Over the past two months, I’ve been forced to examine my faith more than ever before. Professors at Wheaton College don’t shy away from asking the most difficult of questions. The doubts that have surfaced because of those questions often scare me, but doubt isn’t something that will destroy my faith. The real danger comes when I am too afraid to ask “What if?” and I begin sweeping things under the rug. No sin, no fear, and no insecurity holds up when it’s brought out into the light.
That’s my hope for this photo series. It’s my way of bringing my doubts and fears, some from this semester and some that I’ve always carried, into the light so that maybe someone else will know they are not alone.
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Those who know me well know about my anxiety. People want to be helpful, but the constant, “Have you prayed about it?” “You know the Bible says not to be anxious,” has never made things better. I wish I could make others understand–this isn’t something I choose. Who wants to look foolish or weak? And who wants to appear lazy on the days they struggle to function? More than anything though, anxiety has made me doubt those who say they love me. I fear that my anxiety will push others away. I struggle to trust that God will hold my heart even when others change their minds.
I have cried and begged to understand why my mind works the way it does. Yet every time I find myself angry at God again, I come across someone new who needed a sympathetic, anxious heart to listen. A few weeks ago, I was told the most affirming thing about my anxiety: “I hate that you struggle with this and I hate how much it hurts you, but I love the person it has made you.” Words like these help me remember the purpose behind this brokenness of mine.
Heart over Mind.
I once read somewhere that the INTP personality is one of the least likely to believe in a God. We’re too rational and too logical for supernatural nonsense. The more I study and pursue God’s truth academically, the more cracks I feel like I see in this faith. The more I learn, the more confused I am.
But it’s then I remember the things I have experienced that don’t make sense. Based solely on logic, I would not believe in a God–much less a loving one. Yet my soul has personally felt God’s power. I know he is real simply because no other answer will suffice for the things I have experienced. If God did not exist I would not be who I am. In all honesty, if I had never encountered an indescribable love like His, I doubt I’d even be breathing. I am not a Christian because someone put together a logical argument for me, but because I heard his voice when I was at my weakest.
Here at Wheaton College a casual conversation can change into a theological debate in a heartbeat. Some of the most in depth discussions have asked the question, “What is truly required for salvation?”
I often doubt that a loving God–the Abba that I know–would condemn someone to eternal damnation simply because they don’t believe exactly what I do. I don’t understand how that is justice or redemption. How does suffering bring God glory?
Two years ago I watched a lecture about the meaning of life. The professor had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, so he wanted to leave his students with his life advice. I remember how inspiring his words were. He just got it. All the things that we as Christians attempt to do with our lives, all the ways we’re called to treat others–he seemed to have such a solid grasp on it all.
But then the video ended and my teacher said, “Sadly, I don’t believe he was a Christian…” and there was a quiet but casual pause.
Have we ever sat down and thought about what that pause implies? We try to be polite and dress eternity up in cute language that won’t offend, but what we’re actually saying is, “Sadly, I don’t believe he was a Christian… so he’ll be tortured in hell for all eternity. But he did have some nice things to say didn’t he?”
My heart can’t seem to get over the idea that someone who understood how to live so well would be punished for all eternity. I cannot grasp the idea that a God who loves so deeply could condemn as easily as Christians do.
But for those who are certain that there is punishment for anyone who does not believe exactly what they do–how are they not more broken over this? When did Christians become so desensitized to suffering?
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Even in the midst of all my doubt, my Savior shows up. Even when I think nothing makes sense, he intervenes and I am awestruck. To be fully known is terrifying. To be fully known and fully loved makes no sense. Yet I am. Every heart wants to believe when they are told by someone they love, “I’m not going anywhere.” And somehow, despite my fears and my doubts, my God truly means it.
I suppose all of this is why I’d rather live among the doubters, the “what if”-ers, the wounded. I’d rather live among those that are strong enough to sit down and listen. Those that are brave enough to say, “I don’t know.”
Doubt isn’t the killer we claim it is. At the end of the day, if God were small enough to be explained by a professor or pastor, I would want nothing to do with him. It’s the things about him I don’t understand–the experiences I’ve had, the love and healing that makes no sense–that allow me to hold onto my faith.