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How I Lost My Faith

For several months the thought had been swirling in my mind. Even so, I was reluctant to say the words out loud. Terrified of the reality becoming true. What would anyone think of me if I admitted this? The CEO running a nonprofit featuring the love of Jesus, the mom who took her babies to church every Sunday - without fail, the Bible study group leader, mentor and friend. I was always the strong one, always the shoulder to cry on and offer a voice of truth in others moments of doubt. But it was becoming harder to offer encouragement when I was doubting those very truths to be true. The thought turned belief only became more evident with each passing day until I couldn't hold it in any longer. One day I turned to my husband, with tears in my eyes, the words tumbled out:

"I think I am losing my faith."

The words hung in the air as my heart spilled into my lap in drops of salty tears.

What now, I wondered? What did this make me? A fraud? A failure? I'm sure God would give up on me now. What a horrible Christian I was to doubt the goodness of God just because life was hard.

But the truth is it was more than hard. It has been one debilitating and heartbreaking season after another. And every time I had the courage to get back up off the bloodied mat the enemy kept throwing me down on, he would hurl another blow and send me to my knees. I simply had nothing left. No fight. No hope. No dream. No faith. I wanted to cry uncle. I was done.

I have often heard faith defined it this way: Faith is the confidence of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.

But that was the problem. I didn't have confidence that things could ever get better. And I watched hope flutter away. Why bother believing and hoping again when the crushing reality is life will always be hard this side of eternity? Better to keep my expectations very low than risk believing in a God who would inevitably let me down... again.

And who was this God anyways? I mused. The God I had dedicated my life to? The God I had told everyone was a healer and friend and miracle worker? The God I was told if I obeyed He would bless. Where was He in this mess I never asked for? Where was His power now to heal and help and rescue? He was silent and I was alone, suffocating under the crushing weight of pain and abandonment. If this was the real God, then maybe I was better off not believing in Him at all. The God I thought I knew was just and fair, this God was complex and complicated, cold even.

I had grown proud, entitled and angry. God owed me! And He was failing to hold up His end of the deal. I thought He loved me, but this didn't feel like love.

Not so long after I found myself mindlessly scrolling through social media, I happened upon a video of a woman sharing her battle with grief and losing her faith in God - the "god" she had wanted Him to be. And that's when the Holy Spirit so gently whispered:

"Emily, you ARE losing your faith. You are losing your faith in a god man made up, a god I never promised to be. You're losing your faith and I want you to, so that you can find me."

I was undone. Lose my faith to find my freedom?

It was then I realized my faith had been so flawed. It was made up of legalism and man's secret equations to bend the ear and will of God. It was my ideas and perceptions to micromanage God. I had put Him in a box where I could still feel in control while simultaneously claiming Him as Lord, but only if He acted the way I wanted. I wanted to keep Him in the limited mindset that made me feel comfortable. And I was so angry He wasn't doing what I wanted and playing by my rules. My pride had snuck up to the helm and was leading the charge in a desperate attempt to protect my aching heart.

But God's only response to my omission of anger and resentment was this - "I already knew and I still loved you".

Yes, truly, who was THIS God?

"Okay, God, then if I am going to lose my faith let me lose it all - all the lies and false ideas. Let me lose my faith and fully find You."

Little did I know what this prayer was going to lead to. Or what shaking it would require to give up my faith to find it.

God is a jealous God. And not like the jealousy we feel full of envy and greed. No, His jealousy is righteous, protective and zealous for our hearts. He wants all of us. And He will not settle until He gets our full hearts because He knows that's where we can experience His best for us. Any less would be doing a disservice to the people He loves. And yes, you could say I had given Him my heart... But with conditions I didn't even realize. Conditions that required Him to give me the good things I wanted and never let me suffer over the maximum limit. I would sing His praises but only under suffering deserved by man's standards. I would fight the good fight of faith but only if it was a fight I deemed worthy. But testing that doesn't make sense? No. Then I was out. Blaming God just like the next gal with a shattered heart.

