Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Why I’ll Always Be A God Believer (about the day I was going to die)

What I’m about to tell you is the most personal, sacred story that I’ve ever told. I never imagined telling it publicly in front of thousands of people, but something in my spirit says that someone, somewhere, needs to hear this today.

Over the last few days we’ve been talking a lot about God, creation, evolution, and all sorts of interesting questions. Yesterday, one reader commented that they thought I was really an agnostic at heart, and that if I’d keep thinking critically, I’d probably abandon my faith and embrace life as an agnostic.

Today I’m going to tell you why, in a million years, that will never, ever, happen.

I believe in God for many reasons, but the most powerful of them all, is belief that stems from a personal experience– something quantifiable only to me, but is sufficient for me to promise you that you’ll never see a blog, article, or press report that Benjamin L. Corey has become anything other than a God believer.

Here’s why:

The God I grew up with wasn’t exactly a God you “experienced”. Instead of a warm and loving image of God, the version I had grown to know by the time I was in my teens, was a deity who looked more like a hybrid of an angry Tea Party member crossed with Jerry Falwell than it did the nonviolent lover of enemies I now know as Jesus of Nazareth. The God I knew was mostly defined by what he hated: earrings on guys, Mexicans, playing cards, drums and guitars in worship, people on welfare, United Methodists, all forms of dancing (except the form called “jumping for joy”), science teachers, lesbians, people with “coexist” bumper stickers, and Bill Clinton. Basically, my concept of god (small g) was an all powerful being who was pissed off and hated nearly everybody. Furthermore, I was also convinced that because of his tremendous love for us, he would never miss an opportunity to punish us, because “the Lord chastises those he loves”.

This angry, impossible to please image of God didn’t serve me well when life fell apart for me.

At 27 years old, I found myself in a dark corner of the universe. Health issues had resulted in a medical retirement from the military which had been my core identity for a decade. Financially, I went from making good money, to making less than enough to live, in just a matter of months. The stress of the transition and the depression that followed, quickly grew to become a fatal blow to my marriage. Before I knew it, I was broke, alone, divorcing, and about as clinically depressed as a person could get.

I wanted to die.

My sick and twisted concept of God, made the situation infinitely worse. I became utterly convinced that God was taking everything in my life away because of some sin I had committed… which one, I wasn’t sure (not that there weren’t plenty of options to chose from), but when you have an effed up concept of God, you have a tendency to view painful aspects of life as being directly from the hand of God.

And, if God is against you, what hope do you have?

I had none.

And so, the situation dwindled to the point that I had only one solution… I would take my life.

At first, I was shocked that I was seriously considering it. When I was 17, I suffered through a suicide in my immediate family, and the fact that I was making plans to end my life– thus putting everyone through this situation all over again– actually made me hate myself even more than I already did.

The more I considered it, the more the situation spiraled out of control… to the point that I had made up my mind to follow through.

While I don’t know what it feels like to spend your last day on death row, I do know what it is like to face the day I was scheduled to die. I loaded a bullet into the chamber of my Smith & Wesson handgun and began working up the courage to pull the trigger. I sat on the couch and wept, wishing there were a better answer. In an attempt to talk myself out of it, I turned on the television in hopes of finding some sort of religious program, which could potentially offer me hope. I landed on a program that was a panel discussion about God, and listened for a few minutes. One of the men on the panel was an agnostic, and said something that resonated with me. He said, “if there is a God, clearly he is not concerned with the affairs of man.”

Something deep inside me felt as if this were true, but I desperately wished that it were not. Certainly, if there was a God, he was completely unconcerned that my life was falling apart and that I was about to end my life.

Working up the courage to pull the trigger was hard for me. There were so many mixed emotions that I couldn’t explain, yet I so desperately wanted to follow through. However, something inside me kept getting in the way- so I decided I’d go to the store to grab something to drink and take the edge off, before coming home to finish the job once and for all.

To this day, I’m still surprised that I made it alive to that store. The whole way I wept and sobbed from the deepest parts inside me- so uncontrollably that I was barely able to see where I was driving. As I wept and tried to stay on the road, my inner being (I know of no other way to describe this) began to pray, and cry out to God. Through my tears, I began to pose a single question towards God:

Do you love me?

