Tag Archives: christianity

For Those Who Doubt

When he first told me he was doubting his faith, it felt like someone had hit me in the gut.

This wasn’t even my faith crisis; it was his. But it hurt even still. I cared deeply for this friend. We had grown up together, gone to youth group together. We had spent hours talking about Jesus and faith and life, and I just couldn’t fathom how this could happen. Sure, others walk away from their faith, but not my friends. I thought we were all going to make it through this journey. I didn’t plan for this.

And it wasn’t just him. Soon, it was more friends. Friends deciding that the faith they had grown up with just didn’t fit them anymore.

I was heartbroken and didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t identify with them because, at that time, my faith had never been more real for me. I tried to offer advice, anecdotes, articles, evidence.

Sometimes, I pretended their questions didn’t exist. If we don’t talk about the doubt in their life, maybe it will disappear like some phase they’re going through. Sometimes, I felt upset–offended, even. This was the faith I had staked my life on, my identity. It hurt to watch someone who once held that same faith so dear, start to let it go.

I guess it scared me. It scared me that my friends who I once thought were so resolved in their beliefs, were human after all–humans with real doubts, real questions and real trials in their lives

…And none of my answers could help them.

My answers couldn’t help them because doubt isn’t solved by an article sent via Facebook. It’s not wrapped up and resolved with a clever axiom or list of scientific evidence. Doubt is a real struggle, and it deserves a REAL answer.

If anyone has any right to be offended at doubt, it’s Jesus. If anyone could choose to walk away from doubters, to leave them sitting with all their questions, it’s Jesus. He, better than anyone else, knows the price that was paid on the cross. He has no obligation to prove anything to anyone.

But Jesus doesn’t see it like that.

When Thomas, one of Jesus’s disciples, heard the disciples say that Jesus is alive, risen from the dead, he didn’t believe it. He didn’t believe Jesus’s promises that he would rise from the dead and he doesn’t believe the witnesses who saw him risen. Instead, he says,Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later, Jesus comes to Thomas and the other disciples.

And Jesus doesn’t just shrug off Thomas’s doubts. He doesn’t ignore him. He doesn’t belittle him. He doesn’t leave Thomas to wrestle with his doubts alone.

He answers Thomas directly. He gives Thomas the evidence he asked for. He says, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

When Thomas doubts Him, Jesus isn’t offended. He isn’t scared of Thomas’s doubts. He doesn’t tell Thomas that he just needs to get over it. He doesn’t yell in Thomas’s face, telling him all that He has done for him.

He simply holds out his hands and asks Thomas to put his fingers through the nail-pierced holes in His wrists.

He has mercy on Thomas.

Because the same Love that would take those nails through His wrists and hang on a cross for you, is the same Love that will gladly hold out those hands to you when you doubt.

Jesus isn’t surprised at doubt; he’s not even angry. He’s merciful and he’s patient, not willing that any should perish.

So, it’s okay to doubt. And it’s okay to talk about your doubt. Don’t close up. Don’t run away. Don’t keep silent. Lean into your doubts. Thomas was honest to others about how he felt. “Unless I see… I will not believe.”

Do what it takes to wrestle with your doubt. Talk to others. Search for answers. Cry out to God to reveal himself to you, because he draws near to those who draw near to Him. Don’t sit, waiting for your doubt to simply pass, like some juvenile phase. Lift your head and reach out your hand, because He is waiting for you to see him–to feel him. But whatever you do, keep wrestling, because the love that is holding out His hands to you, is worth the fight.

Real Doubt; Real Stories

I think stories are some of the most powerful tools we have to work through doubt. Here are some stories of amazing people and their struggles with doubt and feeling like an  impostor in their own faith.

(If you read one, read it in its entirety. It’s worth it.) 

The Day I Stopped Believing in God by Micah Murray

“I was haunted by fear. My faith was a house of cards, and I knew it was only a matter of time until the day the last support was pulled away and it all collapsed.”

Questioning Faith by Lore Ferguson

“All my life, and especially all my Christian life, asking questions was out of the question.”

All the Orphans of the World by Duane Scott

“I don’t know how you can say that. I don’t know how you find the strength because you and I are the same age and yet, if that had happened to me, I would doubt God even existed.”

The Christianity Club by Stephanie May

“From the outside, others would say I do it right. I fit in. I belong to the club. But for the past six months, I’ve felt like an impostor.”

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O Holy Night’s Call for Justice

“Chains will he break/ for the slave is our brother/ and in his name/ all oppression shall cease…” -O Holy Night

O Holy Night has always been one of my favorite Christmas carols. Every lyric resonates within me–the hope for a weary world, the discovery of the worth of our soul, the birth of our Savior. The message of the song is incredible, but there’s one line I always gloss over.

When I used to sing “chains will he break, for the slave is our brother,” I would think back to hundreds of years ago. I would think back to slavery in America in the 17th and 18th century. I would sing the lines, not with a hope for the future, but with a thankfulness for what seemed to be a problem solved–an issue of the past. However, the problem is not solved. An estimated 27 million slaves are in bondage around the world today. And it’s not just somewhere else. It’s here. It’s in the U.S. It’s in Los Angeles. It’s not even just people from other countries. Girls from Los Angeles neighborhoods–girls you may have gone to school with–are forced into sex slavery every day. 

It’s so, so much more common than anyone realizes. The majority of those prostitutes you see out on the streets in Los Angeles are not there by choice. They are forced through physical and mental manipulation. They have what is called, “a chain around the brain.” Oppression and slavery exist today, all around us; it’s just hidden. Because we don’t see the physical chains, we sing the lyrics to ‘O Holy Night’ with a quick glance to our past and a brief recollection of the images we saw in our history books.

