Throughout my life I have searched for a religious or spiritual belief that would satisfy my longing for a peaceful existence. As a child and young adult I suffered from severe depression. During the agony of those years, I attempted to find peace through five different religious faiths. None provided what I sought.
As I suffered and watched the world suffer, as I prayed for peace for myself and for the world, I began to doubt the very existence of a loving God. I had studied at a Bible college for two intense years and I knew what the Bible promised: Peace, forgiveness, and above all, love.
But that didn’t fit with the world I experienced. If indeed we were all the children of God and precious in His sight, why, I asked, did terrible things happen? Children died of starvation and war; people of different faiths and races reviled each other; wars fueled by hate and greed never seemed to end.
The explanation that it was all God’s will was not good enough. It hit me square in the face when a young babysitter in my town was kidnapped and killed. I could not accept that God had willed her terrible fate. In my despair I began to search for something else to make sense of the world.
In order to think, I took long solitary walks in the woods near my house. I walked there in every season, in the autumn when the leaves turned the paths gold and in the winter when they were white with snow. I walked the paths when spring coaxed the leaves to bud and in summer when wildflowers bloomed.
I found my peace there. I came to accept the fact that the world was both beautiful and painful and it was not up to me to untangle the mysteries of it. Many religious scholars throughout the ages had attempted to do so and they were often in conflict over religious concepts.
While I still rail against the chaos and suffering in the world and try in my small ways to provide aid to individuals and charities, my anger and despair have faded. I go to my quiet places and hear the birds and the wind in the trees and sometimes see a scurrying rabbit or a startled deer. I am always amazed at the beauty I see and the joy I feel. Nature provides for me that sense of belonging to something larger than my own small existence on this small planet. And that is not only a matter of faith – it is something I can smell and touch and see and hear. That is enough for me.