Over, and over again, I chanted this simple question…

Do you love me? Do you really love me?

“God, if you exist, and if you love me, I need to know RIGHT NOW.”

Like a sad and scared five-year-old fixated on repeating a single phrase, I must have asked “do you love me?” a hundred times as I drove those few miles.

I arrived at the store and hurried in, wearing a pair of aviator sunglasses so that no one would notice the obvious sings of crying so deeply.  A few moments later, I found myself mid-isle staring endlessly into space and barely able to function as time seemed to stand still. Somewhere in that span of time, a woman walked passed me and slipped a small piece of paper into my hands– I was so out of it, that I wasn’t even able to look at it– so I slid it into my right pocket, completed my purchase, and headed back home.

Upon returning home, I sat back down on my black couch amidst a dark and gloomy living room whose shades hadn’t welcomed daylight in weeks. I looked at the pistol staring back at me as if it wanted me to pick her back up and click the safety to “off”. I again began to sob as I looked around the room and saw how badly things had spiraled out of control… especially when I saw the bottle of sleeping pills beside me which I had been abusing for quite some time, taking a few in the morning to make me sleep all day and a few at night to ensure I was only a prisoner to my thoughts for the shortest amount of time possible. I was rarely “with it”, and when I was, that Smith & Wesson called to me like and old friend who was here to save me.

It was time.

With my jittery affect, I felt the rustle of receipts and change in my pocket which I emptied and placed on the hassock that doubled as a coffee table. I emptied keys, several coins, a crumpled up five-dollar bill, and a receipt, when I noticed an out-of-place square of paper; it was the paper the woman handed me in the store. Realizing it was not a coupon or advertisement (looked more like a fortune from a fortune cookie), which I had originally assumed, I opened it up with curiosity.  Upon unfolding it and reading the faded typewriter print, I felt a flush of power come over my body as I read the simple words printed on the paper:

“It is a FACT that God loves you.”

I don’t know how to explain what happened in that moment, but I can tell you this: when people talk about being “born again” I know when that happened to me.

In this moment, I crossed from death into life. I packed up my Smith & Wesson and stuffed it away with my old, unloving god, and exchanged it for life and a God who not only knows who I am, but actually loves me too.

I had lost that paper, but since recently finding it I now keep it in my childhood Bible. From now on when I vacillate between the loving God I have come to know as an adult, and the angry god of my youth, when I get hate mail from fundies telling me that God is angry with me and that I’m going to hell, or even when my atheist friends gently challenge my faith, I’ll be taking this out and reminding myself that there is a God, and he actually does love me.

Sure, maybe this was just a crazy coincidence, but even if it were, I don’t care. I know what this experience meant to me and no one will ever be able to take that away.

I am a God believer, and I believe that he actually knows who I am and loves me.

And, more importantly, I believe he feels the same way about you.

If you’re struggling with your mental image of God, if you’re feeling isolated from him, or like he doesn’t care about what’s happening in your life, can I just remind you of something?

It’s a fact that God loves you.

Yes, you.

I’m sorry that others have told you that he is distant and angry, but I need to tell you something different: he’s actually the ultimate expression of love.

He loves you.

He always has and always will, love you.

So please– don’t give up on God, because I believe he’s better than we ever imagined. And, don’t give up on yourself– if you’re depressed or suicidal, PLEASE get help right now by calling 1-800-273-8255, or by reaching out to someone in your life– don’t risk another moment, get help now.

I believe we can all experience a re-birth… one that as Jesus said is an experience that comes in like the wind, and is utterly unexplainable.

Rebirth happened for me, and I believe it can happen for you.

Because, I believe it’s a fact that God loves you.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

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38 Responses

  1. This is a wonderful and, literally, life-saving story. Thank God.. However, as commented, many cry out but receive no reply or sense of a loving Presence. I too in the past was suicidal – once through utter pain and despair and once through numbness. The last time – a few years ago – I lay on my bed and said to God that suicide was the best option but, if sinful, I would be damned to Hell as I would have no time to repent. I felt angry at the impossible dilemma. At that moment, a point of Light appeared in my mind’s eye and I knew that God/Higher Power had heard and acknowledged me and that was enough to stop the suicidal tendency. Previous to that, I had been “born again” and received the Light. In the last year, I have investigated – for several hours and on most days – the origins of Christianity and have “deconverted” due to the lack of evidence, difficulty in locating the historical Christ, widespread early Christian forgery, inability to understand or agree with a “fall of Adam” due to evolutionary findings and many other reasons. However, I still speak to this mysterious God and still feel held by a vast sea of Being and Light. It is all ultimately a mystery and not all receive this sense of resting in the Ground of our Being. It may even depend on biochemistry, as mystical experiences have been duplicated in the laboratory using scientific means e.g. DMT. So, I now rest in silence and a Cloud of Unknowing. May all readers enjoy their journey. God Bless.

