I am a man who lost faith. Other authors in this issue of Revive are describing the life of faith, the bold steps of risky obedience Jesus calls us to take every day.
But what if we really aren’t sure about all of this? That was me.
After growing up in a vibrant Christian home, I lost my father, quickly and unexpectedly, to a brain tumor. I was seventeen.
As my mother struggled to raise my four siblings (two under the age of four), I set off to a Christian college. My doubts raged, and my questions grew. I only lasted a year.
I transferred to a public university in hopes of processing my life without the confusion Christianity now presented me. There I encountered the idea that truth is not a fixed reality, but something people decide through the lens of their experiences.
This line of reasoning found a home in me. Within a few short years, I rejected the truth claims of the Christian story of my youth. More precisely, I no longer believed in the validity of faith at all. I lost it.
Those were dark days for me. Deep down, my heart still yearned for what my head had rejected. I had to admit I had plenty of loneliness and unfulfilled longings.
Occasionally, I would slip into the back of a church to watch Christians worship. I remember thinking, “Faith would be so comforting; I wish I could just believe again.” But turning faith on like a light switch seemed like an impossibility.
Several years later, my fiancé insisted we go to church together regularly. Without a doubt, I went only for her. But something unexpected was in store for me.
In listening to the retelling of the story of Jesus and the dramatic impact on people who met Him, I found my heart softening. As I looked at Jesus, I began to be captivated by His life.
And then, just as suddenly as it felt like faith had evaporated, I found that it was back—but this time, it was different. It wasn’t “something I believed” anymore; it was “someone I believed in.”
That was more than twenty years ago, and by God’s grace, I am still believing in Jesus. I’ve learned that faith can be rooted in the wrong thing without even knowing it.
Looking back now on what happened to me, I realize that what I thought was faith in God when I was in high school was really my belief that my life would turn out well as long as I believed. In other words, if I did my part, God would do His.
The cold reality of my father’s death shattered that contract. God failed to keep His end of my bargain with Him. What had I done to deserve disappointment and pain? So I doubted the reliability of God, and ultimately shrank away from Him in shock.
Yet, ironically, the very doubts that drove me away from faith are actually what drove me toward Jesus. Before I could encounter Him, I had to reject my self-created version of Him.
It is on this “real” faith, then, that I’m able to stand and serve—faith that is based on who Jesus is, rather than just based on the script I was taught as a kid, and the implied bargain of a blessed life.
Knowing Jesus—my Redeemer, my Friend, my Savior, my Lord—-is what gives me joy and strength to push ahead into the next frontier of faith … even when times are hard, even when I face losses, even when I don’t understand. I’m not saying yes to a postulate or a program, but to a Person.
In losing it, I gained Him.