Christians Should Not Be Surprised by Faith Struggles


faith 001

I want, I strive, to be a person of faith.

Given that I’m a Christian pastor, you’d sort of hope so, right? I don’t expect any “attaboys” from the stands.

I know you know that having real faith implies an on-going struggle—whoever you are, whatever your vocation. Pastors are not exempt.

I well remember talking to a ministerial mentor about some hard “faith questions” I was struggling with, when he replied, “Where do you think many of my sermons come from? My own questions and struggles, exactly like the one you’ve just laid out. Why would you think having faith means not having deep questions?”

He’s right. The One who affirmed that we should “love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind” is not averse to our using our minds. We should apologize for not using them enough—as long as we don’t forget that, at the end of the inquiry, it’s childlike faith Christ values most.

Real faith is not unquestioning. By all means, use every tool available to hone your mind. Read. Study. Learn how to ask the right questions. But do so in the full realization that no bridge of logic will extend across the whole chasm. Eventually, everybody has to make a choice and take a leap of faith, even if it’s the negative faith that chooses to believe in unbelief. Choosing not to choose is its own poor choice. Instead of “minding the gap,” as the London Tube (subway) signs admonish, being careful when you cross the space between the platform and the subway car, choosing not to choose is trying to camp in the gap.

But even those who’ve made, I think, the best choice, agree that it’s not easy. C. S. Lewis, almost certainly the greatest defender and expositor of Christian belief in the past century, once said that no proposition of Christianity ever seemed less likely to be true to him than at the very moment he had just supposedly successfully “defended” it. That’s just the nature of the beast we call faith. Sometimes it purrs. Sometimes it growls.

Lewis also noted that believers should not be surprised if faith is at times difficult or fleeting. We are humans, after all, whose feelings are affected by everything from the weather to the state of our digestion. Refreshingly realistic, Lewis said that when he was an atheist, he had moments when he suspected that Christianity just might be true. Why should he be surprised to find that as a Christian, he had moments when he wondered if there was really anything to it? In such moments, it’s good to remember that, at a particular time, you’ve already, for good reasons, taken the leap, made the jump, sealed the promise, committed to the journey. Don’t navel-gaze too much in times when just hanging on to the precepts of faith seems difficult.

The good news is that those times pass. The bad news is that living out the faith is a lot harder than just holding to its central beliefs. The best news of all is that Christ understands our faith struggles and will buoy us up in the midst of them all.


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Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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