I struggle with faith. A lot.
I mean, I work in a church. I spend large chunks of my time reading the Bible, praying, and contemplating on scripture, theology, and faith.
And some days I struggle to believe it.
I have days that I feel very strong in my faith. But I also have at least as many days that I feel very unsure about my faith.
Growing up, I heard a lot about Thomas, who said he wouldn’t believe in the resurrection of Christ unless he could feel the holes in Jesus hands. Most of the lessons we heard about Thomas were somewhat negative. Things about how Thomas should have believed like the other apostles.
But I don’t think Thomas is put into the Gospel of John as an example of how not to be. I think Thomas is put into the Gospel of John because John recognizes that not everyone will accept the resurrection easily. I think Thomas’ story is there to remind us that questions don’t make bad Christians.
If your faith comes easy to you, that’s a blessing. If you never have days where you’re unsure, that’s a great gift from God. But that’s not everyone’s story. For some of us, belief is a struggle.
And I wish I could to tell you that I have it all figured out. I wish I could tell you that each day with God is a day I feel closer and closer to his presence. I wish I could tell you that the more time you spend reading scripture and praying, the closer to God you will feel.
But sometimes you just don’t.
Sometimes God will feel distant, even as you pursue him with your whole heart. Sometimes, your brain will have a hard time making those leaps of faith. Sometimes faith will feel foolish.
And that’s okay.
Christ tells us that even a minuscule amount of faith leads to powerful things. That a mustard seed becomes a mighty tree.
And some days, I’m the tree.
And some days, I’m the seed.
And some days, I wish I could even pretend to be the seed.
But I keep pursuing God. And often, when I can’t find God in my reading, or my thinking, or my praying, I find God in my experiences.
To be honest, I don’t know if God is exactly the way most churches talk about God, but I do know that I get a feeling like I’m alive and fulfilling my purpose when I engage in service to others, and when I spend time centering myself on the nature of God.
And that’s something that many of the biblical authors said was true about God – that God cares for the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized. That God is wholly righteous, but also completely loving. And when I engage in seeking God’s justice for all people from a position of love, I really feel like I experience God in a way that all the study and prayer in the world can’t compare to.
A rational faith can be a good thing, but it’s got nothing on an experiential faith.
And the good thing about an experiential faith is that even if you’re struggling to rationalize it, you can keep working. Even if you’re not totally sold on it, you can still be a part of the Good News.
In Luke 4, Jesus reads from the book of Isaiah to say, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And I think that if the Church joins Christ in that mission, the Spirit of God is with us, even when we’re not sure we believe it.
So to the person experiencing a crisis of faith – Do something.
Keep praying. Keep thinking. Keep studying. But also get up and do something. Try to figure out what you think God’s core attributes are. What is the God of the Bible passionate about? Where does God focus attention and energy? And when you have answers to those questions, join God in those things. Meet God in the people and activities that God is passionate about. At the very least, you’re helping make people’s lives better.
And who knows? Maybe in seeking after the heart of God, you’ll find it.