This week, my latest issue of Relevant Magazine came in the mail. I took it out to the beach on Saturday, and when I turned to the Deeper Walk column written by Jason Boyett, I felt I could have written his piece word for word. It was called “O Me of Little Faith” (that’s a link to the piece in the digital edition of the magazine, just zoom in and read!), and in the very first line, Boyett confesses:
I am a Christian. I have been a Christian for most of my life. But there are times when I’m not sure I believe in God.
In many ways, the same things that drive me toward a life of faith often also pull me in the opposite direction, particularly my curiosity and my questioning nature. I’ve been known to practically give myself panic attacks thinking too hard about whether or not what I say I believe is really true. I’m prone to many dark nights of the soul. I’m prone to praying, “Lord, I believe, please help my unbelief.” And yet, something always pulls me back to God. You could probably say God always pulls me back to God. No matter how deep my doubts, it’s always to God that I pray, begging God to please just give me my faith back.
And yet, I’m often jealous of those for whom faith seems to come easily, even as I’m frustrated that what so often seems obvious and unshakable to them comes so hard to me. Boyett expresses this too, writing about people who:
the way they tell it, …get frequent, distinct impressions from the Holy Spirit…personal promptings from Jesus…specific answers to prayer and detailed directions about even the most trivial aspects of their lives.
This is not my experience of the life of faith. While there have been times I know others have spoken words to me that were straight from God’s lips to my ears, I’ve never experienced this with such certainty that I’d be comfortable uttering the phrase “God told me…” without fear of a lightning strike. Boyett writes:
Maybe I’m just a cynical grump. Maybe these Christians are truly hearing God. Maybe that’s the experience of most Christians today, and I’m missing out. But the God-whispering-in-my-ear thing doesn’t seem to happen for me. If I hear my conscience, I’m pretty sure that’s because I’m familiar enough with the teachings of Christ that I feel guilty when I’ve failed in some way. If I wake up in the night, I’m more likely to believe it’s because my dog made a noise than assume God wants me to pray for someone. (And why does God need me to pray for something so badly that He has to wake me up, anyway? Can’t he just answer the prayer without me? Am I a soulless twit to even ask?)
I’m so with him on those statements. When someone tells me “God told me,” I immediately get skeptical. When someone says that they just know that God wants them to have something they really want because they’ve cherry-picked a verse out of the Psalms about God giving us the desire of our hearts, I squirm. I’m just not sure my life/faith is supposed to work like that. After detailing his skepticism, Boyett writes:
Am I too skeptical? Too worldly? Not spiritual enough? Yes. Probably. I’m full of uncertainty, but I know this for sure: these doubts aren’t fun. It’s a drag to feel spiritually weak when everyone else seems strong, to feel so full of doubt when everyone else oozes faith.
But I love the Bible. I love the Jesus revealed in the Bible. Most days, I’m convinced He rose from the dead and He is who He claimed to be. I try to follow Him. I think the life He models is the best way to live. I think the Kingdom He invites me into is as revolutionary as they come. But I’d be lying if I said Jesus talked to me all the time, or that He always felt as real to me as my wife and kids. Because He doesn’t.
This is so me, again. I love Jesus. I think following in His footsteps, so closely I get covered with the dust of His sandals, is the best way to live. I get excited just thinking about the Kingdom of God becoming a reality on a renewed and restored planet earth. And most days, that is enough for me. Even though when I pray, I usually feel like I’m talking to the ceiling (I remedy this by writing letters to God). Even though I’ve never had a burning bush, a prophetic dream, or any certainty that “God told me” something. Even though I usually feel nothing much special while everyone else is raising their hands and getting all emotional during a worship song. Even though I’m afraid if many of my Christian friends knew what I really believe, they’d call me a heretic and think I’m bound for a hell I’m not even sure exists.
Thank God there’s a growing movement of people who agree that salvation is more than intellectual assent to a checklist of theology. Because most of the time, I fail at the mental checklist. I fail to be sure of all the right things. But I love Jesus, and I think following Him is the best way to live. So, with God’s help, I try to do that every day.