Stephen Colbert Was an Atheist, Then His Heart Turned

Neil Grabowsky/ Montclair Film

If you’re a fan of Stephen Colbert, you probably know he’s a strong man of faith. What you may not know is that there was a time when he was convinced of his own atheism after losing confidence in God.

“The Late Show” host isn’t uncomfortable talking about his Catholic faith. He grew up in the Catholic Church. While he was taught to respect the church, he was never afraid to challenge and question church doctrine which may come as no surprise given he is one who challenges things that don’t make sense.

In a recent conversation on the talk show “Faith in Focus,” Colbert shared that there was a time when his faith was weak.

He shared how he struggled with doubt in his younger years. He said to the show’s host, Rev. James Martin who is also a Jesuit priest and editor at large at the Catholic magazine America that he was “convinced of my own atheism” in his early 20s.

“I had lost my faith in God, to my own great grief,” Colbert said. “I was sort of convinced that I had been wrong all this time, that I had been taught something that wasn’t true.”

Then something happened that changed everything.

Following graduating from Northwestern University in 1986, Colbert joined a comedy troupe. At the time he was 22. One cold night, he was walking through the streets of Chicago when a stranger handed him a pocket Bible. In it, there were Scriptures including the books of Psalms and Proverbs.

What stands out in his memory is that the pages were frozen stiff, so hard that he had to crack the book open. In the pocket Bible was an index listing verses to read based on the emotions someone might be experiencing.

He was feeling anxious at the time, so he turned to the Bible verses associated with anxiety.

This particular passage was on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? … Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25)

He felt those words were speaking to him directly. Immediately after reading them, he felt lightened, Colbert shared.

“I stood on the street corner in the cold and read the sermon,” he said. “And my life has never been the same.”

Now he tries to carry a copy of the Bible with him wherever he goes.

In a GQ interview, he reflected on tragedies in his life and explained how his faith shapes his outlook, saying, “I am here to know God, love God and serve God.” Can you believe he also teaches Sunday School?

Continue here.

UNEXPECTED REDIRECTION

Solitude and silence are the most radical of the spiritual disciplines because they most directly attack the sources of human misery and wrongdoing.  To be in solitude is to choose to do nothing.  For extensive periods of time.  All accomplishment is given up.  Silence is required to complete solitude, for until we enter quietness, the world still lays hold of us.  When we go into solitude and silence we stop making demands on God.  It is enough that God is God and we are his.  We learn we have a soul, that God is here, that this world is “my Father’s world.

– Dallas Willard (from the intro to Invitation to Solitude & Silence by Ruth Haley Barton)

Posted by Bill Taber | Feb 18, 2020

“THE MYSTERY OF GOD”

Seeking God through solitude and silence seems to have ushered me into a place of encountering the Mystery of God—a place where I lay out the issues of my heart to God alone and become vulnerable to him for whatever happens next.  Whatever happens next may not be what I wanted or expected, but with hindsight over time I begin to see that, indeed, “all things have been working out for my good” (Romans 8:28).  Making time to reflect in the presence of God has allowed me to see that God has been more interested in me and the development of my heart than in “magically” responding to my list of wishes and wants.  There have been times when he has surprised me by throwing my agenda out the window and turning me in an entirely new direction altogether.

SEEKING GOD THROUGH SOLITUDE AND SILENCE SEEMS TO HAVE USHERED ME INTO A PLACE OF ENCOUNTERING THE MYSTERY OF GOD.

This type of unexpected redirection happened on a weeklong personal retreat a couple of months after my divorce in 2012.  My work background is as an accountant, and after divorcing I resigned from my job at the time, intending to take several months off to begin putting my life back together and applying for another accounting position.  As a hobby, I had already developed an enjoyment of noticing the wonderful variety of wildflowers while hiking in the woods.  A couple of days into this retreat I was looking through a wildflower book I had purchased, when suddenly I “heard” the voice of the Lord as clearly as I ever had, saying: “You’re looking at it!”  I was quite stunned and had no idea what this meant, nor that a process of nurturing and building my heart anew was about to begin.

“NURTURE IN NATURE”

With the encouragement and support of my first Battle teammates, I embarked on a journey to become a volunteer naturalist and see where it would take me.  Awe and wonder flooded my heart as I studied and engaged in work projects out in nature.  In the end, this was not about becoming a naturalist—it was about experiencing the love of God in my heart like never before.  It was as if all of my senses came alive!

Day after day for two years, as I headed out to work at a nature park or a municipal park, or into the woods to hike alone, I entered into a sense of freedom and spaciousness.  The trees, streams, rocks, birds, wild turkey, deer, chipmunks, snakes, sunrises and sunsets, etc., all became my companions in adventure—and especially wildflowers.  I took my camera with macro setting and photographed every wildflower I saw. I would spend hours magnifying them on my computer, with unceasing amazement at the intricate beauty displayed, hidden from the unaided eye.  What a beautiful world!  What an awesome God!  As season moved into next season, I was thrilled to find new wildflowers to photograph, almost daily. When not on work projects or at seminars or attending naturalist classes, I was alone in the woods with God.

I maintained a constant awareness of him, discussing my experiences with him, growing in my love for him.  And the deep gratitude I felt!  When guilt would creep in to rob me of all this, he was quick to knock it down.  This was for me.  I needed it more than I could understand.  I was being changed.  I was being nurtured.  I was being loved.

Slowly, things like trust and rest and peace began showing up more in my inner self.  I began paying less attention to things that drive me, and more attention to those that draw me. And it began after my life had been drastically altered by divorce, propelling me to take “time away” in order to simply be with the Lord in solitude and silence.

If something I’ve written has caught your attention, what might your own life experience be saying to you?  Has the path you’re on taken you to an unexpected dead end, as you stand looking over at an alternative that somehow tugs at your heart, though it’s uncertain where it will lead you?  Is that “tug”—an undeniable spark of life—greater than the fear that accompanies it?  What will you choose?  Suppress the desire?  Or explore it with God and see if it holds an invitation from him to become more of who he uniquely made you to be?  Ask him if taking some extensive time away to lay out the issues of your heart before him is what He has in mind for you—for whatever comes next!

God’s basic will for your life is not what you do or where you live or whether you marry or how much you make—it’s who you become.

– John Ortberg, from All the Places to Go

Posted at The Wellspring Group

Word of God

The Word of God, the Bible–Old and New Testaments. It is what we have of God. Actually we have more than the Word but I am just focusing on the Word of God right now.

We are so blessed these days to have devices to deliver to us the Word of God and other tools to help us understand the Word of God more clearly and more accurately. I use as many of them as I want to read and study the Word of God–laptop, Kindle, cell phone and more if I have them. Sometimes, however, I want to hold the Word of God.

Yes, in ancient times the Word was temporarily held in the minds of men and spoken to others. However, God’s design is that His Word be retained in written form. This insures His message as He gave it originally is retained.

I still love holding the Word of God in my hand and reading from the physical copy. I desired that today and it was satisfying. The written Word allows us to notate much more easily in my view and when I retrace I am reminded and I remember what I have been taught by Him in the past.

That is His Big objective — that we remember Him, His truth, His leading us through all of life. Our souls need Him–we need to remember His truths and His work in us. Thus we grow and mature and become more conformed in Christlikeness.

Read the Word of God today! Through the Word we are changed in the ways that pleases our Lord Jesus.