How to Handle a Crisis of Faith

CC BY-NC, Ross Merritt Photography, Flickr
CC BY-NC, Ross Merritt Photography, Flickr

Why does God never leave me?—that’s what I wonder sometimes. Yes, I know the answers, but sometimes it’s helpful to let yourself go there. It keeps you humble and concentrating on grace. And why is it that the more the heat has been raised in my life—whether by God’s fire of testing or my playing with sinful fire—or the more distant I once grew toward him, the more consuming were my thoughts of him?

Why did I never turn away when God felt too far to reach?

I may never understand any of it, except to know that when I would have run away, he simply wouldn’t let me go, or I, like Jacob in flight, ran smack into him any way I went.

When I lived in Indianapolis and trekked through a real spiritual wilderness, one day I was driving from my workplace and listening to a Catholic priest in a radio interview. I don’t recall the specific question he was asked, but it was something like how to explain people who question God or grow sullen in difficult times. I perked up. His response still resonates with me.

He stressed that people who wrestle with their faith often do so not to distance themselves from God, but to reach for him. I understood exactly what he meant. Hopefully that includes being angry at God, too. I once viewed anger at God as a terrible thing (who would dare!) until I got angry with him.

What I’ve learned is that anger and stressed faith will happen and is sometimes necessary in our process. The heart that truly loves God, however, does not shake its fist at him but strains to comprehend his will, to see in the dark. What may look like a fight with God to others (and sometimes to us) is but a fit of frustration to know him better. For me, I realized how ingrained faith was in my soul. Quitting God was no option.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is none upon earth I desire besides you. My heart and flesh fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. ” Psalms 73:25-26

After going through the ho-hums long enough, we gain insight. We learn to discern God’s designs for something foremost within us rather than any external conditions we need solved, although God works in our affairs, too. We also learn to measure the degree of our frustration. We may have our “moments” and get low on faith and stray and crave sin and smolder, but we do so with our faith mostly intact. We can only imagine what it would be like tackling life without God or the Holy Spirit’s restraint.

I’ve learned to latch onto this faith ride. I once had the notion that I could simply abandon myself to faith, as if setting a dial to make sure I remain in a proper state of heart. But now I realize that I cannot store faith and that God designs our process to deal with our specific inner needs. It is not possible to be passive in our own making. The heat that God brings into our lives is there to make us move! So faith is not a dial I can set but a wheel I must steer on my journey.

Not to be contradictory, I’ve learned to retain just enough indifference for it all not to matter so much. Don’t let that surprise you and if it does, stay on the journey—it’ll make sense soon enough. But take it all in stride. This is letting the top down to enjoy the sun and breeze and taking in the view, allowing God to care about the terrain we must travel.

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