Losing My Faith

Sometimes the best Christian wisdom can produce the worst Christian life.

If you're a Christian long enough, you're going to encounter times when everything about your faith seems pointless, God feels distant, and you just want to stop going through the motions. And one of the most common responses you'll hear from fellow Christians is "do it anyway."

Don't feel like praying? Do it anyway. Don't feel like reading your Bible? Do it anyway. Don't feel like going to church? Don't forsake gathering together and do it anyway. I did my due diligence that way for years until my faith felt fake and I couldn't tell the difference between God's voice and my own. So I did what every devout Christian would warn you not to do: I stopped doing.

No prayer, no Bible, no church. And it was one of the best decisions of my life. Some people might not understand how I could ever suggest that as a positive thing, but I don't understand how living your life as a cosplay Christian is any better. We're justified by faith, not by faking it. And if something feels wrong about your faith, that's probably because something is.

The problem with my faith was that it wasn't faith at all--it was fear.

I thought I trusted God implicitly and never got angry with him because I had faith. I thought nursing the lack of "God working all things for good" with the "his ways are not our ways" was just how faith operated. But rehearsing platitudes is what we do when we're ignoring problems. And my fear was that my faith wasn't real if I didn't keep trying and doing anyway.

God already did the hard part of providing me with salvation, so my job was to maintain my faith. And I was able to do that for a while by never, ever questioning God. That doesn't mean I didn't have questions (hello, it's me we're talking about). It just meant I never brought them to him. You can't bring your questions to God if you think faith is not having them. And since we all have questions, maybe we all have less faith than we think.

Questions result from a lack of understanding. And as finite beings, it's impossible for us to not have questions because we don't have infinite understanding. Though she can't form sentences yet, I already see this in my one-year-old daughter. She'll point to something she wants and if we can't give it to her, she'll scream and/or cry. She's not being rebellious or ornery; she's expressing frustration over not understanding why she can't have what she wants.

Would you criticize her for not having enough faith? After all, we are her parents and we want what's best for her. Shouldn't she trust us? Of course not. She's a toddler and she doesn't have the experience or understanding to trust us completely yet. So why do we criticize ourselves for not having enough faith in God? Are we not all toddlers before him?

Just like babies develop object permanence over time, we develop faith over time. Babies trust that we'll return because we always do, not because they try really hard to trust us. Likewise, faith is based on God's faithfulness to us, not our faithfulness to him. It can never be our work because we will never fully understand. That's why a man once said to Jesus, "I do believe; help my unbelief!"

Since faith isn't our work, trying harder or doing it anyway is counterproductive--we only get in God's way. Instead, we should be honest with him about how little we understand and how frustrating that is. In short, we should be honest with ourselves about how little faith we really have. We can't see that God is always faithful until we're faithless, and we can't fully trust him until we stop trusting ourselves.

Better Christian wisdom, then, would say that if you're doing something wrong, don't keep doing it wrong hoping you'll eventually get it right. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then "doing it anyway" is crazy.

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