  2. Firstly, I am glad you didn’t kill yourself and got the answer you needed. But for thousands of other people, including myself, we didn’t get a magic, coincidental piece of paper when we wanted to kill ourselves. (For someone who lives in a very Evangelical Country it’s not even that coincidental)
    For myself, I cried out to god daily and begged him to show me a sign of his existence. Nothing.
    I am glad I didn’t have to rely on a sign from an absent god, and instead explored other avenues (mostly science) to battle my depression. Why did he want you to live but not me?
    Instead, I had to find my own value in life. I appreciate life, not because some God loves me (and has a funny way of showing it) but because it’s all I have and I know I am a worthwhile person.

  3. I’ll say this: if that was a coincidence its the type of coincidence to build your life around. Wonderful story Ben.

  4. Thank you so much for writing this, and for doing what you do in general. I recently subscribed to ‘Formerly Fundie’ through a link that was connected to an article I read on Facebook. My wife and I have been struggling to emerge from the ashes of a devastating experience with a fundamentalist cult in our late teens/early twenties, and I am always on the lookout for resources that may be able to help me ‘untie the knot,’ as it were. I couldn’t stop cryiing as I read this article, and I can’t really stop now as I write this. I know exactly what you mean when you describe your life spiraling out of control and the certainty that it is all a part of some sort of divine retribution for your failue(s) to obey God in some way that you could never quite define or understand (or, some days, in a thousand ways that you knew each and every agonizing detail of, and simply couldn’t bear to think about.) A lot of the time it feels to me like there’s no one else out there who…I mean, you get the picture. In any event, thank you. I look forward to reading more from you.

  5. Incredible and powerful story, Ben. Thank you for making yourself so open and vulnerable. I have struggled with suicide since I was a teenager for various reasons, but for the past 19 years it has been because of an embarrassing, chronic disorder I have. Twice I have hospitalized myself for getting that close to taking my life. The first year my strange disorder came about, my mother told me, “God will use this to help you reach other women with this disorder.” Her statement infuriated me, because at the time, all the doctors I had seen had NEVER heard of my disorder, and they were (as I was) convinced I was the only woman in the world with it. I had the disorder for 7 years before my husband went to get his hair cut, and there at the barber’s he “happened upon” an open magazine article describing my condition. I have since been on 20/20, The Doctors, and in magazine articles getting the word out to women who are suffering in silence with the same condition. So my mom was right, after all. I have heard from and met many women who have thanked me for going public, because they also thought they were alone.
    Then in 2007, my father, who had suffered 3 months with severe nerve pain, shot himself in my front yard on the same night I had driven him back from the Mayo clinic. My dad was the one God used to direct me back to Him when I was 18. I was 34 when we woke to the sound of the shotgun. Since he was like a spiritual mentor, his act has not aided me in times when my own nerve disorder is at it’s worst.
    However, I can attest that God, our loving, faithful God, has been the One, True Constant –the only reason I am still here and continue carry on –even if some days it is more like dragging through. He simply won’t let me alone. His Love for me is there even when I am weeping and cursing at Him. I do not pretend to understand why He allows suffering, and some days He gets an earful or a cold shoulder, but I know I cannot make it without Him: the big, loving jerk.

    1. Wow, Heather– thanks so much for sharing some of your story. I’m so sorry for all the pain you have suffered; I admire that you press on and that you’ve found your own platform to reach out to others in suffering.

      Peace be with you.

  6. This was very powerful and heartfelt. I’m so glad something reached out to you. I’ve looked down the barrel of a pistol once, and it’s an ugly sight.

