Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Overcoming Spiritual Doubt

I believe in the goodness of God. My faith is the foundation of my life. I am not on this journey alone. I feel the peace and presence of God with me. I am joyful.

These are things I would not have said a year ago. Even a couple of months ago, I would not have been able to honestly make those claims. I have spoken with many of you about what I would call my “spiritual crisis of doubt” – if we haven’t had a specific conversation about it, you probably picked up on pieces of it in my writing. After walking through that very dark and complex time, I think I am finally back in the light where the sun is rising and the air is fresh and easier to breath. The last few weeks have felt like a deep inhale of joy and a slow exhale of relief.

I wanted to write this personal entry for several reasons: 1) I want to clearly mark this time so that I can remember this turned page when I look back through my blog entries (which I do often since I’m not very good at journaling); 2) you are someone who cares about what’s going on in my life and this was a significant part in my current chapter in life; 3) I want to share my perspective and learnings so that if you are going through a similar phase or have gone through it or may go through it in the future (which is likely) you can know you’re not alone.  And you will know that I am open to talking about this tough subject, although I still have so much to learn and don't have it all figured out by any means!

About a year and a half ago I started to feel a heavy spiritual burden which continually grew heavier and my faith got weaker and weaker due to the load I was carrying.  The beginning of the journey was slow and painful; there were times when I sat down or fell over because I couldn't take one more step; but I eventually got up and continued down the path, throwing pieces of the load off with each step.  If I were to outline the steps in this journey, it would go something like this:

1) Questioning of my path in life and how God plays a role in it: I was in a stagnant place, feeling that I was just going through the motions of "being a Christian" because that's what I had done my whole life.  I claimed that my faith was the most important part of my life... did I really believe that?
2) Feeling abandoned by God and on my own to figure things out: The perfect plan that I had for my life wasn't working out, which to me meant that God didn't have my back and he really didn't care.  It was time to rethink what I was doing/saying/believing.
3) Dealing with the cruel reality of life (which I didn't even have the desire to address in writing): I experienced death, tragedy, broken relationships, and evil in this world that was too real to shake.  Where was God in all of this?
4) A lack of faith and the feeling that I didn't have a solid foundation on which to stand: Life was starting to feel quite shakey.  I wasn't sure of anything.  I started digging into my questions and wrestling/fighting with this "God".
5) A negative view on life and feeling completely lost in the complexities and complications of life: I couldn't keep quiet anymore. I wanted to talk to people, express my frustrations and hear their thoughts. Looking back, this was one of the best parts of this phase: having raw conversations with people who I respect and who care about me.
6) A place of complete apathy: I gave up.  Wrestling with God is exhausting.  So I just sat in complete emptiness and expected nothing.
7) Finally feeling a slight glimmer of hope: After quietly sitting still for a while, I was actually able to feel God's presence - something I hadn't felt in quite a while.  I gave up fighting so that I could give into grace.
8) Ready to reclaim my faith: I have felt a peace and joy in the past month that is unexplainable.  It's as if God is saying to me: "It's ok.  You're ok.  You're not in this alone.  I'm here."  Thank God!

I can now relate to Jacob and his experience of wrestling with God.  That has become one of my favorite Bible stories because I've experienced it.  I still have questions, and doubt will surely visit from time to time, but I have a firm foundation on which to stand.  I'm not quite sure why that period of spiritual chaos was necessary.  Maybe someday I'll know, or maybe I'll never know.

Psalm 73 and Doubting Thomas
I visited a church on Sunday for the first time.  I've been meaning to visit for a while, but hadn't yet and I don't think it was coincidence that I was there this past Sunday.  It's as if the pastor was speaking directly to me about my time of doubt.  Listen to the podcast here: Praying Through Doubt.  Quite powerful, Tim.
And earlier on Sunday while driving down to Mount Angel Abbey, I pulled up a random Dayspring podcast that was completely fitting as well.  Listen here: April 07, 2013 "Seeing Is Believing?" Spot on, Eric.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post Mary. So honest and somewhere we have all been. Praying God will continue to to speak to you and use His word for encouragement and reassurance of His unfailing love for you! Blessings!