Will God Abandon You if You Doubt Your Faith

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When I hear of famous Christians like Joshua Harris, author of the immature book I Kissed Dating Goodby, and Marty Sampson of Hillsong United have deconstructed and then left the Christian faith, I’m troubled. I’m sad for them. I wonder about their faith before they gave up. Was it real? I don’t know them so I can’t judge. But does God? 

Will God Abandon You if You Doubt Your Faith?

The current term for doubt is deconstruction, meaning to critically evaluate it. To examine the system of belief we call “the Christian faith” and question the questionable. Of which there is much! Most of us have done at least some deconstruction of our faith.

At one point in my pastorate I grew exhausted with being “the Bible answer man.”

“Pastor Eugene, what does the Bible say about what career I should choose?”

“What does the Bible say about how many children I should have?”

It was my own fault. I understood and taught that the Bible was akin to the owners manual for an automobile. Our job was to study it, dissect it, underline it, master it, and operate our lives according to God’s principles and instructions we found in the manual.

But searching the Table of Contents I couldn’t find answers to those questions. Instead I found the Bible packed with crazy stories about talking snakes and donkeys, people making good and bad decisions, prostitutes as unlikely heroes, a God who talks to people, and a God who dresses up in flesh to be with us. 

Sure it has ample dos and don’ts. But mostly it’s a messy autobiography relating a frustrating, never-ending love affair between God and his creation. It’s as organic and alive as we are. 

Through my doubt, I began to understand the Bible is the story of God-with-us while we live here on earth not merely Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth! 

Using my doubt God drew near and spoke to me more often through Scripture. And it answered the foundational question: Who loves us?

God!


But Does Deconstructing your Faith Lead to Losing
it? 

Yes!

The word faith often means a religious system, adherence to ideas and principles that define Christianity. In this way faith does not reflect trust in the intimate, relational way a baby instinctively nurses at her mother’s breast, but rather intellectual assent to a set of abstract human ideas.

This is what many of those who abandoned their faith complain of and gave up on. Marty Sampson wrote on Instagram: “This is a soapbox moment so here I go . . . How many preachers fall? Many. . . How many miracles happen. Not many. . . Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it.”

Sampson’s disbelief is more in the faith system than with God as a Person. Mine too!

 Jesus rebelled against this also.

Pointing to ancient stone tombs, Jesus accused the religious leaders of his time of fostering an empty system of belief. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” 

Jesus also deconstructs faith structures but points in a different direction than disbelief.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (The Message)

Christianity Is Relational

Keep company with me! Hang out with God! 

I love that! 

I did not come into Christianity because it had all the best ideas! I was a depressed, lonely teenager. I could give a rip about ideas! I needed a faithful, loving friend. God promised that and more. My life has never been the same.

At its heart Christianity is relational not institutional. By grace we belong to God and God’s family before we believe and long before we behave. Modern Christianity would often have us believe we need to behave before God will love us. Not so!

Jesus’ disciples struggled with doubt. Jesus answered their doubt with: “Follow me.” Then for the next three years they wrestled with who he was and what he taught. But finally they were unshakable. Their doubts countered by Jesus presence led them an iron clad relationship with him.

Let Your Questions Lead You Back to God

Faith is not absence of doubt. Doubt is releasing the pretense that we have all the answers. Doubt makes room for truth and faith. 

I had a painful year last year. After thirty-eight years of pastoring, all that I believed about the church crashed down. I doubted God’s love for me and my calling.  

Driving to the church facility each day, I began listening to the Gospels. Not for doctrine or ways to deal with my doubts. Like Job, I knew doctrine could not answer my pain. 

I simply listened for Jesus. I noticed he walked on the shore of the Sea of Galilee a lot. I imagined him skipping stones. Laughing at kids playing in the tide. Watching fishermen. Suddenly I was walking with him. In powerful silence. And he understood my pain and doubts. He did not answer them with logic but with love.

Jesus bloomed in my heart again. I found my first love. Again.

Jesus Never Lets Go  

I lamented when I read favorite singer/songwriter, Bruce Cockburn, deconstructed and appeared to lose his faith. In his stunning 2014 memoir, Rumours of Glory, he wrote, “Along the way I found Jesus Christ, then let go of his hand amid the din of disingenuous right-wing Christian exploitation.” I groaned at those words. But somehow I believed Jesus had not let go of Cockburn’s hand.

Then in 2015 he wrote “Jesus Train.”

I’m on a Jesus train

I’m on a Jesus train

I’m on a Jesus train

headed for

headed for

headed for the City of God

standing on the platform

awed by the power

I feel the fire of love

feel the hand upon my shoulder saying “brother climb aboard”

I’m on a Jesus train

I’m on a Jesus train

I’m on a Jesus train

headed for

headed for

headed for the City of God

standing on the platform

locomotive throbbing

I’m drawn to that open door

in the wonder of a child’s heart I’m stepping up the stair

I’m on a Jesus train

I’m on a Jesus train

I’m on a Jesus train

headed for

headed for

headed for the City of God

You may abandon empty religiosity. But will God abandon you if you doubt? No!

