What Happened When I Wanted to Give Up on God
Kieran thought he had to choose between God and science. On a night he’ll never forget, he encountered God while stargazing. Peace replaced his doubt and fear.
Image used under license from Shutterstock.com
Several years ago in my rural backyard, I found myself crying. It was an angry cry. A grieving cry. A tired cry. Emotions that had been accumulating for over a decade suddenly poured out as I fumbled with my camera lens in the dark. It was a crisp and clear autumn night and my favorite celestial object, the Andromeda galaxy, had made a perfect target for my amateur astrophotography rig. I hastily zipped up my camera bag and fell to my knees onto a small patch of soft grass. I think between the awe-inspiring display of stars and the particularly stressful day I had experienced at work, my tired body simply surrendered to the sea of feelings my mind would often rationalize away. I couldn’t avoid it anymore. I had spent years delaying the inevitable and here it was punching me directly in the face.
Up until this point I had fought to believe that several thousand years ago, God created the universe in six days, and it was good. Yet here I was soaking up 2.5-million-year-old galactic light that somehow navigated the overwhelming vastness of space just to gift me a fleeting glimpse of its beauty and wonder. Was this light a lie, or was it God? Every single moment I thought I had experienced with God, every honest prayer I might have ever uttered, every quiet whisper I had ever heard, and every good thing Jesus had ever given me, all started to feel like a fading shadow as I sat alone in the grass. As the tears continued to flow, I began to audibly cry out to God. I was scared, angry, and exhausted. This tension inside me between science and faith I had been ignoring inside of me since middle school finally demanded attention. I felt like I had to choose Jesus or science. My stomach physically ached as I grieved the thought of losing either.
It took me a while to realize that I didn’t have to choose. Choosing was a false dichotomy that built up unnecessary tension and could’ve led me away from the Faith. Thankfully, my story didn’t end like this. I choose to dig deeper, think bigger, and draw closer to God. As a result, I have found a more resilient Faith and rediscovered the creator God in a more beautiful and meaningful way. I share my story because it is my hope that others come to this realization as well—you don’t have to choose or give up on God.
I felt like I had to choose Jesus or science. My stomach physically ached as I grieved the thought of losing either.
Coming to a Crossroads
I grew up homeschooled in a Christian family with wonderful parents. I was the oldest of my four siblings. I spent much of my younger life in Alaska commercial fishing alongside my parents and experiencing God’s beautiful creation. My mother is an amazing teacher and instilled in me a wonder for nature and a love for knowledge. I remember deciding as an eight-year-old that I wanted to be a scientist and study my favorite planet at the time, Pluto (I may or may not still be bitter about it no longer being classified as a planet).
Unfortunately, the deeper I went into modern science, the more cautious and defensive I became. The theory of evolution, an old earth, and human origins couldn’t coexist with the Bible I had spent my entire life reading. I graduated in 2012, a couple of months after my seventeenth birthday, and began exploring my options for college. After some deep thought about my future and reading a vast collection of “Christian” science books and curriculums, I came to a crossroads with my faith. I knew I could either lose Jesus who I had loved my entire life or give up my passion for science and space. I almost felt sick. It was as if Jesus was poking holes in science and science was poking holes in Jesus. In that moment, I was angry at both of them.
Remembering this period of my life, I grieve for my younger self knowing the pain I experienced and the faith crisis I could’ve been spared had I sought out and talked to the right people. But I was scared, lost, hurt, and unaware faithful Christians could believe something different. Amidst this faith crisis, my best friend proposed the idea of going to Australia with him to attend a Christian college in Sydney. Both he and God seemed to know I needed a reset from my current surroundings. I agreed and spent several years in Australia where I ended up meeting my lovely wife.
…I came to a crossroads with my faith. I knew I could either lose Jesus who I had loved my entire life or give up my passion for science and space. I almost felt sick. It was as if Jesus was poking holes in science and science was poking holes in Jesus. In that moment, I was angry at both of them.
