Losing Faith? 3 Reminders for When Doubt Strikes
True faith is not measured by its lack of struggle. It’s measured by its endurance in the midst of struggle.
Just look at the so-called “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11. The writer of Hebrews highlights key moments in the lives of many “heroes” of the Bible, but if you look at the rest of their lives, you see that chapter would be more aptly titled the “Hall of Embattled Faith.”
It is no different for us. In a fallen world, doubt is a normal part of faith. At times, it seems that there are so many good reasons to be a Christian and, at other times, that there are so many good reasons to throw it all away.
Crises find us that can leave our faith bruised or altogether shattered. And we don’t know what form these will take.
A crisis of faith doesn’t always come with the crash and clamor of a Dark Night of the Soul. Sometimes, things slowly start to feel less real, and you don’t know why.
Perhaps you are reading this because you sense something changing within yourself that you don’t quite understand.
You don’t want to lose the things that have been meaningful about Christianity, but you can’t quite see how you can keep them and retain your integrity. Or perhaps someone you love has drifted away from their faith, and you worry for them. You have tried to talk to them, but it doesn’t seem to help. You feel unsure of how (or whether) the forces behind their drift away from Christianity can be countered.
There is hope. Christianity has an immense number of resources for those whose faith is, like the heroes of the Hebrews 11, embattled.
To start, these three truths can help shift your perspective in a crisis of faith.
1. Struggle is Normal
If the doctrine of the Fall is true, then we shouldn’t be surprised that as a normal Christian experiences life, he or she will also experience doubt and struggle.
It is normal to encounter questions for which you have no answers. It is normal for your feelings of faith (and faithfulness) to have seasons where it ebbs and flows. It is normal to feel that you are taking three steps forward and two steps back in your path to Christian maturity.
That is the path to Christian maturity. And the good news is that God is the one who is responsible for helping us walk further along it.
I would give you advice from the poet Rilke, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart.”
Rilke goes on:
“Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them… Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
2. Struggle Strengthens Us
Faith that bears no dents and gouges from life in a fallen world may not be strong. It may only be difficult to scratch because it is hard and brittle, like glass.
Strong faith has more in common with strong trees. It’s always growing, but it also bends under the world’s winds and weather. The branches sag and sometimes snap, but the tree abides.
So our crises can become the ways we grow. After all, the only way to learn to endure is by enduring. That is the trouble with growing up—it requires so much of us, but it’s the only way forward.
3. Struggle Reveals God's Power and Grace
In 2 Corinthians, Paul, one of those embattled heroes of the faith, begs God to take away the “thorn in his flesh”. He calls the thorn “a messenger from Satan” but gives no more details as to what it is.
God refuses to take away the thorn, saying only, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.”
That was a counter-cultural message in Roman times, and it remains so in our success-obsessed era as well.
We are prone to measure ourselves by our obvious strengths, not by the ways God’s power is on display in our constant and continuous need for his grace in our weakness.
We want our faith to be a victory march from stronghold to stronghold (who wouldn’t?). But it seems God has not designed reality that way, nor is it his intention for his Church to be without struggle.
We flatter ourselves in our expectation that we would be able to stand up alone and unfaltering. But God wants a church that leans heavily upon him in times of crisis and of calm.
Can a Crisis of Faith be a Gift from God?
If you’re in the midst of a crisis of faith, I want to humbly lay a few questions in your hands for you to consider.
Is there an opportunity in the struggle you may be experiencing now?
Could God be gently reminding you, in the midst of your busy, self-sufficient modern life, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness.”?
Could, in time, even this struggle become a difficult, unwanted, but desperately needed gift?
I encourage you to take time with these questions before God, inviting him to reveal that light he has for you even in your darkest moments.
Andy Patton writes at The Darkling Psalter and is the co-editor of Three Things Newsletter. He holds an M.A. in theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and formerly worked at the English L'Abri.
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