Throughout the past few months, I have found myself in a season of deep questioning and lack of faith. I feel like I went (and continue to go) through multiple levels of doubt, and all at the same time, find and reaffirm that God is Truth and worthy to pursue. It really is the tangible battle of the Spirit and the flesh. I say this with full confidence, not because I am “speaking my truth” or am “validating my experiences,” but because there is no shame when struggles are brought to and made light through Christ. I pray that this speaks to a weary soul and reminds you that you are not alone, that God is for you, and that doubting does not disqualify you from salvation or refreshing repentance.
My slow decline started with closeted questions. So many of them. And instead of addressing them and seeking out biblical and Spirit-filled answers, I told myself that faithful disciples don’t doubt. That if I were a good Christian, then I would follow blindly despite my deep-rooted, unanswered uncertainties (I will say that at times, there are concepts far too lofty for humankind to attain; it is easy to swing the opposite way and try to explain everything regarding the spiritual realm rather than walk with a healthy balance of faith). When my reservations began to affect my relationship and perspective of God, though, I kept the ponderings of my heart quiet in the name of “faith.” Now, looking back, I believe that these questions were the Spirit’s way of prompting me to know God deeper, to quiet my innate fears of falsehood. Rather than acknowledge this, I let doubt manifest in my mind’s overflowing closet.
From there, I fell into the trap of believing lies about God’s character. I convinced myself that I was too far gone to be in communion with Him again – that if I had turned away, somehow a vengeful God would return the favor and leave me on my own. This gradually increased to a slow spiritual burnout in which I questioned anything and everything about what I had come to believe in years of stronger faith. Side effects of my spiritual breakdown included a self-dependent mindset, a temptation to justify myself, isolation from the family of believers, and refusal to talk to God because I believed that He couldn’t and didn’t want to hear me. My secluded questions and deep-rooted doubts had been confined in my mind for so long that eventually, the culmination of it all came pouring out at an opportune time for Satan. He found me in my weakest place, fed me lies, and told me that all of my questions over the years added up to the fact that God may not be as real to me as I thought.
All the while, I knew what would bring life. I knew what the “right” choice was. The times of stronger faith had prepared me for this. Through the Word of God, I knew that nothing else would satisfy, that everything else was empty in comparison to what I had experienced in brighter, more joyful days of God’s presence. I knew that there was something awry in my mind; the lies didn’t add up to what I knew I needed. Yet still, it was easy to let life go on, bereft of the very One who gave it to me. Darkness had a guise of twisted comfort and righteousness seemed like a chore too great a task. I knew what I should choose but was also swayed by the world’s temporal riches of pleasure and subjectivity.
I had to choose to fight. I had to convince myself that this was something worth struggling for. On top of that, I had to reluctantly remind myself that there truly was and is nothing that compares to the joy of knowing God, even if I didn’t feel it in the moment. I knew that I wasn’t where I wanted to be, but I had tasted and seen the goodness before. God’s evident kindness from past encounters gave me the strength to continue. After I chose to fight, the battle began. It started with addressing the ultimate sin that I had committed – ignorance.
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.Romans 1:18-21, 25
Now I know I may have lost many of you, there. Ignorance? Isn’t that just a minor human flaw or an accidental cause of real sin? I would beg to differ. In Romans 1:18-21, 25, the people described as “wicked” are those that knew God but refused to give thanks or glorify him, and through their chosen ignorance, their hearts were darkened. They exchanged truth for a lie – they knowingly had the treasure of life and spit on it by trying to find and believe their own truth instead. This is what I mean by ignorance: disregarding the Spirit’s prompts, refusing to want to know God, and exchanging truth for falsehood. I want to stress that ignorance, in this context, is defined as the intentional disregard for God’s truth and words. Ignorance is not a passive thing; it is the beginning of a darkened and foolish heart. And darkened hearts do not see truth, righteousness, or God.
After I decided to fight and acknowledged that I needed to repent of my ignorance by seeking out answers (or rather, The Answer) to the questions that Christ already answered in His Word, I began my endeavor to truly make my faith my own. Again. I will say, I was scared at first because truth has a lovely habit of exposing all deceit. If I sought out truth, what would I find that I would have to let go of? To change? To repent of? How many lies was I still trapped in? It is a frightful experience before the truth is finally revealed, but I can say with certainty that the scripture “the truth will set you free,” is more than trustworthy.
In the process of rediscovering who God is all over again, my questions slowly became less pressing. Where do I go when I die? Does baptism save? What is sin in its rawest form? How can I be sure God is a personal God? Where did the Bible even come from? All of these questions boiled down, not to a heart to know God, but a heart of fear. My spiritual anxiety was essentially asking: Am I missing a key element that will disqualify me from salvation? In all honesty, once I started seeing God for who He is, I understood that none of that truly mattered.
Before, I had it in my mind that doubting Christians were doomed Christians. If they struggle with their original profession of faith, then was their love for God even valid? How blinded and narrow-minded I was. I believe now that all Christians will find themselves in a time of lacking faith and it is not to be ashamed of. It is a natural process of the believer’s experience. Even disciples who literally saw and intimately knew Christ doubted, begging Him to increase their faith, time and time again.
“Increase our faith!”Luke 17:5
It is possible to have faith and need more at the same time. But we are not meant to stay complacent in our little. Just look in the gospels at a man who desired healing for his son:
“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”Mark 9:24
He believed yet did not believe. But he acknowledged his weakness and lack of faith. He did not closet it; he did not continue on pretending that he was fine. He looked to Jesus and asked for help. This man accepted reality, humbled himself to be dependent on Christ alone, and then verbally cried out for life-saving support.
I continue on in my process of repentance. But I want to, now. Why? Because Christ sees my faith even in my unbelief, he rewards those who earnestly seek him. To whom else will I go? My help is from the Lord. His character remains consistent and unwavering – an anchor for my soul.
Knowing God is a treasure far beyond what my mortal brain can even fathom. Having faith in Him alone is the desire to be humble to reality, to welcome eternal life, and to walk in light, but, simply put, knowing God is the Truth. When you know God, you know confidence and hope and peace. You know that His goodness can be trusted because He is goodness and love itself, and He cannot go against who He is. Knowing God is rest for the soul, strength for the weary, and damning for the proud.
I will say it again. Knowing God truly is the answer.
Have you ever been friends with someone for long enough that you just know how they operate? You can guess with accuracy what they will say to something, how they will react, or just how they are feeling? It isn’t because you read up on all the things that they did in life (though I’m sure stalking Facebook may help a bit). It is because you have spent time with them, intentionally created moments to know them, and been with them so much that you just get them.
That is my goal with God. Knowing God – really knowing His heart – is the ultimate Truth that sets us free. Yes, the Bible is a beautiful tool in attaining further knowledge of his love and ministry. Yes, spiritual books and writings are great at gaining further perspective. Yes, going to church and small groups are amazing at encouraging perseverance in the faith. They are all necessary, I would say.
But boy, oh boy, have you ever experienced a peace that transcends all understanding? A freedom that makes your heart leap for utter joy? A delight and contentment that is inexplicable in all senses of the word? A healthy hatred for unrighteousness and love for what is good? A drive to love all, regardless of their standing as friend or enemy? A humility that recognizes that there is nothing that this world truly has to offer, including our own lives? A hope that is set beyond circumstances of happiness or grief?
That is God.
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.John 17:3
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.Hosea 6:6
Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”Hosea 6:3
“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”Jeremiah 9:23-24