Today, many people are succumbing to waves of negative circumstances and the accompanying and crushing hopelessness that follows. Sometimes it may seem as if God has totally checked out. Has God disappeared? What if God disappears? Can God disappear? Those are very big questions. They are the questions that loom large on the horizons of many people’s skies in this atmosphere of harsh individualism. “Is God gone?” is a very serious question being asked by many, many sincere people today. It’s a question that can find a catalyst in a million different real-time life scenarios; it can be asked in a number of different ways; it can take on hundreds of different forms. The question, regardless of the manner asked or the form taken, often results in a crippled or totally discarded faith. That’s unfortunate, if not straight up counterproductive. Where else will we look for answers or meaning to life’s most potent circumstances or events?
I’ve known David Sanford for a couple of years now. Not like “BFF” or anything, but we’ve worked together both on business and creatively. And David Sanford is a living paradox. On the one hand, he seems like a voice from another era. He takes things like sin, heart attitudes, and a decision to give one’s life to Jesus seriously – in tones that sometimes seem more like Billy than Brian. And yet, he also describes himself as a ‘new kind of Christian,’ and has the love to back it up. Perhaps this is why indie Christian voices like Dan Kimball and Sally Morganthaler and Jim Palmer rave about If God Disappears, even as sports luminaries Paul Byrd and Pat Williams also weigh in acclamations. What Sanford touches on touches all of us – finding God, losing God, and What Happens Next.
If God Disappears might not appeal to wizened New Atheist-reading philosopher-wannabes, but then again, it doesn’t have to. It clears a broader path, touching on stories of faith – both encouraging stories and ‘faith wreckers,’ as Sanford calls them – that reach the other 95% of the human population. In true narrative fashion, David tells story after another of friends, family, co-workers and loved ones who have lost faith in God amid the weariness of life, for all sorts of reasons…and how, in some cases, they rediscover God afresh. What I appreciate about this book is that Sanford doesn’t force his stories to resolve – when they do, they do, but he’s not afraid to leave a story hanging. What he seems most interested in exploring is the subtle ways in which we can all lose faith, seeing loss of faith along a continuum, not just the ‘true believer’ and the ‘atheist.’ At times, we all live our lives like we’re agnostic, but Sanford encourages us to move beyond this ground, in some surprising ways (see page 91 for instance).
Sometimes the vehicle of faith breaks down on the road toward God. David Sanford offers a troubleshooter’s manual and a toolkit for repair, and finally fuel for the journey.