And yet, the true and living God has never changed. Through all of history, the changes of the church, religion and persecution, the ways we have chained Him to our will to make sense of our days, even still, HE has not changed. He has remained steadfast in love, abounding in mercy, a good, good Father. And yet a God equal in ferocity, a God that should make us tremble in fear.

This is where I have often got hung up. I loved the Jesus of the New Testament. The one who wiped the slate clean for whores and sinners like me. Who put the hypocrites in their place, who died and rose again claiming my victory. That's an easy God to sing about. But the Old Testament God, I have to admit I don't like Him so much. He wiped out nations. He allowed immense suffering in Jobs' life with no explanation. And I just couldn't ever wrap my mind around Him.

I've been taking time to read through the Bible courtesy of the Bible Recap (Awesome Bible plan! Highly recommend!) and the trip through the pages of scripture could not have come at a better time. Each day the recap leader asks us what was our God shot, where did we see God in the chapters we just read? And over and over, as early as Genesis and Exodus, a returning theme beats in my head: Why does this God cares so much about us? Why does He choose the most unlikely, sinful people and work a marvelous redemption plan through them?

I don't know when the last time is that you have read through the Torah, but if you think 2024 is bad, think again. There was no one good, not one good half decent, not tainted by sin man or woman alive. I think too often we can puff ourselves up believing we would be one of the "chosen ones" , we admire our holiness and faithful tithing, volunteering at church and attendance, but the reality is, just like in the Old Testament, we are ugly with sin and in desperate need of a Savior! If God waited for a perfect spotless lamb to simply arrive from mere mortals it never would have happened. So, in some insane grace, He allows us to be a part of the story. You and me. Broken. Angry. Prideful. Jealous. Lustful. Sinful people. He picks us and allows His glory to be set on display.

The more I read the more I become convinced, this God in the New Testament is not so different from the one I am meeting in the Old. I see the same mercy extended to sinners. The same sovereignty over the pious and self-righteous of the day. Yes, He IS the same God. The same God pulling people from the ashes of ridiculously painful circumstances and using them for His purpose to preserve nations, and to run a bloodline all the way to the cross, and all the way to you and me where He prepared in advance a plan to graft us in to a covenant we never had any business being a part of.

This God I thought I knew - I am so humbled by. I am humbled by His mercy that He welcomes my questions and doesn't reject me when I don't understand why He allows some to live and some to go or why He sent food to nations that never gave Him praise. I don't know that I will ever understand the story of Job or the pain of those around me. Nor do I understand why His grace extends to a wretch like me. I can't make sense of Him. He doesn't fit into man's set of rules for right or wrong, good or bad. Because He is God! And I am realizing this is where He is asking for my surrender and my FAITH. Will I trust a God I won't ever figure? Because if I could, would He really be God?

God doesn't ask us to understand Him, then believe. He asks for our confidence in the one holding the sands of time together. To hope in a God whose character is incapable of change and as Romans 5 tells us, a God who can't ever let us down. He asks for faith in the things not seen, despite compassionately revealing so much to our faithless hearts because He remembers we are dust and as a Father who tenderly loves His children even when they ask for the 100th time, "are we there yet?", He shows grace.

Yes, friends, I am happy to admit I have lost my faith. But I have gained so much more! A foundation of trust in a God that can't be contained to a box of hopes and wishes. He is no genie in a bottle. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is my God. My Savior. My friend. What man has ever done half of what God has done for you and me? What friend, spouse or job has ever been as loyal, faithful and kind? Who has ever seen you in all your shame and said, "that one, I choose them". Sometimes we mix up the flawed character of humans with God. But in my story, the only one who has never rejected or abandoned me, has been God. And that God that loves me despite me, that's who I am choosing to trust, not because He does what I want or I can figure out His next move, but because He is worthy!

So you see, I've lost my faith in "god", an idol I had made, but in losing my faith in fiction, I have gained back so much more.

Love, E

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