I’ve only ever known a life filled with worship songs, climbing under pews after church service, sneaking to the kitchen as soon as service is over to try to eat more of Sister Effies’ bread (which was baked to be the body of Christ for communion) and having parents pray over me during the drop-off line through elementary and middle school.
Throughout my formative years, my Dad prayed daily for me to “have favor with my friends and teachers and for a guardian angel to go before me to spite the enemy.” Honestly, I’m not sure how many kids are raised to believe in spiritual warfare, but I would assume that I’m in the minority.
I say all of this to provide context that when I say I’m a Christian, it’s more deep-rooted than the surface level of going to church on Sundays- even if my actions throughout the years haven’t been the best example and, at times calling myself “luke-warm” is giving myself too much credit.
Before we continue, I want to clarify that the purpose of this post isn’t to provide a list of apologetics for faith or even sway you as a reader to become a Christian yourself. Instead, the goal is to communicate the struggle someone who has been a believer their whole life still faces with faith.
If you go to Merriam-webster.com and search for “faith,” you’ll find a few definitions. The first is: allegiance to duty or a person- LOYALTY, and the second: belief and trust in and loyalty to God. On the other hand, if you look up “Christian,” you’ll find the definition “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.”
Although I’ve attended more Sunday Schools and Bible Studies than I can count, I was a bit surprised to read the definitions of “Christian” and “faith” because, in my mind, they were essentially the same. But throughout my life, I can look back and see the seasons when I was a Christian without faith.
In the past, when I’ve had conversations with friends who have different beliefs than me, I’ve tried to communicate the relational aspect that, to my understanding, is fundamentally different than most other religions. Because I believe that Christ defeated hell, death, and the grave for my sins, I also think that God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit actively participates in my life. I speak to him like a friend, asking for guidance and reassurance and praying for peace that passes all understanding. Like a friend, I have experiences throughout my life that I can reflect on that built trust in that relationship.
If faith, by its second definition, is “belief and trust in loyalty to God,”- what does a person do when they’re still a believer of the teachings of Christ, and that He died and rose for their sins, but they question their belief and trust in loyalty to God? What happens when like other friendships, trust appears to break? This relational divide creates a checkpoint.
Suppose any of you reading have a lifelong friend or someone you know will be a lifelong friend. In that case, I can guarantee that you have hurt the other intentionally or unintentionally at one point, breaking trust and creating a chasm in how close you were. These moments provide a forcing function for you to evaluate the friendship. Looking at the history of your relationship and identifying the good they’ve added compared to the pain they’ve caused to assess whether the relationship is worth the effort to rebuild trust.
The same opportunity can present itself if we find ourselves in the same place with God. These moments can cause people to turn from faith completely if the pain is too great to see how God is greater.
I’ve spent the past couple of years struggling with this, being so hurt by the broken trust that I couldn’t think of all the good He brings to my life. I’d still go through the motions of tuning in for church service and saying the occasional prayer but in the same fashion that you still wish your best friend a “Happy Birthday,” even if you’re mad at them—lackluster obligation rather than the excitement of getting to experience the joy and celebration.
Through my own experience, healing in a relationship doesn’t come from repeating the same motions repeatedly, expecting the elephant in the room to disappear one day. It comes from confronting the problem head-on- sometimes filled with crying, cursing, questioning, and vulnerability. Sometimes through days, weeks, or months of talking it out, identifying a solution of what it will take to overcome the hurt. It comes from getting guidance from others you trust when all else fails and committing to persevere through the pain to get to the other side.
Today at church, the guest speaker spoke about how, sometimes, there’s “purpose-induced pain.” I often fail to realize the strength that comes from overcoming pain. The relationships that mean the most in my life have also come with some of the most brutal pain, but in pushing through that pain, the bond is stronger than ever.
Christians are not promised an easy time, free of pain and suffering. We were never promised that our faith wouldn’t be shaken; or that we won’t, at times, find ourselves hurt and angry at God in need of rebuilding trust and belief. But in the absence of being promised a pain-free life, we have been promised the goodness of God.
I spent two years lacking faith in a relationship that meant more to me than my marriage, family, and friends. I was using my pain as a shield, holding on for dear life because it felt like if I let go and forgave, it would open me up to being hurt again.
So in a little coffee shop, in downtown Kirkland, WA, at a worship night hosted by Heavenly Church, I started to release the grip of that anger, finally confronting the problem that allowed me to begin healing. Within minutes I realized that the whole time, I hadn’t allowed space for trust to be rebuilt. I wasn’t giving God the room in my life for him to show how good He is. But He was there as soon as I let down my defenses and was vulnerable with how hurt I had been. Within minutes, after years of feeling thousands of miles away, the trust started to rebuild.
I write this to share my story with others in case anyone can benefit from hearing it, whether it’s hundreds or a single person, but also as a memorial for myself to remember. There will be hard times again; in either the near or distant future, something will test my faith, and this is a physical reminder that He’s been good thus far and still more.
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