Menu Close

Tag: Prepare to Mett God

Is Life a Test?

It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Revelation 20:12)

Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. (Amos 4:12)

From my earliest days in Evangelicalism in the 1960s, until I deconverted in 2008, a common theme I heard from the pulpit and later preached myself as a pastor, is that life is transitory; an almost imperceptible blip on the radar of eternity. Life is the time given to us by God to prepare to meet him in eternity. Everything we do and experience in this life is secondary to meeting God face-to-face. God steps into human existence to test, try, and correct Christians. Why? To prepare them to experience the eternal, everlasting presence of God after death. Everything in this life — the pain, suffering, heartache, and loss — are preparatory, minor inconveniences, that when endured, lead to life everlasting.

Jesus told his disciples in Mark 13:13: And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. James said in James 1:12: Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3: Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Much like Jesus endured suffering in his thirty-three years of life, his followers are to do the same. And if Christians patiently endure suffering, there awaits eternal reward for them — mansions, streets of pure gold, and McDonald’s on every corner — after death.

This type of thinking permeated most of my life, from my teen years until the age of fifty. I have experienced a lot of trauma and upheaval in my life; things no child should have to experience. Yet, I survived. Why? No matter what came my way, I stoically embraced it as God preparing me for the life to come. All the pain, suffering, heartache, and loss were minor inconveniences when compared to what awaited me in glory. This life was offloaded to the life to come. It mattered not what happened. Heaven awaited me the moment I drew my last breath.

Of course, I have no idea whether what I had been taught and what I later, as a pastor for twenty-five years, taught others was true. There’s no evidence that any of this is true other than the Bible says it is. By faith, I endured hardness as a good soldier, believing that no matter what I experienced and endured in life, there would be a divine payoff in the end. Jesus said in the Gospels, that if Bruce endures to the end, he will be saved. This explains why I stoically, resolutely, dare I say passively accepted whatever came my way in life.

This was my life and way of thinking for almost five decades. And then, after more pain, suffering, and deep reflection, I came to understand that I had been sold a lie; that there was no evidence for the existence of God; no evidence for Heaven; no evidence for an afterlife; that all any of us has is this present life, and death is the period on the end of our lives.

For a long time, I was angry about how “preparing to meet God” thinking had made me passive not only about my own life, but that of my partner, Polly, and our six children. This doesn’t mean I was passive when it came to the work of the ministry, studying the Bible, praying, and evangelizing the lost. I was on fire for Jesus! Why? Because these things “mattered.” They prepared me for what awaited me after death; my commitment, zeal, and passion showed God, the church, and the world what really mattered to me.

Today, I am an atheist and a humanist. I am convinced that this life is the only one I will ever have, and the moment I die — that’s it. End of story, other than the stories told by those who knew me and live on.

Yesterday was my sixty-seventh birthday. I wish there were do-overs in life, but there are not. We get one crack at life. I can’t undo the past. I can’t fix the harm caused by the church; the harm I caused to not only myself, but to others — all water under and over the proverbial bridge. What I can do is live as if this is the only life I have; as if life is short and then I die; as if there is no promise of tomorrow, so I must live for today.

My counselor has expressed concern that I am pushing myself too hard; not pacing myself, conserving my strength for another day. She knows I’m sick, my body racked with unrelenting, pervasive pain. She also knows that I am headed for a permanent seat in a wheelchair (or worse) if nothing can be done about my spine. (I see a neurosurgeon on Tuesday.) While my therapist encourages me to embrace life, she also cautions me to not overdo it. The thing is, I don’t know if I am overdoing it until I do “it.” 🙂

People often say “we only live once.” No, actually, “we only die once.” And this is what drives me to continue to embrace life as it is; to do as much as I can on any given day, not because I am preparing for eternity, but because I intimately know and feel in my bones that I am on the short side of life; that all too soon I will be dead.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser