Faith column: Keep your faith
During trying times, it’s important to remember your own strength
It’s the most nerve-wracking time of the year. Stress levels are high, sickness runs rampant and a good night’s sleep is a distant memory. Final projects need to be handed in, papers need to be written and then comes the joy of exams!
Even those with the strongest willpower seem to falter in these last few weeks. But it’s not just an individual’s physical and mental health that is at risk; spiritual doubting is also at an all time high.
Now I don’t have any statistics to prove that more people struggle with their faith around this time of year, it’s just something that I’ve observed in many conversations over the past month. When your body and mind are pushed to their limits, there isn’t much space for spiritual reflection.
It’s only natural that one’s faith might be choked out. It would be naïve of me to propose that faith struggles only occur during periods of stress like these. There certainly isn’t a simple formula for what makes people doubt. Everyone’s faith is tested differently. But I would argue that everyone’s faith is tested eventually.
I don’t know that I have spoken to anyone who has held a belief system for a substantial amount of time that hasn’t hit some sort of wall in his or her beliefs. Sometimes people question you on what you believe and you realize you don’t have the answers for them — or for yourself. Often life gets harder or tragedy hits and you don’t think you can reconcile the feelings with your faith. For some people, moments like this can turn the light of their faith off forever. Even still, I would argue that challenges are the greatest tool in building a faith that lasts.
A common analogy in Christian circles is that of baby food and real food. When you first start to believe in God, you are eating baby food. You learn that Jesus loves you and that he wants to walk with you and be your friend forever.
Awesome. As you grow and mature, you start to chew on tougher subjects. Jesus loves you, but still lets you feel pain. He wants to walk with you, but why doesn’t it look like he’s walking with the kids in Africa that are born with AIDS? He wants to be your friend forever, but why are so many still being bullied to the point of suicide? Enter, doubts.
If I were to tell you that I have an answer for all of those issues, I’d be lying. However, I can still exist in this world with a strong faith, because I’ve wrestled with questions like these and made it to the other side: the side that can reconcile faith with a world that is hurting. Some of this I’ve figured out through study and research. Some of it comes from undeniable moments of realization.
One such moment occurred in my first year at Bible College. We were only a couple months in to the first semester and I was done. My home life was challenging, nothing seemed to be going right and the more I studied this God I claimed to believe in, the less I believed He even existed.
Just after midnight one night, I was crying my eyes out and yelling at God. I spoke to the hollow air in my bedroom saying, “God, if you really exist, you better show me because I’m ready to call it quits.” Hearing nothing back, I begrudgingly went to bed still feeling lost. The next morning at school, I opened my emails to print off an assignment I had sent to myself. There, in my inbox, was an email from a 13-year-old I was mentoring at my church. She said that I might think she was crazy, but she felt like God wanted her to pray for me. She wasn’t sure if I had something going on or what, but she was praying for me anyway. The time stamp on the email was 12:23 a.m.
That crisis I was going through is not the toughest crisis I’ve ever faced. I also know for certain that I will have larger struggles in years to come. I am, however, very grateful that I went through that, because it’s something to hold on to when everything else seems to be swirling into chaos. There’s a verse in the bible (in the book of James) that explains it really well saying, “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” If I hadn’t been challenged like that, my faith would have been lacking and I don’t know if I’d be able to get through tough times like these. So I pray and hope that everyone faces challenges. I hope that when you encounter them you face them head on and don’t ignore them. You never know how much stronger you could become.