I grew up in a traditional church environment. Sunday services were an hour with a set amount of hymns (not songs) and a neat and tidy three-point sermon. I would get dressed up, attend the service, and have a late breakfast after. This was tradition.
Years later, I came to realize that this tradition set up a conditional faith. If I would just be good, God would be on my side. Just do the right thing and the situations in life would fall my way, the outcomes favorable and numerous. It took college to start seeing hints of an alternative.
Val and I attended The Bridge, a college-age service in a church just down the road from West Chester University. At the time, it was in its prime with two services getting five hundred students every week. The lead pastor was passionate, genuine, and engaging. Those nights carried us closer to God.
Then it happened.
Years later we were in the middle of transitioning from an unhealthy start-up church (that eventually closed) to a new one closer to our current house. I was talking with the pastor of the outgoing church and he said, in conversation:
“What gives you the right to be so damn judgmental?”
There I was, years after believing church to be a place where God would stay on my side if I stayed on the right side of the line, getting stung by a church leader.
I’m not the first, or the last, person to have this kind of experience. In that moment, my faith needed to be rebuilt, refined, and reborn. The process wasn’t easy and is still happening today.
I believe we are all works in progress and I know, in the midst of our issues, God is there. We’ve called out to him and he has responded. I know his grace is real and, even when we take steps back, he is there to catch us. He goes before us and stands behind. There are things to remember as you face a crisis of faith:
Investigate: Throughout the process of writing Overcome, I’ve conducted almost ten interviews so far. I’ve collected numerous accounts of God answering prayer, coming through to provide the exact things needed in the exact moment. He reaches into our reality, breaks through the veil, and touches our lives. Talk to your family, friends, and fellow church members. Research online. Use the stories, old and new, of real faith and let them lift you up. Absorb what you find and you’ll notice your foundations growing firmer each day.
Instigate: Tell God your problems. Don’t use structured prayer. Take a moment away from your prayer journal. Go to a quiet place and let it out. Scream, shout, cry, question, beg, plead, do whatever you need to do. The important thing is that you move towards your creator. Have a conversation like he is standing next to you and remember that he actually is. He’s there in your darkness, in your questions, in the sleepless nights and miles walked in hallways. He’s there as you watch over your sick relative in the hospital, as you find out you’ve lost your job, as the principal calls you about your daughter.
You are never alone.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:27
Listen and take in the lyrics. It is the perfect song to remember when dealing with a crisis of faith.