 

 

      

8 thoughts on “Will God Abandon You if You Doubt Your Faith”

  1. David Donaldson, PhD

    My favorite definition of Christian faith is from Vernon Grounds:”Faith is a whole-souled resting in the sufficiency of Christ.”

    1. David: Vernon lest an indelible mark on me for Christ and I only had the opportunity to take a couple of classes with him. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Georgie Ann KETTIG

    very timely,… as humans, we can relate to things in many different ways, very often taking our own “personal” ways “for granted”, and as being “ok”,… as in, “of course I’m right and know what I’m doing”,… the problem is that it just isn’t so,…

    we live in very distorted communication emotional-and-thought networks (due to the “Fall”), and it can happen that “Things are seldom what they seem” ~ (hat tip to Gilbert & Sullivan ~ 1800s England!),…

    the “natural realm” can also be quite distinct from the “spiritual” realm,… and the “spiritual” realm can be divided between negative-but-deceptive influences that are the challenging fall-out from satan to God’s true and authoritative realm, where Truth, Beauty and Goodness underlie and support the essence of Love and Wisdom,… “true seekers” are seeking God’s realm, but the distractions and false messages of the interference can make this seem very elusive, at times,… so, there is a definite process of “wheat being sorted from chaff” going on,… we pray for all people that they may find their way to the truest “Truth”,…

    another way to describe this is that humans may also perceive and interpret things more with the “mind” versus with the “heart”, and of course, how that works itself out is subject to many different interpretations, as well,… we are vulnerable to being more “subjective” than “objective”, and prone to favoring ourselves and our own “points of view” over others,… for the “true seekers”, it is comforting to know/believe that there is a “True Voice” out there, connected to an “All-Knowing” Presence, Who not only created us, but indeed loves us, as well,…

    most of these things, I have been somewhat “aware” of for a long time, in one way or another,… it does help to “explain”/describe the myriad examples of “everything under the sun” that perpetually seem to position themselves to vie with and also to contradict one another,… it is probably a reason that many “true seekers” end up in caves (symbolically) and on retreats!,…

    but more recently, I have become aware of the variableness of what our “faith” may consist of,… and this not so much pertaining to “different religions”, even though that will be an influence, of course,… but I have detected a kind of faith, that seems to act more like “superstition” than real honest-to-goodness “faith, love, belief and trust” in an Eternal personal Living God Who really knows and cares,…

    perhaps this explains the verse where God claims to “not have known” some of those who claimed to serve Him,…

    Matthew 7:21-23
    21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

    I truly believe that “getting to know God” is a process,… not only do we wish for our faith to reach up and out to heaven, to touch God, but we also need to let it grow deep within us, for God to know us,…

    1. GA: Thanks for the reminder that getting to know God is a process. It strikes me that God knows us and loves us in an instant (if I can say it that way) and part of our job is to get to know ourselves the way God knows us.

      1. Georgie Ann KETTIG

        what you are saying here, reminds me of how a parent loves their newborn child instantly and is completely accepting, and wishing for “only the best”,… but we also see what a long haul ~ of living and working that all out ~ that life can be,… including lots of “drama” too,… (in case you hadn’t noticed),… (-:

        two very similar scriptures, that may relate:

        Matthew 7:11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

        Luke 11:13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

  3. Christina McCarthy-Burger

    Eugene! As always, your writing inspires me…and today of all days, your message resonated me as I’m entering a new chapter of life.

    Decades ago, as a curious, questioning, and skeptical teenage about to be confirmed in the Catholic faith, the priest asked me to leave the church. My egregious offense? I had questioned him in a private counseling session on the church’s stance on homosexuality, and how, in my observation, the idea that God loves everyone seems to only apply to those with heterosexual status..and that didn’t make sense to me. Having my questions met with nothing but a quoted Bible passage that didn’t seem to clear up anything, and the notion that if it’s not what I believe, then I’m no longer welcome in the religion, I did leave. I left the church and the Catholic faith and went off into the world abandoning my faith as, I believed at the time, my faith had not only abandoned me, but demanded I leave it behind all together.

    Years later, it took my best friend dying of cancer in the same year as giving my birth to my first child that I realized the Divine never left me, He has always been here. It’s been a journey back into faith realizing it wasn’t God that ever abandoned me to begin with, but man. A priest. A church made of stone and brick. Not God, in all in the infinite mystery and peace and love that He brings.

    I love your post and the notion that my relationship with God is all mine – it is conversational, relational, and it is how I guide my boys into building their own relationship with God. They have an endless supply of questions and curiosity about God and I welcome it all, while also sharing with them I don’t have all their answers, but that doesn’t mean to stop asking the questions.

    Oh, and I also LOVE the name Sir Winston!! What a handsome pup!!

    1. Thank you, Christina. From a gifted fellow writer that is high praise. As a pastor, I’ve heard too many stories like yours. I believe that pastors and priests and other Christians (probably myself a time or two) fend off and send off doubters because they are afraid that their own doubts will overcome them. But as I hope you are finding, Jesus does no such thing. I’m sorry for your pain but am glad for the place you are in now.

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