Running on Empty

It was, I think, the greatest shock of my life: I found myself believing that God probably did not exist. 

It was 1998. I was on home assignment from ministry in Pakistan after one of my most grueling terms on the field, and one day it suddenly hit me: nothing in my life shows the work of God. As I looked back at the previous month, I saw nothing. The previous year, still nothing. My belief in a living, active, involved God seemed contrary to the facts. 

After the initial shock came the realisation that I could not continue what I was doing — missionary work — in this state, so I made some adjustments while I sought to clarify my state of mind and do some hard thinking.

Spring/Summer 2017 - Hambrey article

I never turned away from God conclusively; I continued to pursue him in a tentative way, praying “God, if  you are there…” and even reading the Bible. One thing moving me back to belief was a review of my spiritual history and the events I had considered miracles and answers to prayer, some of which I had thankfully written down. I spent much time reviewing the thinking that led to my first adoption of the faith and re-reading several introductions to the Christian faith, such as Know Why You Believe by Paul Little and Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis.

Another important factor in my recovery — perhaps the most important, from observations of both my own and similar situations — was the engaged prayer of the few who knew my situation. The  understanding support of the Fellowship International staff was also crucial, giving me time to process and recover.

In retrospect, several circumstances led to this period of doubt: stress and disappointment with God resulted in depression. I was struggling to adapt my understanding of creation in light of the fascinating new science of genomics. And somewhere along the way, I stopped taking steps of faith. Thankfully, our God is a God that pursues and rescues us, planting our feet firmly on solid ground and renewing our strength. 

Peter Hambrey serves as the Canadian Coordinator for LeadersFor, which provides leadership training to indigenous pastors. After serving overseas for many years, he and his wife, Cheryl, are now based in Fort McMurray, AB.