The stress of adult life often reveals the lack of authentic faith in our lives. Oftentimes we don’t realize the lack of faith and doubt that exists inside of us at all. How do we fix this? Where do we go to cultivate our own faith when we can no longer endure on the faith of our mentors, pastors and parents?
As I boarded a flight New York City, a sinking feeling came over me and my palms began to sweat as I clenched my fists at my side. I had never in my entire life experienced a fear of flying or anything related to it until that moment. And then I realized something was inherently wrong with me. Fear had become more prominent in me than it ever was before. I knew that my child-like faith had disappeared and my peace along with it.
Let me be the first to say that the realization of having a faith crisis does not always manifest itself in things as ridiculous as a plane ride to New York City. In this case, the fear that gripped me was bigger than this single moment. Many Christians experience a faith crisis when they make the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Regardless of the cause, many of us will not be able to sustain during these times of questioning.
Oddly, for those of us who were fortunate enough to have grown up in some type of spiritual environment this can be very challenging. Many times, an absence of life experience or personal struggle allows this faith to root almost blindly. When this happens, it can be a great way of laying a foundation of faith for someone to begin initially growing. It isn’t until we have come face to face with uncertainty that our faith can be truly tested.
The catalyst for uncertainty could actually be very subtle in nature. It could be a failed relationship, the death of a friend or family member, or maybe even something as simple as a class at a college or university that challenges what we believed or thought to be true. Recognizing a crisis in one’s faith is not always difficult. In fact, as believers in Christ, we are always wrestling with our faith to a certain extent and that is OK. It is also OK to be concerned about situations in our lives. We are still human after all. It is when we feel crippled by that lack of faith that prohibits us from living out the lives we feel led to live. Then we know there is a more serious problem.
If faith is the belief in things unseen, then the opposite of faith is fear. Fear is the absence of faith; a resistance to things we cannot control, know or see. When we find ourselves unusually fearful about our lives, it is important to assess what may be going on in our heads and in our hearts. Unfortunately, many of us may be casualties of our own Christian circle. Many times, the Church has been an environment that frowns on questioning. Some Christian feel that asking the question of why is too dangerous, and should be avoided at all costs. We may not realize this type of attitude is actually an open admitting of our own lack of faith.
Refusing to question is essentially saying God Himself is too weak and His spirit incapable of bringing these individuals full circle with their doubts and back into powerful faith living. To put it more simply—it is fear. I am not saying this to criticize the Church. In fact, most of this is rooted in genuine concern. Unfortunately, this just isn’t conducive to spiritual growth.
The problem is not the faith crisis itself. The faith crisis is a normal human response and the problem lies in what happens after. How are we supposed to respond when we realize the influence and faith of our past isn’t quite cutting it? How are we to begin cultivating authentic faith that we can carry into our own relationships and future families? It begins with coming to terms with what our faith is and what it is not. This is usually the hardest part of it all. We need to understand that subscribing to our faith is a humble acknowledgment that we exist simply because God had the creative idea of placing us into existence. Accepting this idea means accepting that we are limited in our ability to fully understand the complexities of the supernatural and of God Himself. This can be a tough pill to swallow, especially in a culture that challenges belief based on logic and tangible results. Romans speaks about this relationship between the created and the Creator. Chapter 9 verse 20 says, "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” (NIV). Here, the author is highlighting this disconnect between human understanding and the nature of God.
We have to be willing to take responsibility for our own spiritual growth. The Bible is very clear about the fact that Christianity is meant to be experienced most fully within the context of community. Getting involved in some type of church environment where we are able to be open and honest about our doubts and fears is essential to our growth. As cliché as it may sound, we have to spend time in Scripture and in prayer. How are we to ever fully assess Christianity if we have not truly attempted to experience it in context? Faith is putting our beliefs into action. This does not mean we have to become pastors or start a nonprofit organization for clean water in Africa. It could be as simple as getting into the habit of tithing at church, trusting that God will meet our needs and honor our financial commitments. It could mean treating our peers who don’t subscribe to our belief system with more respect. We have to allow faith to influence the way we live, and the way we engage the world around us. We have to take a step into belief while in the shadow of challenges and doubts. It isn’t until we take a chance on faith that we get rewarded with its fruit. When we are finally through the thickest parts of our own doubt and fear, we may realize it was the best thing that ever happened to us.