Hi Mark and all,
With respect I think you're wrong.
I became a Christian at 18. In the years imediately before that a dear friend died suddenly, we had some family troubles, and then, the year or so before I became a Christian I went through an awful break up with the person who is now my ex-boyfriend.
My response to all of that at first was basically to shut down. No one would have realised, I got on and did things, but I was on auto-pilot. Life wasn't fun and I hated it, and hated everyone as well. Eventually I ran out of people to hate, or rather, to be angry with, so I started on God. I eventually decided that he didn't exist, and that was it. It was, in retrospect, me saying that he wasn't playing by my rules, so I wasn't playing anymore. And there's me thinking Roger Federer is arrogant! At that point he would have had nothing on yours truly.
That was fine, I got on with my 'life', such as it was at that point, and I suppose God did his thing as well. However, I suddenly found myself getting really angry with anything to do with religion or religious people. They were all nutters, sheep, with no will whatsoever of their own.
One night I was invited out to dinner with some people I knew. Quite by chance at one point the conversation turned to religion. I was asked by a friend if I believed. My response was pretty adamant. No, it was all daft, religious people were sheep, blah, blah, blah. My friend, to his credit, didn't even flinch. Instead of belittling me, or making me feel bad, he sat there and calmly told me why he believes. The most amazing thing was that it wasn't like listening to someone talk about God. It was as if he was telling me about his mate in the pub. I'd never heard anything like it.
I can't say that moment changed me there and then, but it did make me think. Was I missing out on something? Do we have a real relationship with God through Jesus? What did it all mean for me? I responded in the only way I knew. I began to read. I read all sorts, not just the Bible, which in fact was the last place I went to. The one thing that struck me straight away was that everything I read said the same thing, i.e. that the crucifixion is the best recorded fact in ancient history, and not all of those who recorded it were Christians, so they had no axe to grind in Jesus's favour. Indeed, in some cases the exact reverse is true.
That thought, that Jesus is a historical fact, gave me something to think about. From there I felt able to speak to some people,to find out what difference it all made to them. I was quite shocked by what I found. Christians come in all different types. Yes, there are sheep out there, people who take every word the Bible says as literal truth, people who neither think or question. That wasn't for me. Fortunately I spoke to others who did question, who did think, and who wouldn't be sheep for anyone, yet underneath all that there was faith, an admission that whilst questioning is right, and even getting angry with God is all right, we are mere humans after all, it is also right to know that we can't know everything. That made me realise where I was going wrong. I thought it was my place, my right, to know everything, to know how life works, to be in total control, and that letting go of some of that control was a failure, which led to anger for failing, which led to guilt for the anger. It took me speaking to some good friends to find out that yes, I was right to ask the questions, but that didn't mean I had a right to the answers, and certainly not always the answers I wanted, which is where faith comes in. It was then that all the anger towards religious people, or certain types of them, went away, along with the idea that God can't handle us being angry with Him.
The more time I spent thinking and talking to people who'd gone through their own experiences, the more I realised that these people were happy. They still had troubles, they still went through everything in life we all deal with, but they all felt complete. It made me realise that I wanted that, so I asked Jesus in to my life. I had to ask, He doesn't go where He isn't invited. That took me ages to realise, it caused no end of frustration on my part, but I got there. I invited Him in and He showed up for me. There was no gun to my head, no pushing, it was my decision and mine alone. It wouldn't have worked for me if it had been any other way.
Since then life hasn't been easy. My beloved father died in 2002. My mother developed a form of dementia in the late 90s. My mother died in 2004, two and a half years after my father, and in the years since his death I'd been Mum's main carer.. It made me realise that sure, life is not fair, some go through life and nothing ever touches them, whilst others are constantly picking themselves up from the latest disaster. Of course it made me question. I did a lot of praying that basically took the form of ranting at God. And then it hit me. At least if I was ranting at God I was not going through the bad stuff on my own. The bad stuff was still bad, some of it was a nightmare, but it was a heck of a lot easier to deal with it all with Him than on my own. Emotional prop, I hear you say. Well yes, probably, in many ways, but I would argue as well that my faith has been tested and stood up to the test. To my mind that has to mean something.