Many people begin their walk of faith, and everything goes as they expected. Out of genuine conviction, they attend church, learn from the Scriptures, volunteer, serve, give, and become “productive, committed, faithful, Christians.” But somewhere along the way things go terribly wrong.
The orderly, stalwart faith that used to “work” for these true believers becomes a muddled mess. Yes, they once taught Sunday school, sang in the choir, chaperoned the youth group, chaired the Stewardship Committee, and had bullet-proof answers to all questions of faith. But then, all at once or over an extension of time, their faith splintered into a million tiny pieces. A divorce. A child falls deathly ill and heaven seems silent as a stone. An accident leaves the once healthy college student broken and mutilated. The circumstances come in variegated form, but the impact is the same.
It is more than a crisis of faith, more than theological bump in the road; it is an unraveling that robs people of their confidence and comfort. The once unshakable believer descends downward into the blackness of doubt. Adding insult to injury, sometimes the only thing the church or we ministerial types can say in those moments is, “Pray more. Just believe. Let go and let God. Try harder.” Not only is this insensitive, asinine advice, it simply won’t work. Those who have hit this kind of barricade feel so dismantled, that to keep doing what they were doing—only with more enthusiasm—is impossible.
Here is your choice: You can harden your heart and sweep the shards of your faith into the dustpan, giving up on God completely; or you can pick up the broken pieces, with bloody hands and heart, and reassemble faith on the other side of doubt. No, it won’t be the same faith you once had; it will be dramatically different. It won’t be an improved or updated version of the beliefs you formerly held; it will be a new construction altogether. This reassembled faith will not provide you with all the answers to all your questions; instead, it will help you to see the world, God, and people differently.
So if you find yourself crushed against what feels like the concrete and steel of disbelief, with not a drop of faith left, I understand. Don’t throw it all away just yet. In the breaking, you might find that faith has a new beginning.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author. His books include “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus” and “The Jesus Tribe.” Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.