The last time I sat down to write, I was hit right in the middle of it by the realization that I hardly believed any of the words I was typing. I remember sitting back in my desk chair and staring at the panes in the window. And I remember that all of the sudden this sickening, empty clarity came over me, and I genuinely didn’t know if I had ever quite believed what I thought I had believed at all.
Five minutes later I was on my face on the floor, praying in a cold sweat to Whoever was out there – if there was anyone at all – and I had texts coming into my phone from all the people I had sent messages to in my moment of sheer panic. I could almost physically feel the hollow in myself where all the meaning and joy and significance of every aspect of my life was completely gone. It happened within the span of ten minutes.
And I’ve been afraid to write anything since then. In light of that, I’m not even sure if I know what to say to you now, almost seven weeks later when so much has happened and so much has been changed. But I will say – no matter how much the lingering doubt and sinfulness within me cringes at the thought of typing it – that I believe. I must believe. It makes no sense not to believe.
I went to a concert toward the beginning of all this where the Newsboys sang “We Believe” and I cried tears of envy and insecurity while everyone around me raised their hands in praise to a God who seemed so hidden from me. I watched the sunset from inside a picturesque field of sunflowers and no matter how much I wanted to marvel at the beauty of it, I felt terrifyingly numb and unimpressed and this scared me more than anything ever had. I hit the Rock Bottom of all rock bottoms, friends. And since then I’ve studied apologetics.
I’ve written down a list of questions about the Christian faith that I want to be answered. I’ve fallen asleep at night with my app for audio sermons playing beside me on a sleep timer. I’ve taken whatever steps that God brought to my attention that might be beneficial in my quest for truth and life.
I was so angry at God in the beginning – whoever he was, wherever he was. I was so confused and so smothered (almost in a literal sense) by confusion and unbelief and crippling insecurity. I still am some days. But here’s why I would never choose to go back, and don’t think that I could achieve it even if I wanted to:
Doubts need to be addressed or they will rot your faith from the inside out. You don’t have to fear them as if they are the enemy incarnate; though he will certainly try to use them, God uses them, too. And once those doubts are laid at the feet of Jesus – as often as it takes – in honesty and surrender and a genuine desire to know the Truth Himself, you can be sure that one way or another you will arrive where you’re meant to be at the time you’re meant to arrive there.
Don’t be afraid to seek answers. God created the entire universe and reality that we operate in and experience every second of our lives – he is not in any way threatened by our questions, by logic, by science, by emotions, by anything. The thing that I want to be able to grasp as much as my fallible humanity will allow me to is that the existence of an omniscient, omnipresent, infinite, everlastingly good and loving God changes everything.
How could it not? How can I believe that there is a Person who designed me and everything else that I know or don’t know, and not logically fills a need to know and follow and obey Him? If I know there is a tangible God ruling over the universe and all of history and reality, I cannot, I cannot, I cannot remain living the way that I have been up until this point. It all must change. And change can be agonizing.
The key, though, is that it’s within this change and within the hardest times of our lives that we seek God most honestly and most passionately. We are meant to lay down everything that used to be most important to us to find Him, know Him, and love Him. And He desires this. He deserves this. This is the way we are meant to long for Him.
So I would do it all again if I could go back to that morning in August. I will choose to patiently plant myself in the discomfort that I have felt in this season, even when all my questions aren’t answered or my doubts immediately erased, because I want to be more secure in God and awed by this life I get to live than ever before; and that kind of transformation has to simmer on the stove for a long time.
Maybe I’ll never fully arrive there this side of heaven. That’s the beauty of the journey and of this terrifyingly magnificent God who I’m learning to know personally when I don’t have any right to do so, other than the right that God Himself bought me some 2,000 years ago several thousand miles across the Atlantic from where I sit now. He is so great and so wild and so set apart from anything that I could conjure up on my own. But I am determined to gather the last of my strength and swing out a weak hand to reach Him – and even in my doubt, I know somehow that He’ll cross heaven and earth to catch me.
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.
Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24-31 ESV)