness of his love, that we are standing in his sight, yes, that he loves us now whilst we are here as well as he will when we are there, before his blessed face.” Think of it: God loves you as much right now as he will when you are perfected before him in heaven.
Which do you believe?