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The Blessing of Losing Your Faith

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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:

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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.

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