Written by Jocelyn Gamble / October 2017
This is an article for anyone and everyone who has found Christianity to be a struggle. This article is for the ones who doubt, who are slipping away, who wonder if there is something more than this. If this is not you, stop reading. There’s no need to go looking for question marks where God has already placed periods.
If all of you are still reading, I am not surprised. We have all doubted, lost our footing in faith, and questioned in a way that we aren’t exactly supposed to. Of course we have. We are sinful, and we can’t help ourselves.
I was infected with doubt at a young age, itching with it by middle school. These days I look back and think, I should not have been confirmed. At the time, it wasn’t my beliefs I was declaring, just the ones I’d been raised with.
By high school, I was constantly uncomfortable with this doubt. Is a man who died thousands years ago really my Savior? Is the triune God real? If this is all true, why is it so hard to be sure of all the time? I was not affected in the sense that I quit going to church and claimed to be agnostic, but in the sense that church made me sick. Week after week I found myself slipping out of the sanctuary early into the sermon, clamping my mouth shut during creeds. I couldn’t stand to be in there, surrounded by people who could stomach Christianity. I dreaded Communion, monthly dragging my feet up to the altar while mentally screaming, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” all the way. And I couldn’t just skip Communion, because people would ask me about it. And if people asked me about it, I might actually have to tell someone what was going on. The one thing that scared me more than hypocrisy was total and undisclosed honesty.
This went on for years and years. Now, do not let this scare you. God has a different plan for each one of us and my story is not yours. But it scarred me and built me into the Christian I am today, and I don’t regret an instant of it. When my doubt would be to the point of feeling unbearable, I would ask God: why are You letting me suffer? What is the point? I asked Him why I had to wait to so long to find peace. Looking back, especially in the words of my favorite author C.S. Lewis, I have my answer: “I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.” There are countless ways a person’s spiritual health can suffer. Many struggle with doubt, put faith on cruise-control and coast through life, or repeatedly choose a sin over God. My struggle hadn’t exactly been public, but I had a bit of a reputation in high school for giving religion teachers a hard time, and it wasn’t because I enjoyed being a brat. Most of the time.
God is a Friend who laid down His life for you and for me. God is your King who rose from the dead to conquer your enemies.
Anyways, the people that caught glimpses of my spiritual turmoil rarely seemed surprised. I had the nerve to show what a mess I was but not the humility to ask for help. One of the countless times I left a church service during the sermon, I found a fellow student hiding out in the narthex in a painfully familiar position. I sat next to them, and they said something along the lines of “How do you do this?” I didn’t have an answer for them. I still don’t, really. There is not a manual, not a short-answer how-to for Christianity and its obstacles. As far as I know, you just wake up every morning and place yourself in God’s hands.
God is a Father, but He does not tuck you in at night. God is a Friend, but He is not going to eat Ben and Jerry’s with you when you get dumped. God is your King, but He is not going to parade through the streets daily draped in gold. God is a Friend who laid down His life for you and for me. God is your King who rose from the dead to conquer your enemies.
In my opinion, the reason our generation struggles so much with Christianity is because we put so much value into how we feel and what we see. But. Christianity is not about these things. Faith absolutely cannot rely on feeling, or it will fluctuate with your moods, with your experiences, and with time. Faith, however, can rely on the Word of God. Romans 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
We should all know by now we cannot rely on what we see. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
I tried for a while to keep up with the friend from the narthex. The last time I summoned the courage to ask where they were with it all, they responded with something along the lines of, “I need to find God my own way.” They told me going to church and the CLC life has not been enough. My first reaction to that answer was frustration. I think when people say things along those lines, they’re really saying, “I’m just waiting for God to find me” or “I’m taking a break from church so that I can miss it” or “I do want to be a good and godly Christian, just not yet.” I’m no expert, but I guarantee if you sit on your butt waiting for peace to find you, you will absolutely never find peace. We are inconsistent creatures, distracting ourselves with personal relationships and aspirations and everything easy before everything important.
We are all lost in different places. I will never be able to look into the heart of another. I will likely never tell someone struggling with their faith exactly what they need to hear. There are oceans of misunderstanding between even Christians, and infinite ways we can drift away from the only thing that really matters. It’s not easy, but it matters, more than anything.
I do not have all the answers. I am not a pastor or teacher. Yet I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two on this long and twisted road I’ve been walking. I have learned to trust in God’s plan even when I hate it. I can only pray you learn the same. I stumble on, day after day, prayer after prayer, a Christian even in the dark, faithful, even when I cannot see.
2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”