Listen: Naomi Reed chats to Laura Bennett.
When Naomi Reed set out to explore how people from other religious backgrounds come to faith Jesus, she discovered a common thread in all of their stories.
That common thread is the universal feeling of “I’m not good enough”.
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It was an intriguing, but perhaps not entirely surprising, discovery. Millions of people the world over, regardless of their religious or non-religious backgrounds, have experienced a sense of “not measuring up” to the standards of life, the world they live in, or the god they believe in. In many religious traditions there are those who feel they don’t meet their deity’s standards and have to work hard to qualify.
“She just got this sense that they know a God who she has never encountered.”
“Although people prior to knowing Jesus were sitting with lots of different questions and longings, almost everybody expressed some level of ‘they can’t be good enough’,” said Naomi. “For people from a variety of religious backgrounds including Islam and Buddhism and Hinduism, there’s a sense that they ‘can’t be good enough’ for a holy God…and ’how much good is good enough?’”
One such story Naomi has included in her latest book, Finding Faith, explores the journey of a girl from a Jewish background, who grew up in Austria. Two thirds of this young woman’s people had died in the holocaust. She had a view that God was impossible to please: harsh, exacting, a God for whom she could never be good enough.
“She went to volunteer with an aid agency in Uganda,” Naomi explains. “She had questions about suffering, so she wanted to do something about suffering. She meets a local pastor in Uganda who is also responding to suffering in a way she respects. He invites her to his church. There’s 800 people in this alive, vibrant church, responding to God, with lots of singing and praying, and surrounded by 800 people in a language that she didn’t understand, she just got this sense that they know a God who she has never encountered.”
The girl’s image of God was transformed.
Finding a God who Forgives
“She found a God who you can come to when you don’t have it all together, when you’re filled with questions and emptiness,” Naomi said.
It’s the kind of transformational story that’s repeated again and again in her book, Naomi hopes the stories will inspire believers all over again about the power of the gospel.
“We can be a little limited in our little worlds or churches and we forget that God is at work to the ends of the earth, drawing people to himself through his son, the Lord Jesus,” Naomi said. “So we need to be reminded of that.
As well as the common thread between stories, there was also incredible variety, says Naomi.
“God works in ways beyond what we can imagine, and sometimes in our humanness we try to box him into something more understandable,” she said, “but of course God is beyond that, he’s unfathomable in the way that he works in the world.”
Finding Faith is available at bookstores now.