During this time, I gave up trying to reconcile my feelings on science and faith and was able to refocus on Jesus. I attended school and received an advanced diploma in Theology and Pastoral Leadership. In 2016 my wife and I returned to the States and I took a position as worship pastor at a church on the East Coast. After several years of leading worship services and running my own small business, I finally settled into a routine and felt comfortable with starting to explore my interests in science again. I was no longer afraid to delve deeply into science and to wade through all the “dangerous information” that I was scared to explore as a teen.
I dove headlong into a vast collection of science books ranging from physics with Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, and Neil DeGrasse-Tyson to biology and origins with Charles Darwin and several others. Although I was finally able to read these books without feeling afraid, I still combed through the information with apprehension. I subconsciously handpicked the parts that “worked” with my understanding of creation and the Bible and skipped over anything that seemed problematic for my faith. I ended up just as frustrated as before. For the first time in my life, I began to ponder whether I needed to let go of Jesus so that I could grab ahold of the truth. It was confusing and once again, I was scared.
I needed quiet. I needed to think. I needed to marvel at the stars and forget theology and my Bible even existed for a while. So there I was. Every night after work for a week. Only me, my binoculars, and my old Canon T5 as the stars rose over the little dogwood tree at the edge of my lawn. And as I sat, on that clear autumn night in my rural backyard, Jesus broke through all my doubts and fears and anxious thoughts and enveloped me in peace. As audibly as I’ve ever heard him speak, he said “I made it all. Don’t be afraid to explore it.” It was beautiful. It was liberating. It was life-changing. I lay there in the grass and cried, laughed, and cried some more as Jesus showed me his magnificent handiwork of creation through new eyes.
I needed quiet. I needed to think. I needed to marvel at the stars and forget theology and my Bible even existed for a while…on that clear autumn night in my rural backyard, Jesus broke through all my doubts and fears and anxious thoughts and enveloped me in peace. As audibly as I’ve ever heard him speak, he said “I made it all. Don’t be afraid to explore it.” It was beautiful. It was liberating. It was life-changing.
The next morning, more excited than I had ever been, I googled every possible question I could think of on Christian worldviews that related to origins and evolution. I am positive I spent almost my entire month’s food budget ordering book after book, including “Language of God” from Francis Collins. While researching his book, I stumbled across the Common Questions section on the BioLogos website and filled an hour or more reading every single article and answer on the page. I quickly found my way to the BioLogos podcast and spent the entire weekend binging episode after episode, feeling more excitement and passion for science than I ever had before. I felt I could finally pursue all the things I loved without feeling like I was losing my Savior. I had never known that science and faith could coexist, let alone complement each other. It was incredible. Looking back, it hurts knowing how easy it would have been to save myself ten years of feeling stuck in my faith. But God redeems. And God rebuilds.
Don’t Give Up on God
Today, I have a beautiful and wonderful wife of seven years who I never would have met if not for this journey, a faith that may never have become so fresh and expectant, and a burning desire to catch up on all the beautiful pieces of space discovery and science I missed out on. Jesus is much more real to me than he ever has been, and I am no longer afraid to be outspoken about my faith as I was before. I am still an active worship pastor and Christian leader in my community and love helping others explore their own faith and science beliefs in a healthy way. My life is radically different because others helped me seek Jesus instead of my idea of Jesus.
If you and I have a similar story, don’t give up on God. Don’t confuse human knowledge and interpretation with the gospel of Jesus like I did. As science grows and morphs and reveals more of this incredible God-breathed creation, don’t hold so tightly to tradition that it begins to hinder your faith. Dig deeper. Think bigger. Draw closer. Let mystery point you to the Creator and discovery expand your sense of wonder.
God is not limited by our personal theology. He doesn’t work within the tidy little box we have built for him. God will always be bigger and more wonderful than our human thoughts could ever conceive. I personally am thankful that my eyes are now more open to that, and I am excited and expectant not only about the future of science, but about my own future as well. I am so grateful to finally explore the intersection of faith and science, knowing that as I learn more of nature, I am learning more about God.
…don’t give up on God…Dig deeper. Think bigger. Draw closer. Let mystery point you to the Creator and discovery expand your sense of wonder.
If you enjoyed this personal story, we recommend you check out the following: