Solacetree

The Blessing of Losing Your Faith

Posted by:

The Blessing of Losing Your Faith

He contacted me after reading some of my work on depression, doubt, and anger at God. As we talked, he expressed affirmation of my rocky spiritual journey, because he battles with those things himself. My friend is a follower of Jesus, with a Christian website, and his writing is full of faith.

Then last week, a bomb arrived in my e-mail box.

Well, Joy, it’s been a couple of days since I told God to go fuck himself, and I still haven’t heard any reply. In fact, I’m seriously considering being an agnostic (I don’t have enough certainty to be an atheist). The funny thing is I’m actually more worried about losing all of my Christian friends than losing my faith!

A few days later, he wrote,

I don’t know, maybe I haven’t lost my faith in God Himself, but in evangelical Christianity. There’s so much emphasis on original sin that I feel like I can never measure up to God, no matter how many churches emphasize God’s grace.

Yes, I’m concerned for him, but he’s not in danger of going under. But maybe evangelical Christianity is when it comes to mercy for believers with faith panic attacks. John the Baptist’s failure of faith in prison would cause him to lose his license to preach in most churches I know, evangelical or not. We can get so focused on saving the lost that we forget to save the found.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” As in kindness and compassion. As in understanding even if you don’t understand. I haven’t heard any Christians criticize Jesus for saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But for believers to voice the same often results in distain and censure for doubting God. I don’t blame my friend one bit for being afraid to tell his friends about his spiritual crisis. He knows at least some of them will righteously reprimand him – what my husband calls try to “bitch-slap” him back into line – without a clue how they would feel if they found themselves in the same predicament .

I’ve been where my friend is many times, and do you know what I did? Kept my mouth shut around the faithful. That’s a tragedy. One time in my life when I wondered if I was even a Christian turned out to be a huge blessing for me in the end.

When I first met my husband, Bud, 13 years ago, his connection with God was through the practice of Native American spiritual traditions. God became real to him through their strict formalities of worship. I had made the mistake (I thought) of asking God to help me lay aside everything I knew about Him, so I could have a fresh encounter with Him. God honored that prayer by taking away all the meaning and comfort I found through liturgy, communion, and prayer. My spiritual connection with God and the church vanished, leaving me with nothing.

I was jealous as hell of Bud, who wasn’t even a Christian at the time, because the sacred traditional practices he followed gave him an intimate personal connection with the God who apparently had abandoned me. Where was my fresh encounter with God? I not only didn’t believe anymore, I couldn’t believe no matter how hard I tried. Who did I tell? No one but Bud, because he understood these things can come and go, unlike Christians who believe that if your faith is genuine, you never lose it. Apparently my faith wasn’t genuine. Maybe it never had been, and I had been deluding myself all along. Lovely, huh.

So how did I get from there to here? Wandering time in the wilderness, followed by an encounter with the kind of God I needed (who had been there all along). He/She assured me it was OK to doubt, be angry at God, and question if I even believed at all. Here’s the most radical thing of all: Jesus said to me, “It’s OK to wonder if you’re a Christian. I’m not sure I’m a Christian, either.” OK, now you can lynch me if you want, if you think I obviously didn’t hear that from Jesus, because he never would have said such nonsense.

I honor your opinion, but you weren’t there. I know what I experienced. What Jesus shared with me gave me permission to continue to having conversations with him, because I discovered that God’s mercy towards me wasn’t conditional on what I believed. God loves all of us just as we are. And because I personally experienced that, I can extend mercy to my friend, no matter what. I’ve also learned I don’t have to experience what someone else does to have compassion for their pain.

And neither do you, and neither does the church. “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” I need God’s mercy and long for that from the Body of Christ on a regular basis, and you might, and probably will, need it yourself someday.

 

Check out the other articles on the November Syncroblog:

32


About the Author:

I never have found a box that fits me, so I follow Jesus into the wild. My husband, Bud, and I are two life-long hippies, parents of four grown children, and live in Bartlett, TN, with six cats, two dogs, and no TV. I am a voracious reader and am passionate about prison ministry. I am also an advocate for middle-aged and senior women, and anyone who suffers from depression.

Discussion

  1. Travis Mamone  October 28, 2011

    Thank you.

    (reply)
    • Joy  October 28, 2011

      You’re welcome.

      (reply)
  2. Kerry Miller-Whalen  October 29, 2011

    Thank you, Joy. It is so refreshing to hear honestly about a journey that doesn’t necessarily “fit the box”.

    (reply)
    • Joy  October 29, 2011

      Glad to hear from you, Kerry. I wasn’t this publicly honest a year ago, but then I published a book with contents like this!

      (reply)
  3. Deanna Ogle  October 30, 2011

    Joy, what a great post. I really love when you said this:

    “I haven’t heard any Christians criticize Jesus for saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But for believers to voice the same often results in distain and censure for doubting God.”

    What an incredible point you made. Even Jesus doubted God in his darkest moments. Wow.

    Thank you for sharing. I love reading your writing!

    (reply)
  4. Joy  October 30, 2011

    I know Jesus must doubt us a lot!

    (reply)
  5. Sally Coleman  November 1, 2011

    excellent post, just what I needed to read. Thank you for sharing some of your journey.

    (reply)
    • Joy  November 2, 2011

      Thank you for your comment, Sally.

      (reply)
  6. darren sizemore  November 1, 2011

    I battle depression and struggle with faith myself. In many Christian circles I have been hearing that youre only forgiven if youre truly repentant. This is not the Gospel that I fell in love with and brought me to faith. I always heard “believe and recieve”. It was so simple, so childlike and now my mind is cluttered with doubt and confusion. I loved this post. Thank you.

    (reply)
    • Joy  November 2, 2011

      Darren, I battle with clinical depression and struggle with my faith, too. You might want to read my book, Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling With God. I am also a contributing author in Not Alone, a book written by people who suffer from depression so other people with depression will know they are not alone.

      In Uncensored Prayer, I assert that God wants us to wrestle with Him/Her about doubt, anger, fear, whatever life brings us. No topic, language, or feeling is unholy, because God is Truth and values truth from us. You’re in good company, Darren. I’m glad you came to my website. I write a lot of things like this.

      (reply)
  7. Katherine Gunn  November 2, 2011

    Joy, that sounds exactly like something Jesus would say. I have come to the place where I’m not sure how far our faith can really grow if we do not go through times of doubt times of wondering if we are just crazy.

    By the way, I posted late for the synchroblog – Where Is Your Heart?

    (reply)
    • Joy  November 2, 2011

      Katherine, I think there are so many examples of people who doubted in the Bible because God wants us to know it’s normal for us to have doubt in our spiritual journeys. God wants us to bring that doubt to Him or Her and wrestle through it.

      (reply)
  8. Dylan Morrison Author  November 2, 2011

    Joy ~ a great post and a reminder of the compassion and love of God for all, not on the basis of jumping through religious belief hoops but born out of the Divine Heart.

    I too have suffered from depression and have found that the dualism of intense evangelical Christianity may have actually made it worse. Healing truly belongs to the Spirit of Abba and not rigid religious traditions.

    You might like to read my story The Prodigal Prophet for the twists and turns of my Irish spiritual Journey.

    Blessings

    Dylan

    (reply)
    • Joy  November 4, 2011

      Dylan, thank you for your response. I believe God isn’t about religion, but relationship. Jesus was an active participant in Jewish religious practices. They had value for him, and he was fully Jewish. But his faith was in God, and his religious practices reflected rather than eclipsed that.

      The rituals of worship can have great meaning and offer solace and a sense of stability in an ever changing world. But without being centered in a personal relationship with Jesus, God isn’t interested in our bells and whistles.

      I’ll read your Prodigal Prophet story today.

