Listening for God
By Richard P. Holm, MD
How do any of us cope with the catastrophes of life? Years ago, a couple faced the tragedy of an accidental death of their only young child. Even though most marriages don’t survive such an insult, this one did. Between the woman and man, there was love, forgiveness, and plenty of help from the people of their church. The people of the congregation, like the wings of a mother hen, surrounded the couple with support, comfort, and warmth.
Researchers found that no society has survived more than three generations without a religious foundation including belief in prayer, afterlife, and ritual. One interpretation of this data argues that religion serves the function of helping a society continue, thus implying religion endures due to survival advantage. Some critics of organized religion argue just because we have the need for a spiritual connection doesn’t mean that God exists. I contend that the opposite is true. Even though atrocities have been done in the name of religion, I am reassured of God’s presence by the fact that societies do better with a faith-based underpinning. However, I think there are other more convincing reasons than this to believe in God.
I am reassured of God’s presence when watching a religious based rehabilitation program successfully help men find their way back from drug or alcohol abuse. The leaders, who fill a mentor role, teach “It’s not just about you. . . it’s about loving others and loving God.” I am reassured when studying the complexity of the human heart and the way the heart muscle, valves, and arteries interact while sending blood with oxygen and nutrition to every cell in the body. I am reassured when our Hopeful Spirit Chorale sings, bringing spiritual connection to the hearts, and tears to the eyes of those listening and singing. I am reassured when a church, mosque, or synagogue full of people saying a wisdom prayer such as the Lord’s Prayer in unison, vibrates the souls of the congregation. I am reassured when watching a flock of birds or a school of fish move together and change direction as if one organism, in synchrony by some ancient and holy spirit.
As a medical doctor caring for people through the years, I have had to rely on science with which to help resolve health problems people face. Observing people, especially as they reach the end of their lives, I realized that often science is simply not enough. There is a deeper place where people need to go for help when the end is near. In my view, if we listen very carefully, the spiritual realm is all around. For many, this Divine Essence provides great help and meaning. We need to open our spiritual ears for that Holy Something that resides outside our scientific understanding.
In one famous interview of Mother Theresa the interviewer asked her how she prays. “I listen,” was her response. “What does God say in return?” was the next question. “He listens,” was the answer.
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