The only time I've doubted the existence of God is when I was in sin.So said Tommy Nelson, the man who was my pastor for 2 of the years I spent in Dallas. Like many good lines, I wish I had said it first, because when I heard it, I almost tangibly felt it burrowing into my brain like that bug in The Wrath of Khan. It resonates with me still, because I have found it to be true to my experience and true to the Scriptures.
Sin separates me (and us) from God in more ways than one, for it not only differentiates my character from His, it also brings about a distance in my relationship with Him that is so real that I can almost feel it physically. This is what makes repentance hard-it feels like so much distance to travel to get back home that it seems (at times) easier to stay and eat pods with the pigs than walk home to the Father. And when you are living "in a far country" it seems easier with each passing day that you spend there to forget that you have a Father at all. Or at least, to pretend to. Because I think Romans 1 is right: our denial comes not from lack of evidence or lack of awareness, but lack of obedience due to suppressing what we know to be true, deep down.
When I am in sin and enjoying it, I actually want there to be no God. Because no God means no judgment. And no judgment means I don't have to repent. Not now, not ever. But the funny thing is, God keeps making Himself known. The Spirit weighs on my heart, convicting me of my need to repent. The Son keeps on interceding for me. The Father keeps running to meet me when I come home. In contrast, sin never satisfies or brings the freedom that my flesh always promises it will; it always enslaves and makes me lonely and lost. And when the B-side of sin begins to play, then I am glad not only that there is a God, but that He is gracious and compassionate, willing to take me in, clean me up, and kill the fattened calf for me once more.
But oh, for a heart less prone to leaving home. How I long for the day when the Lord indeed "restores all things."