      Joy

      (reply)
  9. Jeremy Myers  November 2, 2011

    It is shocking to hear someone say that Jesus might not want to be a Christian either, but I think you are right. I am not sure that He would identify Himself with much of what is associated with the word “Christian” today. Thanks for the post!

    (reply)
    • Joy  November 2, 2011

      Jeremy, most of the time, and definitely around people who I know aren’t Christians, I call myself a Jesus-follower, because the word “Christian” is defined so many ways, and for many people has a negative connotation. I have been marginalized by the Church too many times, and have come to realize that relationships with Jesus are very personal. Thank you for your comment.

      (reply)
  10. Eva  November 2, 2011

    This is wonderful. My faith journey at the moment is essentially one defined by doubt. It’s great to hear of ‘real’ believers experiences.

    (reply)
    • Joy  November 3, 2011

      Eva, my spiritual journey today is half faith/half doubt. I think that’s the way God designed our relationship to be. Without doubt, we don’t seek God. Without faith, we don’t stay with God. Check out my Partial Faith blog.

      (reply)
  11. Tammy Carter  November 3, 2011

    Great post, Joy! Thanks for being vulnerable and honest. I hate those seasons of feeling as if all prayer and effort are “hitting a ceiling” or you feel judgment and condemnation from those in different seasons. Too bad we can’t know what the end of the Wilderness holds going into it. God bless you for your faith…and doubt! 🙂

    (reply)
  12. Joy  November 4, 2011

    Tammy, we all have doubt. It’s just dangerous to admit that in some circles! To engage in wrestling with God about doubt, faith, anger, whatever, is the highest form of worship, for by coming in truth to God who is Truth, an intimate relationship is born that doesn’t need validation from anyone else. However, I have learned to be selective in who I tell what!

    (reply)
  13. Jesus lover  November 5, 2011

    Great blog post. I come from a background of atheism, skepticism, and hard-core unbelief, and seeing so many professing believers give me a list of “stuff to do” after becoming a believer certainly helps me understand why someone would become depressed at all the crap they see in evangelicalism and want to ditch it for something fuller, richer, and more authentic. It has been so refreshing to kick that to the curb and be freed up to live out the life of grace described in the New Testament.

    (reply)
    • Joy  November 5, 2011

      I agree with you, but still am grateful for some basics I learned as a kid in an evangelical church. God used that place to give me enough of an introduction to Jesus so that I recognized him when he showed up for me. Today I try to see where I’m similar to individuals, leave the things we differ on alone, and run like hell from anyone with rabies. Thank you for what you said. Only God’s grace sets me free.

      (reply)
  14. kathyescobar  November 11, 2011

    thanks for this, joy. sooooo beautiful and powerful.

    (reply)
    • Joy  November 11, 2011

      Thank you, Kathy

      (reply)
  15. Jen  November 17, 2011

    Joy, thank you for this post. I have just spent the past two years going through something very similar to what you’re describing. Probably the phrase most-uttered to God last year was “fuck you.” Or perhaps “I hate you.” And yet, he stayed. He said, it’s ok, I understand. He let me rage, despair, doubt and even turn my back on him. I’m a different woman now because I allowed myself to be radically honest with God. Many Christians don’t seem to understand–I certainly didn’t for a long time–that honest, God-directed doubt and anger are actually some of the truest expressions of faith that can be made. Anyway, it’s such a relief to know one is not alone in these experiences or feelings. Thank you.

    (reply)
    • Joy  November 17, 2011

      I didn’t learn to pray until I was truly honest with God, which started with screaming out of fear and pain. When we reach a place with God that we feel we have nothing left to lose, we have the opportunity to know that God is Truth Himself, and values truth from us. You would like my book, Uncensored Prayer: the Spiritual Practice of Wrestling With God. The whole book is on this topic. Honest prayer has radically changed my life, because through it I was able to really know God for the first time in my life. He/She is the only one we can’t offend or run off, even when we run off. Thanks for your comment, Jen.

      (reply)

Add a Comment