Struggling with Faith

I’m not letting go of God, I’m just losing my grip.  — Karen Bergquist, of Over the Rhine

This one sentence powerfully captures the two ways people come to non-faith.  The first is blatant rejection.

Some people decide that this God stuff is nonsense and reach a point where they do not want to be associated with it anymore.

But many don’t make that decision.

Many, after struggling for months, for years, for decades, to hang onto faith, finally feel it pried, coldly stolen, from their bloodied, still-grasping fingers. When it is gone, they are often left with a deep sense of loss.

I still have faith.

But I have lost it a few times in the past, and occasionally still struggle not to lose my grip.

I know what it’s like to want to believe something that you cannot believe in.

I know what it’s like to be told you should believe this or that, and that there will be consequences in this life and the next for not believing it, but you can’t — no matter how hard you try.

I know what it’s like to give up on faith and then find myself, out of habit, praying to the God I have just said I do not believe in.

I know what it’s like to be surrounded by people who find it easier to believe than not to,

people who rarely question what they are taught,

people who are content to live life in the bubble they grew up in.

I know what is like to hear someone tell me I should not ask the questions I ask, and to know it’s because my questions are simply too scary. Most people don’t want to think about them.

I wonder if perhaps the majority of people formerly-of-faith in the world today did not let go of God — they simply lost their grip.

These people know something most believers do not know — believing is not simply a matter of choice.

Believing is about being willing to ask the questions most people are too afraid to ask, and finding out if your faith can stand up to those questions.

Sometimes it can.  Sometimes it can’t.

You never know what the next moment may bring.

If you did, there would be no need for faith to begin with.

I think that struggle is what faith actually is.

That struggle causes me to need to hope in a God who will catch me when I fall, whether I fall because I have let go, or whether it is because I have simply lost my grip.

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7 thoughts on “Struggling with Faith

  1. I want to believe and have been struggling for about 6 years now. The thing that makes it really bad is that I thought that by going to a Christian school and getting a degree in bible would help me strengthen my faith. Well the fact is the more I learn the harder it gets.
    My father and bother are both ministers and I am too. Now I find myself struggling to let my family know and how to find the faith I am teaching others to have. I need help. Sorry for any burden this cause you, but if you could give some words of advice they would be greatly appreciated.

    • Thanks for writing, Adam. I think, despite how it feels, you may actually be in a good place. That is to say, a place where faith is possible. You are certainly under a huge amount of pressure, with ministry running in your family. I can’t even imagine the level at which your very identity springs from this.

      As a fellow pastor, I understand the struggle to find the faith we are teaching to others. The dissonance can drive us crazy. For me, I often have little trouble believing God cares for others, but sometimes struggle to believe any of what I say actually applies to me.

      I hope you will consider checking out my post on faith stages. You may see yourself in there somewhere. This stuff isn’t taught in our churches hardly ever, yet it’s essential along the journey.

      Check out that post and let me know what you’re thinking from there. I’d love to hear back from you.

  2. Hey David:

    You don’t know me from Adam, so that makes us even. I just Googled “struggling with faith” and was led to your blog.

    Thanks for being thoughtful in talking to us former believers who are not hardcore anti-Christians. I am 48 now, and was a lifelong, Bible-teaching, devout Christian — I mean, the real deal — until about six years ago. Over the next couple of years, and for multiple coalescing reasons, I lost my faith. I now call myself a Christian agnostic, because I remain in the church for family reasons, but just don’t know or believe on a heart level anymore. I’m not an atheist (a dis-believer), just an agnostic (a non-believer). For example, my wife believes that God speaks to her, and is involved in her life, and I know she is speaking the truth as she perceives it. My experience, though, is not the same, at least not any more. (Yes, the past few years have been remarkably challenging in our marriage, but we have survived.)

    I ramble; the point I wanted to make is to say “thanks” for understanding that some who no longer believe would really like to, and are not necessarily happier for having lost faith. (I am measurably unhappier.) Maybe someday, if God “shows up” like the preacher said he would last Sunday, I’ll believe again.

    • Wow. That’s powerful. Thanks for being willing to write that down for my readers and me. I don’t think faith is really faith unless a person allows non-faith to be a real possibility. The person who has never seriously grappled with non-faith doesn’t have deeply authentic faith because he/she has never seriously considered the alternative. And you’re welcome, thanks for reading.

  3. Thanks Gina. I appreciate your thoughts. I do fear, however, that when many people say, “heretic” they actually do mean it in the sense of a basic betrayal of God or of the faith. Look at the response to the emerging church.

  4. Not much to say, my friend. You know enough about what I would write … well put. I like the way you stated that “losing faith,” is not an event — in a similar way that “coming to faith” is neither an even … but a process.
    I think it’s crucial for people like you and me to keep asking those questions that “some” church people are unable or unwilling to ask. And the label “heretic” has (to the best of my understanding) become equated with “different thought.” Like so many words, the most it’s used, the less it’s power seems to be.

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