The Hopeless Believer

I am a hopeless believer. That’s breaking news for me. I just discovered it last night. By “hopeless believer” I do not mean that I am without hope. I mean that I am without “hope” of ever becoming anything but a believer. Just as some atheists reach a point where they say, “I wish I could believe, but I cannot — for better or for worse, I am an atheist,” I have reached that point about believing.

I am a hopeless believer. I have days where I wish I could stop believing, but I cannot. For better or for worse, I am a theist – a believer to the core of my being.

Some are hopeless romantics. I am not. But I am a hopeless believer.

I know what I’m saying when I say I’m a hopeless believer. I have spent parts of the last few months trying NOT to believe. I can imagine some in my congregation would read that and find it disturbing. But we should really be who we are, shouldn’t we? I shouldn’t remain a pastor if I don’t believe in God, should I? I shouldn’t simply continue to believe because I’m a pastor, should I? Shouldn’t I maintain integrity at all times, even if that means giving up my job, my church, and the faith I have held dear all my life? Of course. If I’m not that radical about integrity, I don’t deserve to have people following me and listening to my sermons in the first place.

So these past months I have been through a crisis of faith. It was prompted by many things, most of which I have no interest in writing about here. But it was the closest I have ever come to deliberately, seriously, and finally just shedding my faith in God for good. But something kept getting in my way – namely, my deep belief in God. I would say bedtime prayers with my girls and find myself believing what I prayed. I would talk with my associate Brent and find myself believing what I said or what he said about God. I would read a book about God and find myself believing it. My belief in God kept getting in the way of my decision (or was it desire?) to no longer believe.

A few days ago my brother sent me an email which essentially said, “Dave, I don’t think you could stop believing if you tried.” At the time I laughed it off as a bit of tongue-in-cheek hyperbole. But it wasn’t. He meant it. And he was right. I tried not believing. And I can’t not believe. For better or for worse I am a believer, and specifically a Christ-follower.

I have spent all my life reading the Bible and praying and attending worship services, slowly shaping a faith I could get my arms around and call my own. Now I find that my belief has gotten its arms around me and called me its own. I now belong to it. I am permanently under the influence. Don’t get the wrong impression. I could still easily say the words, “I don’t believe.” I just couldn’t mean them.

More later about how it affects a person when they come to find themselves under the ownership of God – or a God-soaked way of looking at the world. I can already see how this will have dramatic effects on how I approach faith. Despite how it might appear to be a radicalizing event, and in some ways is, it will cause me to approach my faith (and the lack of faith in others) with a great deal more humility and patience. I will try to flesh that out in future posts.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. A request for me to defend some of my comments does not obligate me to do so.

  • Lisa Light

    By sharing your faith, in it’s entirety, you inspire and encourage others. Questions and doubt are an important part of faith. When we come to the other side of being shaken to our core our faith grows. Thank you for letting us witness your growth.