In the Crisis
“In the waiting, God is still working”.
As this sentence fell out of my mouth, I choked up a bit.
God, you’ve kept me waiting for a long time.
When will it end?
As I spoke those words I was sitting in my car in an empty Arby’s parking lot. I had been driving on the interstate when my eyes filled to the brim with tears, threatening to spill over. I got off on the next exit and found the first empty parking lot I could find. My stomach was in knots. I began asking God one of the questions I had piling up inside. Actually, I had hundreds, and none of them seemed to be getting answered.
I feel like I’ve been in a long, strange season. It’s been so filled with joy and blessing and change and grief. It’s been one big roller coaster ride after another, and I’m just waiting for things to change.
I’ve been waiting for a lot of things for a long time, but what pushed me over the edge is the fact that so many people have been walking away from their faith. Close friends have turned away and church leaders have given it all up. I’ve been mourning that. In that Arby’s parking lot, my heart felt wrung out & dry. God, how can this be happening? How can people be walking away? Why is it so easy for sin to drag us down? I sat there, angry and grieving.
Along with waiting for questions to be answered, I think maybe you could also say that I’ve been in the middle of my own faith crisis. I’ve been asking all of the big life questions and questioning my own beliefs.
Like, what do I actually believe?
Not what does my church believe, but what do I believe.
If God is so loving, why is his church so hateful and corrupt? Do I even want to be a part of that?
Why do we accept some people’s sins as “normal” or “typical” and totally shun others for theirs?
How do many people claim to love God and not show love?
I’m tired of all the hate in the world and I’m tired of seeing church scandals on social media.
I recently listened to a podcast about the host’s faith crisis and it resonated with me. She explained how her and her husband took a “church detox” after traumatic church related events and didn’t go to church for a long while to recover. I get that. I mean, I didn’t have anything traumatic happen, but it’s hard to figure things out when you are still smack dab in the middle of it all. She talked about how the people around her wanted to rush her through it, and the big questions she was asking were making them uncomfortable, poking holes in their faith. They would do or say unhelpful things in their misunderstanding. She talked about how now, after a long while she has found a new church to go to and how she has a much stronger faith after asking the hard questions. She described how God worked through the whole situation even when it didn’t feel like he was. He was working while her questions weren’t being answered.
In that Arby’s parking lot, just before I spoke the words at the top of this page, I felt God gently say,
“I am working, even now.
In the quiet, I am working
In the chaos, I am working
In the pain, I am working
In the diagnosis, I am working
In the walking away, I am working.”
I know that you don’t often hear people talk about going through a faith crisis, but why? I think it’s safe to say that we all ask these questions at point or another. Maybe not hundreds at a time, but we’ve all asked a big life question or two. We’ve all known what it feels like to be wrecked or confused or unsure. We know what it’s like to wrestle with God and be angry and feel a little lost. I was upset thinking about all the rock-solid people who seemed to be stepping away from what they once so fiercely believed, however, I realized that I seemed to be only a few steps away from that place as well. I never imagined myself having such big doubts or questions. But there I was, and I now know what it feels like to be so sure of something and unsure of it at the same time.
In my car that evening, I also heard him say this: “Keep wrestling”.
I’ve heard it said that a relationship isn’t most in trouble when the two people are arguing and wrestling and jabbing at each other. The relationship is truly in trouble when one of the parties falls silent. When someone stops trying. It’s hard to fix something with low quality communication, but it’s impossible to fix something with no communication at all.
Being in a faith crisis doesn’t have to mean that your faith is ending any more than a health crisis means you are dying. A crisis is serious, but it’s not necessarily lethal. It might just mean that you are wrestling with the tough questions or contemplating doubts. Most people that I’ve heard talk about a faith crisis they’ve gone through explain that in the end, at the end of the crisis after all the wrestling and questions, their faith was much stronger. When you exhaust the doubts and questions, you find out that God is bigger than all of them. You find out that he isn’t scared of anything you could do or say and he isn’t disappointed in you. He works even in your crisis.
You find out that at the end of your faith rope is Gods, and his doesn’t end and it can’t be cut.
I fretted over this post for a long time. It has been written and rewritten, and written again at least twenty times. I didn’t want anyone to make a big deal of it or misunderstand my words. I hope that as you read this, you see the heart behind it. I hope you see that even though I’m not totally through this yet, I’m choosing to keep wrestling and I’m not going to walk away. I’m going to keep fighting and asking the questions because I know that God is good and loving. And I pray you do the same, because I know that I’m not the only one who is experiencing this right now.
As I was finishing up this post I found myself cold, sitting in a booth in the only Mcdonalds in town. In the booth next to me sat a man, reading a small bible. A few minutes after I sat down, an older couple joined him, also with a bible. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation, which was mostly one man asking the couple a bunch of questions about what he had recently read. He was asking them all kinds of questions about God and faith and life with Christ. He was questioning as much as I was, and they were answering. As I sat there, I just felt like I was him. That was me in that booth, and God was the one sitting across from me, answering the endless stream of questions thrown at him. There was no frustration and there was no judgment, it was just simply a conversation.
Even though it’s been rocky lately, I’ve learned more about myself and God and faith than I think I’ve ever learned before. I’ve asked questions I never imagined asking and I’ve seen things I never thought I would see. I’ve felt the patience and presence of God as he met me in my cold booth of questions, and he wants to meet you there too.
Wherever you are tonight, whether you are dealing with the loss of a friendship,
a scary diagnosis,
a hundred questions,
a mountain of sin,
a faith crisis,
I see you. Just keep wrestling; He is still working.