However, as I’m realizing the weight and the magnitude of this problem–of this evil–I realize the weight of these words. This problem seems so overwhelming. It’s so easy to get discouraged in the face of all we have to do. It feels as if nothing can change. That’s when these words resonate with me. “Chains shall he break.” I can’t do this on my own, we can do this on our own–but we’re not on our own. We have Jesus. He’s alive and he’s always with us.

Christmas this year is a reminder to me that he was here. Jesus took on human flesh and became one of us to save us, to set us free. He came once, and he is coming back again. One day, tears will be no more, injustice will be no more; and we will all be free.

In his name, all oppression shall cease. 

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” -Revelation 22:20

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How to Be Great: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Pride

I admit it. I have a pride issue. Pride’s a tricky thing to get around, because if you’re prideful, you never want to admit that it’s a problem for you. So the fact that I’m finally admitting it probably means it’s been an issue for a while.

Pride also manifests itself in strange ways. For example, who would have thought that growing closer to God would lead me to fall into sin? It’s not a direct cause, of course, but it is a pitfall I slipped into along the way.

It started this summer and beginning of this semester when I really began to draw closer to God. On the heels of a bad break-up and tough times with friends, I had thrown all I had into pursuing God. He was the only thing I could rely on. I learned so much, Jesus became so real to me—so close. I cleaned up sin patterns in my life (only through the power of Christ), I started reaching out to people at school, joined Discipleship Team on Christian Challenge. I thought I was finally on the right track. And I was, for a while, but then my progress became too big of a part of my life.

The friends who had frustrated me during the summer, I began to push away. I had “forgiven” them, I thought. But now I used what I saw as their immaturity in Christ to justify my distance from them. I was frustrated and expected them to have experienced the same growth I did. This was a plausible excuse to me. God couldn’t expect me to be my “brother’s keeper” right?

Today I read this passage:

 46An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. 47But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side 48and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.

-Luke 9: 46-48

I’ve read this before and just thought, “Oh silly disciples, arguing about how great they are. What a stupid argument I would never have.” And I wouldn’t… out loud. But this is exactly what I’m doing in my head when I think of some of my friends. “Oh, I’m more spiritually mature than them, so I don’t have to deal with them and their “worldly ways.’” (Or whatever more eloquently justified thoughts go through my mind).

But Jesus tells me just the opposite. He tells me to accept his children in his name. Be there for everyone, regardless of what they’re struggling with, regardless of what they’ve done to you, and regardless of how much better than them you feel you are. He then goes on to tell me, I’m not that great after all.

How can we be great?

By accepting Jesus’s children in His name. By being the least of these—a servant to all, (Matt. 9:35) and by humbling ourselves like a child (Matt. 18:4).

So, note to self (and anyone who struggles like me): Stop thinking you’re above everyone else. You are a child. A child depends on his parents for everything. It’s not by my own power that I resist temptation. It’s not by my own power that I can even love or grow closer to Jesus. I’m a CHILD. I am completely and utterly dependent on my Jesus for every bit of nourishment that I receive. If I can look at my life with this mindset, maybe I’ll be more compassionate and loving. Maybe I’ll be more of a servant, and receive others in Christ’s name—knowing that He did the same for me. It’s not a matter of if others deserve it, because I can assure you, I am so, so much less deserving of the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ.

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How To Change: Tips for Transformation

You swore you would never do it again- swore that was in the past, swore that you weren’t that person anymore, and then when you least expect it, you fall again. You fall back into that seemingly inescapable circle of doing the very things you hate. You’re frustrated, exhausted, and out of ideas- contemplating resigning yourself to this old life to which you are in bondage.

It doesn’t matter what it is- a bad habit, an addiction, a harmful relationship- we all have those things that we keep going back to. The things that we voluntarily enslave ourselves to. If you’re anything like me, it frustrates you to no end but you can’t seem to stop. You read self-help articles, you confess your problem to a few close friends, your thoughts are occupied with a search for a solution, and in an attempt to change you read articles like this one.

I’ve been there- in bondage. I tried it all. I had an addiction that caused me shame and guilt, but I couldn’t escape it. No checklist, no amount of rituals or habits could change the way I lived. But then I did change. It wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t a lot of work in the sense of what we think work is. The way I changed was through a transformation of my mind. Romans 12:1 says, ” Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This is not some strange magical occurrence. You can’t force a transformation anymore than you can force yourself to stop thinking of an addiction.

A transformation of the mind comes through replacing the things you think about now with something else. Instead of focusing on your problem and how unsurmountable it seems, focus on something bigger than your problems. Don’t think of what you DON’T want to do, but rather what you DO want to do. I generalize this so that it can apply to everyone, but for me, the something that was bigger than my addiction was God, and I do truly believe that God is bigger than ANY problem for ANY person.

I made my life about pleasing God and focused on that ambition rather than focusing on what I was trying not to do. Eventually, I didn’t think about my addiction anymore. This is not to say that I wasn’t tempted. I am still tempted on a daily basis, but having this new mindset pushed the thought out of the forefront of my mind. I also must add that, while this process is not magical, it is supernatural. I couldn’t have done this without the strength of God whose strength is made perfect through my weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

One more thing: I most definitely DO NOT claim to have all the answers. I’m writing this post from the standpoint of a person who has changed but recently found herself giving back into temptation, voluntarily placing herself back in the chains of the sin that so easily ensnares us. BUT I realized my problem. My mindset is not where it should be. I don’t wake up thinking: “How can I please God today?” I wake up thinking, “How can I please myself today?” And when I’m not pleased, there goes my whole day and my whole mindset. I am back to square one desperately trying to please myself, and this is where I fall. But, I can get back up because I know I am forgiven and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13)

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