    For me, though,your experience is what I call, in my own life, an “un-exportable commodity,” I can read about your experience, but I can’t share the feelings. I can only try to understand them secondhand, but that’s a shadow at best. It can’t be truly exported to another.

    I’ve also had experiences that no one can share. They’re very important to me, but I can’t hope to explain them in a way someone else would make sense of. So I don’t try. I doubt I could do as well as you did, anyway.

  7. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been through such dark times. I know what it’s like to suffer from depression; I also tried to kill myself. In my case it was the support of my family that helped me through. To me your story illustrates the power that human beings have to help each other. The woman must have sensed from your body language that you were in distress and she reached out in the only way she knew how. To me, that is a beautiful thing.

    I hope you won’t mind if I leave this link here:
    It’s a link to services in Britain for anyone who might be thinking about commiting suicide. Someone out there might need it.

  8. Anecdotal evidence is the only believable testimony/proof. You have no reason to invent this story. Most everything else is “preaching to the choir.”

  9. Thank you for sharing this, Ben. One thing that is so important in this story is that that woman in the store ALSO had to listen to and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit that led her to put that piece of paper in her hand. What a tremendous gift for both of you–and I hope that somehow that woman reads this story and recognizes herself in it. It may be the very encouragement she needs to keep trusting God.

  10. This by far is my favorite post you’ve written. Thank you for sharing so deeply. As a child I was taught God had a big book with my name in it. At the end of each day God would put a giant X for every sin and a checkmark for every time I was good. If I did all the X and checkmark would be added up and punishment would be swift. That whole thing was a lie straight from the pit of he’ll. I weep for those who have such a distorted view of God. He is everything my earthly father was not. God rescued me from a life destined for mediocrity and breathed life into my soul. I am forever grateful.
    Your covered sister

    1. What does one do I was brought up he same way unfortunately my earthly father still keeps the scores and I am 65 years old my dad is a good Christian catholic some days I find it hard that God loves me unconditionally yet my dad does not necessarily so. Yes am still a Catholic who feels unworthy ,

      1. Irena, you were bought with a price by your heavenly Father. It only matters what God thinks. As a dear friend once told me, we all play to an audience of ONE and ONE ONLY. Rest on that promise today sweet sister.
        blessings, your covered sister

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this Ben. The skeptic in all of us can always say “these types of events are just coincidences”, and maybe there is nothing greater behind them. But no matter how many proofs someone might throw out there regarding the existence/non-existence of God, and no matter how agnostic I might feel at any particular moment , I cannot shake the idea that there is something miraculous at work in our lives.

  12. very powerful story, and I commend you on your ability to express it openly. I just recently started following you on FB and reading that, I am more glad than ever that I did.

  13. Benjamin, I’ll be posting this here instead of the Facebook page, but I want to tell you that the similarity of our stories – and other stories of people that I am close to – tells me that there is SOMETHING GOING ON that our rational minds cannot comprehend.

    I was raised in so much the same manner as what you’ve described. I have struggled for years to find the God that loves, instead of the god that just hates. I was in my 8th year as an Army medic when I made the firm decision to take my life. Outwardly, no one could tell that I was experiencing so much inner turmoil, so many bad memories, so much grief and rage that I could not take it anymore. I own no guns, and I refused to take pills (too high a chance of survival), so I decided to do a high-speed, head-on collision with a tree or utility pole – it looks like an accident, my wife gets life insurance payouts, and I get to stop hurting.

    It happened that the utility pole I chose to wrap my Prius around was directly in front of a church that I passed every day to work. I can’t tell you if there was something on the sign board that day that moved me, or if it was just the presence of the Cross and the Flame above the UMC designation, but something hit me and I just heard a quiet voice say, “Don’t.” So, I slowed back to the speed limit, and with the help of a very good 1SG and CO I checked myself in for treatment.

    That was June 5th, 2012. I’m now a member of that little United Methodist Church, and I’ve been happily, medically retired from the Army for a while. I’m starting my journey into full-time ministry. I can explain that quiet voice by pointing to psychology, survival instinct… and maybe it was those things. But, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t also the voice of God, beginning to tell me that I am loved and valuable and needed. And that’s why, no matter how many times I question or doubt, no matter how many times I start to walk away to follow a less challenging path, I know that I’ll always pick my cross back up. Love you, Brother. Thank you for sharing this.

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