The Trouble With Faith
I'm struggling with my faith lately and I don't really know what to do with it. It's hard to voice your doubts and not receive a simplistic Christian-capped answer. It's hard to find people who will let you doubt without simplifying or demeaning your struggles. The older I get, the more complicated my relationship with Jesus gets. And the more hurt that comes into my life, the harder it is for me to understand God's sovereignty. And so I doubt. I doubt openly, but internally, it goes much deeper than I've ever felt safe expressing. But without expression, doubt becomes anger and anger becomes bitterness and that's not something I want in my life.
The problem is that in Christianity, we're supposed to hold our doubts in one hand and our faith in the other. There's this idea that one will cancel out the other. If you have faith, you don't doubt. If you doubt, you don't have faith. But without doubt, faith can't be realized and without faith, our doubts would become beliefs. What if we just clapped our hands and mushed our doubts and our faith together? I don't know how to separate them anymore.
My entire life, I've been a black and white person. I saw the world simply and expected everyone to see things the way I did. I spoke with authority on matters I never experienced and cast judgment on people whose life experiences didn't even remotely resemble mine. The world used to be so simple to me, but the past four years have changed all of that. Struggle, pain, abandonment, rejection, betrayal, loss, having friends that don't look like me or think like me... those things will irreversibly change your perspective. Suffering draws you closer to Jesus, but it also renders your simplistic theology irrelevant.
It would be easy for me to speak and try to believe things like "All things work together for good" and "For I know the plans I have for you." But deep down, past the exterior and outer layers of my heart that trust blindly and completely, I have serious reservations that those things are true all of the time. And that's not for lack of faith that God can and will, it's just ... God can't be put in a box and our understanding of scripture is minimal and contextual and sometimes I wonder if we even understand anything about God at all. I get really uncomfortable when someone thinks they have God figured out. I don't need a God that humans can understand. But at the same time ... right now ... God just feels too big.
He feels too big to see me. He feels too big to care. He feels too big to be concerned about my fragile, vulnerable, broken spirit. But don't get me wrong, I'm not walking away from my faith. In fact, for the first time in my life, I feel like I'm walking into it. Up until this point, my faith was sourced in textbooks and heritage and spiritual experiences. Now my faith is being rooted in my suffering. Suffering that was undeserved and cruelly placed on me. I have so many questions, and if I'm being totally honest, I'm wrestling with anger as well. And this is where belief comes in. Belief and faith are parallel, but they are not the same. I believe that God is good. I believe that he is for me. I believe that he will work all things together for good. And that has to be enough for now because my faith is being worked out in the deepest parts of my heart and my doubts are an important part of the process. I won't run from them or hide them or pretend that they're not there. They're there. But they don't negate the confidence I have in him. I stacked all my chips on His word and I'm trusting that one day I'll understand why things happen the way they do.
In the meantime, I'll wrestle and continue to be totally transparent in my prayers, in my writing, and in my conversations. A few months ago, I sat down across from my former pastor's wife, and she said to me, "Sometimes these situations can stifle the thing that God gifted you in. What do you feel is your God-given strength?" I started crying (which should tell you something because I never cry in front of people) and I said, "My vulnerability. I've always found it easy to be open, but I don't think I can ever be that person again. This hurts too much." And it still hurts too much. But our vulnerability is what makes us human and what makes this journey we're on a little less lonely. So this is me with open hands and an open heart telling you that I'm really struggling with Jesus right now. It's healthy and productive and I struggle and wrestle and question with hope and ... I'm healing. Slowly, in a one step forward, two steps backwards kind of way, but it's happening.
And I know the end of this story will be the beginning of something beautiful.