What I do talk about again and again is one particularly depressing day I had as an atheist when I spun around to see if there was anything else out there—and seemed to slam straight into a God bent on giving me all sorts of incredible and unexpected things.

I recently was reminded about a Hebrew word—hesed—that, when applied to God, gets translated as “mercy” or “kindness” and tells us two things: (1) God will keep his end of the deal, and (2) God will blow us away with shocking acts of kindness, love, and power when we least expect them. My friends and I tell stories along these lines quite a bit.

I’ve got a lot of problems, trivial and otherwise, as I’ll talk about soon enough. So on the mundane side, I used to be thinner than I am now, which feels discouraging. And then there was the day when my baby daughter went from being this vibrant little girl to being—as I was told by the cardiologist who checked her in—maybe the sickest child in a hospital where people bring the sickest kids from all over the world.

And you’ve probably noticed that the world has a lot of problems. I’ve spent time in Lebanon, and I have a few friends there. As I write this, Lebanon is being bombed into rubble, and I’m getting e-mails each day about my friends’ harrowing attempts to get out of the country alive. You’ve noticed similarly wrenching items in your morning paper. In the face of problems like this, perhaps the only appropriate response would be a permanently ­furrowed brow, as if God himself must live a righteously grim life.

And yet there are very few times when, as I’m lying down for the night, I don’t think about what’s happened to me and shake my head in wonder. How I got to this point has felt like one strange journey.

From Not the Religious Type.  Copyright © 2008 by Dave Schmelzer.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.