What does it mean to lose faith? I have always believed that doubt is a part of faith. Otherwise, it would be fact, and faith by its definition is a belief beyond facts or, to some, without facts. So doubts have rarely made me uncomfortable. I see them as how we maintain and grow stronger in our faith.
But then how does one lose faith? One way is when faith becomes fact. When a person’s faith is so rigid that instead of seeing and hearing God in the people around us — finding the sinners and the saints and loving them both — a person only sees words and doctrine. The fundamentalists of all religions make this mistake, but sometimes, it is also a friend or neighbor. They take their faith lenses and turn the world black and white instead of love and love.
But others lose faith as well. They become indifferent or angry. And they can’t seem to move past thought it. Perhaps it is when one’s doubt becomes so much larger than one’s faith that there is no desire to grow in understanding. No willingness to talk to God and others.
I have lived my faith for nearly ten years. I work hard to put my faith first in my friendships, marriage, parenting and my interactions with strangers. I pray daily. I trust that God’s will is better than my ideas. I know that my faith has given me more hope and joy than I ever had without it. And my faith has allowed me to accept my burdens and struggles with an ease that I never had before actively believing in God. And while I understand that not everyone needs the dailiness of faith that I do, I no longer begrudge them of it. I like having faith.
Of course, my conception of God and faith has changed over time. There came a point that I could not stomach the idea of “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” I kept thinking: Does he just think “oops” when a person commits suicide? I began to believed that life is life and God is God.
Life is what it is with cancer and hurricanes and addiction and death. And the miracle of God is that he can take these terrible moments and create kindness and beauty in them and out of them. The person dying of cancer whose life encourages another person to become an oncologist. The hurricane that destroys a city but reveals the love and generosity of our neighbors. The addiction that drives a person to find faith and community and in turn, helps the next addict to recover and reunite with his family. The death of one person allowing another to take stop taking life for granted. Or encouraging the country to enact new laws. Or sparks entire movements. These do not fix the hurt and horror, but good amongst difficulty is a miracle.
That is my God. Until I’ve had to watch my children adjust to this “new normal” we are experiencing. I have no control over the challenges. I cannot shelter them or protect them. I did not cause it, but because of that, I cannot change it. Even though I had already thought that I’d been through enough in my life, I would take a thousand more burdens to protect my children.
I can’t help but wonder if all my works and faiths and love and steadfastness have meant nothing. That the stories of “a life lived closer to God is an easier life” are lies told by lucky people, not faithful people. If the best God can give me is the strength to endure, He seems insignificant and unhelpful. What a tiny God to believe in.
But the alternative is a powerful God who controls all of it. All of the troubles and turmoils and pain are doled out. The hurricanes and cancers planned. But a God who would chose my children, or for that matter, anyone’s children, is not a God that I can love and trust. How can I believe in something which has no mercy?
Some people will say that we are not meant to understand God’s plans. Well, God is welcomed to have plans that I don’t understand. But how dare He drag my children into it. How dare He not give me ten more years of protecting them.
I’m angry and sad and confused.
Because if God is all-powerful, then he could have prevented this — taken it away. He could have decided that my family has had enough.
And if He is merely there to give my four-year-old and two-year-old the strength to endure, I hope that He feels the shame of his inadequacy.
I still believe in God, but sometimes I wish that I didn’t. Because then life could be meaningless. I would shrug at the cards I was dealt, the lot my children were given, and think: So be it.
Or perhaps I could view faith as fact. I could berate myself for not being faithful enough. Except anyone with an easy life, who believes that they earned it, is more than welcomed to enter into a faith-off with me. I don’t doubt that I have been who God wants me to be all these years.
So I am left to feel failed by the only constant in my life over the last ten years. I am left to my tears and rages and heartache.
I have only doubted like this once before. But my faith survived. In fact, it thrived. Eventually.
So I do what I did then: I keep questioning, crying, yelling, talking, doing and finding my way through.
I may even come to trust God again.