Part 2 of my wife’s latest post – Enjoy!
Two months after returning to the US, and moving to a new city in a new state, I nervously attended the Young Adults group at a new church I had visited for the past few weeks. Memories of high school youth group and college worship services crowded my mind, jostling with current thoughts, “What am I doing here? Can I actually do this? What do I say to all these smiling, happy Christians who seem so at ease with each other while I fidget alone at a table?”
I remembered some of the songs being sung which only made me more uncomfortable – II had to confront the lingering doubts of my past. I anticipated the end of the meeting, the moment when I could leave unobtrusively. When the final prayer had been said, I gave all the regular attendees a maximum of thirty seconds to approach the new person with a welcoming hello, and,when no one did, I eagerly fled to the parking lot and locked myself in my Jeep where I let tears burst out.
Through my tears I stammered, “God, I don’t want to do this. Why is it so hard? I feel like I don’t belong here with these people, these other Christians in this church.” I knew the promise I had made with myself, to commit to God, but I wasn’t sure I could do it. I wasn’t sure I could have faith again, because that step was too big to take and my legs couldn’t move that quickly.
I write this, three years later, for my husband’s blog. I believe fully in God and I have faith today, although I am wary of sticking any adjective in front of the word faith. And I have taken the steps I have – some tiny shuffles, some giant leaps – because I know I will keep taking steps of faith, in faith, the rest of my life. I have accepted that some steps might be backward or down dead end roads, but steps can be retraced or retaken forward. While I don’t say this with any spiritual truth certainty, perhaps what I did “wrong” in my faith before was to stop taking steps.
I don’t think I’m alone in this faith struggle, nor do I think that Jesus is surprised when Christians grapple with their beliefs. In Luke 8:13-14, Jesus identifies the problems Christians will have in faith:
Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
Jesus clearly explains this parable because God doesn’t keep secrets from Christians. Throughout the Bible, God tells Christians that faith isn’t easy, isn’t a walk in the park, isn’t a free pass to a lifetime of bliss. Instead, faith is the opposite. It’s difficult, a journey of endurance through jungle and desert, and it brings pain along with joy. I say all this to note that God also understands us; he sent Jesus to tell the beautiful parable of the Prodigal Son to remind us that we can always come back.
Now, with no intention of either setting forth a multi-step plan that will guarantee renewed faith, or being another mouth spouting misguided words, I would like to offer some encouragement and advice I have learned from my faith experience.
- It feels easy to become a Christian again because you know what to do and to say. But remember that there will be tough times when things feel too difficult, too tricky, or too frustrating, and you will want to leave faith again. Take it slow, there is no need to rush steps of faith.
- Learn how to be comfortable around and to trust God again, and not just God, but other Christians as well. However, do not let another person substitute for the true savior, Jesus, or let another person’s faith substitute for your own true faith.
- Don’t be ashamed of your past decisions and your time away from the church. It is your story to be used for God’s glory.
- It is okay to admit your fears and doubts to God because He’s big enough for them and because I think He respects the difficulties we face in trying to stand firm to a life of faith on earth.
- Finally, learn to receive grace from God. His grace is more than enough to forgive you again, just like it was the first time you accepted His gift.