I read this post Sunday about a fellow who has abandoned Christianity principally for two reasons: first, because God was so intolerably silent during a period of profound suffering and worry; second, because of the disunity of the Christian Church regarding the proper teaching on important matters, which suggests a failure on God's part to communicate clearly and effectively.
Read the post for yourself and see the author's reasoning. It seems to me the problem here -- as in many other cases of persons who have abandoned the Christian religion -- is attempting to think about God and understanding God independently of his self-revelation in Jesus Christ's incarnation, ministry, crucifixion (on our behalf, for our sins), resurrection, and ascension. All these events communicate something about God himself because, as T.F. Torrance would emphasize, God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son are homoousios, in the words of the Nicene creed: one in being. The life of Christ is the life of God; events in the life of Christ are events in the life of God; the character and concerns of Christ are the character and concerns of God himself. And most of all, we know Christ through his crucifixion on our behalf; thus Paul says: I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified (1 Cor 2.2).
What is so important about this? Knowing God through Christ, we are always aware of God's love for us even in circumstances in which we cannot seem to sense it. There is nothing in the world that can change the fact, forever immutable in the past, with scars that remain on the body of God even unto the present day, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures (1 Cor 15.3). As T.F. Torrance says, the Cross on which the crucified God hung for our sins is a window into God's heart: it tells us that he loves us more than he loves himself. Nothing whatsoever can change this, even though we should suffer in a million different ways and ultimately die.
God alone knows why he presents himself to some persons in a more direct and special way while not doing so with others. I don't know, and I am convinced no real reason might be within our grasp of understanding or discerning. I am not convinced that very many of the Christian martyrs felt God's presence particularly strongly when they were eaten by lions, or had their heads removed, or tortured in various ways, yet they kept the faith because they knew that Jesus Christ had died for them, so they can die for him too. Apart any sort of subjective awareness of God's closeness, what we have is the definitive self-revelation of God in Christ, which is an eminently loving and kind one: he is willing to die for our sins in order to restore fellowship between us! And nothing can ever change that!
Here I think is the weakness of iconoclastic traditions of Christianity: the images of Christ crucified, rising from the grave, etc. must be present in our worship because they offer us real, concrete reminders of the self-revelation of God in Christ. Especially the image of the crucified Lord should be present, because in this way we can be reminded of the prime evidence that God loves us. Apart from the self-sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, we cannot be certain that our conviction of God's love is nothing more than the delusion and dream by which certain primates comfort themselves in order to make their terrestrial existence something more than an insufferable hell. So we ought to see it, we ought to see the man hanging on the cross, the blood and water pouring from his side, the eyewitnesses from whom we know the story standing around him so we might never forget. And as I've written elsewhere, this reflection on Christ's crucifixion and resurrection should be a regular part of our worship services, so that we might not forget the most important truth of all.
More than that, Christ's crucifixion and resurrection remind us of something: this world is still under a curse. Evil still happens here; people still suffer; Christians, even though they live their lives with a foot in the eternal life of the next world, are nevertheless subject to death. We undergo these things perhaps inter alia in order not to be too attached to this life and to this world. The world is still under a curse and this will play itself out. The grace of God, however, is shown to us in that those who believe in Christ are promised a better lot in the next world, if they stay faithful. Therefore the scripture tells us: exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3.13).
I think it is the saddest and most tragic day when a person walks away from Christ, who has only ever done us good and at such cost to himself. I am always sorry to hear that other persons have stopped believing in Christ, or doubt him, or have lost their love for him. I love Christ very much and I want others to share this love with me, too. What can I do? I can pray for others without ceasing and I can write what the Lord gives me to share, hoping that it reaches the eyes of the right people.