Inner peace may be proof of God’s existence

Does God exist? In an age when everything is open to debate, and we grant ourselves license to accept or reject many long-held customs and beliefs, we hear regularly that one of the most enduring of all convictions is waning, the conviction that God exists. It’s not hard to see why that loss of conviction might be happening. For one thing, we are a culture that rightly admires the extraordinary advances of science. Science has brought us invention after invention, discovery after discovery. It has offered us insight and understanding for the vastness of the cosmos, for our planet Earth, and for the wondrous organism we call the human body. Science follows a method that insists upon verifiable physical experimentation. The existence of God has been notably resistant to scientific analysis, and so, some argue, there can be no proof for God.

But long before the scientific method became the standard by which all arguments were evaluated, there were those who struggled with whether or not God could be said to exist. And several ancient thinkers came up with arguments they felt were compelling. From Plato to Aristotle, Anselm, Aquinas and Descartes, philosophers and theologians have worked to articulate logically convincing arguments. These arguments are fascinating to read and ponder, but while they may offer support for those of us who already believe in God’s existence, they are unlikely to provide a moment of epiphany to an unbeliever who may suddenly recognize a logical reason for belief.

What would provide proof of the existence of God for you? If science can’t verify God’s existence, if logic can’t confirm it, what’s left? Well, for most of us, validation of our belief by external means would be nice, but ultimately non-essential, because what we know by faith we acknowledge is non-provable to others. Perhaps each of us must find our own standard of proof for what we claim is irrefutably true.

For us, one of the most persuasive arguments for the existence of God has been the evidence of God’s influence and God’s presence in the lives of those around us. Friedrich Bonhoeffer’s life has provided such an argument for many. Bonhoeffer was only 36 years old when he became the leader of the Confessing Church in Germany, a movement that offered resistance to the Nazi government when most institutions and organizations did not.

Eventually Bonhoeffer was arrested and placed in a prison camp. From that camp he wrote works that have continued to inspire generations with their courage and their conviction. His fellow prisoners remembered him as one who diffused the atmosphere with joy. He seemed, despite his imprisonment, to live with a sense of deep gratitude. In January 1945, just a few months before the Nazis executed him, Bonhoeffer wrote these words: “While all the powers of Good aid and attend us, boldly we’ll face the future, be it what way. At even, and at morn, God will befriend us, And oh, most surely on each new year’s day!”

When lives demonstrate deep inner peace and joy in the face of hardship, when they offer compassion and hope in each new day and every new year, despite the pain surrounding them, then, some might say, we have seen God’s very presence and God’s sustaining spirit at work. And maybe that’s the sort of proof we all need most.

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