I have this group of friends from college, an eclectic bunch pulled together over the last few years by social media. Funny thing is, some of these college friends I have never even met in person. Even so,we have spent many hours laughing and harassing one another.
This group of friends includes several former ministers, a former missionary kid, a former pastor’s wife, and several other solid Christians. We are a group with a solid faith, a group whose relationship with Christ is the foundation of our existence.
This week, instead of the laughter and joking that so often marks our relationship, the conversation took a somewhat somber tone as we each began to pour out our hearts.
One friend’s daughter is suffering from severe depression.
One is caught in the sandwich generation, struggling to raise her kids and manage her ailing parents.
One friend is suffering from depression, possibly as a result of being wrongfully removed from the ministry. He suffers immensely while his accusers continue in their positions.
One friend’s marriage is suffering as a result of wave after wave of loss.
The pain is suffocating. We struggle to get on our feet again as we seem to be battered by the waves of grief and pain and loss. We cling to our faith…even as we all express our doubts.
Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you can remember a time when your faith was so strong nothing could shake you. Maybe you remember a time when the intimacy you shared with the Father was so real, so constant. Maybe you remember the times when God pulled you through even when there was no hope.
But maybe, like my gang of friends, your faith is hanging by a thread as you watch life nearly take you out. Maybe, like us, you find yourself crying out, “Enough, God! I can’t take any more.” Maybe you find yourself struggling with all the cliché answers you always gave others. Maybe you cringe when you hear someone say, “Just keep trusting God.”
Maybe you are at a point where you need more. Something more tangible. Something more concrete. Maybe your once well-trained mind, a mind accustomed to taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, has somehow wandered from its steadfast focus on Christ. Maybe the peace that surpasses all understanding is a distant memory.
If you are suffering doubts about your faith, be encouraged. You are not alone! Many strong Christians, myself included, often suffer from doubts.
Today, I was reading about Peter. Peter who was one of the first disciples of Christ. Peter who is the rock upon which Christ chose to build His church. Peter who was zealous for Christ. Peter who was an outspoken believer.
Peter who abandoned Christ in His greatest hour of need.
Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly. Matthew 26:69-75
Yes, even the disciples who walked this earth with Jesus suffered doubts. But the beauty is that those doubts didn’t derail Peter; instead, as he worked through his failures and doubts, his faith actually grew stronger.
And that’s what I want for me and my group of friends…and for you. But the question quickly becomes, “How do we get there?”
As I look back at those times where I was closest to Christ, I see several commonalities:
Saturation with the Word of God. Several years ago, I picked up my Bible and read in every spare moment…and I had WAY more spare moments than I do now. When I was in my car, I was listening to books on tape and praying. When I was training for the half marathon, I was listening to sermons. Every moment I could, I was saturating my mind with the truth.
Unfortunately, work is much more demanding these days. I’m not in my car as much as I used to be. I can’t run half marathons any more. And all of those little changes add up to a lower input of God’s Word. I’m working to find ways to increase my intake. I’m working to make my car my prayer closet again. I’m working to train my mind again.
I long to have the same hunger and thirst for God’s Word that I did several years ago. I know the only way I can be transformed into His image is by the renewing of my mind, by filling every secret recess with His word.
Surrounded by like-minded friendships. One of the greatest treasures I have from my days at Oklahoma Baptist University is this beautiful trove of Godly friends. My days at OBU were days marked by growth in walk with Christ, a growth I attribute directly to being surrounded by people who love God, people who always encouraged me to walk more closely with Him.
I still have those friendships. I still have this funky bunch of friends who allow me to share my doubts and fears and to be completely open and vulnerable with them. I still have these friends who not only talk the talk but also walk the walk. Where would I be without them?
But I also long for a group right here, people I can regularly connect with in person instead of just virtually. I know as iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens man. I know I need the contact with others who love God fully and completely.
Stepping out in obedience. One of the hardest parts of the Christian life is to walk by faith and not by sight. We all know what we can see, but moving forward with what we can’t see? It’s hard. It’s hard to obey that voice whispering quietly into our lives. It’s hard to move when we can’t see what’s ahead of us. It’s hard to take that first step of obedience.
But after that first step? In my experience, the minute we begin to move in obedience, God steps in and carries us. He just needs to see that we are willing to move forward, our hearts are in alignment with Him. Then, it’s all on Him.
And as we do these things, we find our doubts actually begin to strengthen our faith. We begin to feel the presence of our Father. We hear those tender mercies reminding us of His presence, His goodness.
Yes, my friends and I are in difficult seasons in this life…seasons of such pain we find ourselves doubting our faith, the very foundation of our lives. Yet, I hear my Father whisper, “This is the beginning of something so much bigger than anything you can imagine. This is the beginning of something beautiful.”
I choose to believe.