We invite you to take a peek inside our weekly Light for the Way devotional series provided for staff.
By Chaplain Steve Richards, Optage Hospice
“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” — John 20:27, NIV
When I was at theological college in the mid-1990s, I lost my faith. It was a gradual thing, but it happened, and for 20 years afterward I was a card-carrying atheist. I wasn't a militant atheist, but I was convinced that the faith I had once professed could no longer be justified. The bottom line was I felt I had no proof that God existed. No logical or rational argument for God’s existence convinced me, and nothing in the Bible was changing my mind. So I walked away.
In the midst of my faith falling away, I wrote a poem, in which I lamented not being able to have the same experience Jesus’ disciple Thomas had:
but also got to see Jesus
and touch the scars on his body.
and yet Thomas saw.
Why not me?
'My life was better when God was in it'
I returned to my faith in 2016 when I realized I’d lost my way in life and that despite all my questions, life had been better when God was in it. God had stopped me floating along on the sea of my emotions, and instead gave me a place to ground myself. So I made a decision to put God back into my life. I still had no proof that God existed, but I took that chance. Since then, God has done a significant work of healing in my life. This has come largely through immersing myself in the bigger story of God’s unconditional love.
Through a rigorous re-narration of who God is, I have found myself and God in a new and deeper way. I have also noticed my life changing by following this simple invitation: “This is how love is made complete amongst us… in this world, we are like Jesus” (1 John 4:17). In this world, we are to be like Jesus.
You might be surprised to learn that even as a hospice chaplain, I still believe there is no logical or rational argument to conclusively prove God’s existence. In my experience, if one is determined not to believe, then one will always find reasons not to believe. Instead, we connect with God through the healing work God has done in someone’s life. For while logical and rational arguments can be doubted, a story cannot. You don't have to listen to the story or even accept it, but you can never take the story away. This is my story.
Finding proof in stories of healing
When Thomas approached Jesus as one who doubted, it was because he did not have the proof to convince him. So, what did Jesus do? He told him a story, and it was a story of healing using his body. He carried the story in his body and when he revealed this, Thomas got the proof and experience of God he was looking for.
As an atheist, I did not have the proof I felt I needed that God existed. However, I now realize I was looking in the wrong place. The proof was not sitting "out there" to be found only by using my mind, but "within me": in my whole body. Now, whenever anyone asks me if God exists, I simply hold up the scars in my life and tell the story of God’s healing work. God has lifted me out of the pit. Spiritually, emotionally, mentally and even physically, I have experienced God's healing work in my life. The proof is here, in my body.
Like Jesus, each one of us carries scars in our body of where we have been hurt and injured. And just as Jesus did for Thomas, let us show our scars to each other and share the story of God’s healing work in our life. For while there are many scars, and some of them will run deep, our great hope is this: God will show up for you. Wherever you are, and whoever you are. You are not alone. Reach out your hand. Touch the scars. "Stop doubting, and believe."
Chaplain Steve Richards has been working with Optage Hospice since 2019, first as an intern and then as a PHS employee in 2021. Prior to that, he was a stay-at-home dad to his two children and previously worked as a high school teacher in England where he taught religion and philosophy. He grew up in London, England (UK), and has been living in the USA since May 2005. He moved here to be with his wife. He is grateful for the privilege of working with PHS as it helps him live out the spiritual truth: "This is how love is made complete amongst us... in this world we are like Jesus" (1 John 4:17).
The Light for the Way series provides staff with an examination of a biblical reading to deepen our focus on scripture. Thank you for engaging with this series as we seek wisdom through prayer and reflection as a Christian Ministry.
Find more in the Light for the Way series:
Finding God in the real-life stories of others
An encounter with Jesus changes everything
Introducing Light for the Way, a new devotional series
In addition to Light for the Way, you can find reflections, devotions, music and other resources on the Pastoral Care website.