“Pastor Mike … ” He paused for a moment with tears welling up. “I grew up in the church and lately I am having a hard time believing that all this could be true. Don’t hear me wrong, I want to believe! I just can’t. It all seems too good to be true. I feel like I am slowly falling apart. Like a part of my identity is slipping away. What do I do? If I am wrong and there is a God, I’m afraid I’ll go to hell. If I am right and there isn’t a God I feel like I have wasted so much of my life.”
This is a good set of questions. One I’m inclined to believe many people may struggle with. Let me address his question a statement at a time. But before I do, let me reword the big question because I think this is what this specific young man is actually asking.
“Do you need to live in a constant state of super faith always believing and have no seasons of doubt to be saved?”
Now, let’s go back to his specific statements.
“I want to believe! I just can’t.”
I believe there is a difference between a rebellious heart that rejects God and a “doubting Thomas” that struggles. The Bible speaks a lot about a heart that has grown weary and feels distant or even void of God. From the prophets of old and King David in the Psalms to the New Testament, modern day doubters actually stand alongside some amazing people. Let’s take Thomas (John 20:24-29). His doubt in a resurrected Christ didn’t keep Christ from eventually meeting him. I truly believe a heart that is genuinely searching and not in arrogant rebellion against God will eventually see him. That’s the point. Everyone will see Christ (John 14:11-12)!
How you will respond depends on the condition of your heart. There is a difference between times and seasons of doubt and a heart that is in arrogant rebellion. Stay teachable and stay humble. Don’t stop pursuing. Faith will come in due season. Some of my favorite spiritual leaders, including C.S. Lewis, have been there. You may feel lost but God hasn’t lost you. Lastly, your belief or lack of it doesn’t make God more or less real. God isn’t like Santa Claus in some of the modern movies. He doesn’t lose power or fade if you don’t believe in him. His reality stands fully independent of us.
“It all seems too good to be true.”
Yes, yes it is! The whole story of perfect redemption is so incredibly good it is beyond the “real” state of this fallen and decaying world. I think all passionate Christians are at some level dreamers and romantics. The eternal world we as Christians see in our dreams and visions spurred by the Bible is so gloriously good it’s beyond what any eye has seen or ear has heard (1 Cor 2:9-10). Here is the catch. If spirituality isn’t real what does it matter? If none of this is real there is no punishment at the end for people who live with spiritual hope. As far as I can tell, after years of counseling, believing you are merely a product of random chance with no real purpose and every good thing you will ever experience can only be found on this planet often leaves people, in the end, rather miserable.
From my perspective, faith in and of itself is worth exploring just for the profound life improvement it gives when rightly applied. If this short-lived broken world is all that humans have, we are to be pitied. We somehow evolved a deep metaphysical hunger with nothing to satisfy it. Yes, Christianity isn’t an easy life, but it promises that this isn’t the truest life. Hope is so powerful. The potential eternal payoff of faith is worth it and so is the hope it gives in this very disheartening current world. Don’t stop humbly searching.
“I feel like I am slowly falling apart. Like a part of my identity is slipping away. What do I do?”
You feeling lost and you being lost are two different things. You knowing who you are and someone else knowing who you are are two different things. If you truly do have a humble and teachable heart and you really do want to believe, your metaphysical amnesia is not who you really are and one day you will remember. Don’t stop searching and praying for the presence of God.
“I’m afraid I’ll go to hell.”
Why? Are you rejecting God or struggling to see him at this time in life? As best as I can tell seasons of doubt aren’t sin. It’s not about the doubt. It’s about what you do with your seasons of doubt. Keep searching and praying that God will reveal himself.
“If I am right and there isn’t a God I feel like I have wasted so much of my life.”
Why? As mentioned above the risk of belief is negligible compared to the risk of unbelief. Additionally, the ways of Christ are so good! Selfless charitable love, the incredibly high value of all people and the importance of being agents of mercy, grace and generosity are wonderful things. Yes, all through history there have been religious hypocrites and Pharisees. I am not implying that you should be this. It’s all about Jesus. I think all people need Jesus, the person, as well as his ethics. This is all in addition to the beautiful purpose and hope that Christianity gives a heart when it is truly about a relationship with Jesus.
- I pray this brings peace to those who are in seasons of doubt. I actually understand quite well and you stand with many other great spiritual leaders.
- This doesn’t tackle other faiths. This talks about faith itself. I believe Christianity and Christ stand uncontested, yet this is for another blog.
- If anyone has any other questions feel free to e-mail me. I can’t promise I’ll know the answer but I will do my best.