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Are You Questioning What You Believe?

Written By Jonathan Malm, USA

In my 30 years, I’ve never really questioned my faith all that much. I’ve wondered about evolution and about the problem of evil existing in the world. But they’ve just been simple curiosities; they didn’t rock my world.

Lately, however, I’ve found myself questioning what I believe. I wouldn’t call it a crisis of faith, but I have some legitimate questions that have been shaking me up a bit. All of this started in my most recent reading of the Bible. I’m not sure if it was because I’m reading it chronologically or because I’m reading with a more critical eye. But something was different this time.

As I read through the Old Testament, I began questioning the nature of God—He seemed pretty harsh sometimes. And in the Gospels, I noticed some of the stories didn’t seem to line up. How did the disciples report Jesus sweating drops of blood when they were supposedly asleep? And why did John report the story of the woman caught in adultery since it wasn’t in some of the earlier manuscripts?

Am I worried that I’m questioning what I believe? Not really. You see, I’m convinced questions and even crises of faith aren’t a bad thing. I believe each crisis and question is an opportunity for God to show us something unique about Him. It could be one small facet of His character that we have not seen before because we have not gone through this experience. We just have to navigate our questions with wisdom and skill.

Have you found yourself questioning what you believe? Try following these three steps, which have helped me come out from a crisis of faith—even stronger than before.

 

1. Don’t let emotions dominate.

Most crises of faith are sparked by a tragedy or God doing something that catches us off guard. Those things may spark the questions, but don’t let them dominate your emotions. Don’t let a negative emotion pull you away from your faith.

When tragedy strikes, we’re often quick to ask the question, “Why?” The problem is, there’s usually never a good answer for it. Even if God gave us the answer, it wouldn’t satisfy us because the pain is too great. Our emotions will almost always argue against the logic of a situation. For instance, I know God had great plans for me in spite of that one time when I lost my job. I’ve even seen the positive results. But the sting of rejection is still there, and I still am tempted to ask, “Why?”

Instead, it’s important to proclaim the truth of God. Rely on the fact that we know God is loving; He is good. As much as we can, set the emotions aside and be open to what we have learned and experienced in the past.

 

2. Lean into people. Don’t withdraw.

A natural thing to do when we start questioning our faith is to pull away from the church. Don’t do that. Stay rooted in your community. Take the step to reach out to people and ask your questions. Your pastor and the congregation can lead you to resources and answers to some of your toughest questions. That’s what the community of believers is all about. One part of the body helps the other.

Unfortunately, this sort of approach takes humility. We have to be willing to set aside how “spiritual” we look and tell people where we’re struggling. I’ve seen way too many people who appeared to be rocks in the faith, suddenly fall away from the church because it turned out they had hidden questions that were not dealt with. They were just too ashamed to ask.

Imagine what might have happened if they had let their pride down and leaned into their group of fellow believers.

 

3. Ask God to reveal Himself.

Finally, we have to realize there are some questions even C.S. Lewis can’t answer adequately for us. If our crisis of faith is a chance for us to see a side of God that few get to see, then few will be able to answer our questions. We have to lean on God for that.

I’m convinced that the fullness of God is revealed only in the thousands of different perspectives we see within the church. Just like Moses was only allowed to see a part of God’s glory—not His face—none of us can possibly comprehend the fullness of God on our own. Our questions and crises of faith might be the chance God will use to show us a side of Him few others see. We might just get a glimpse of a lesser-seen aspect of His glory.

 

Ask God to reveal Himself to you. He might not give you all the answers to all your questions. But God has a way of giving you peace in spite of your questions. Give God a chance to defend His name to you.

You don’t have to be afraid of questioning your faith. It holds up to questioning. Just make sure you’re giving God a chance to answer them.

I’ve found that my questions only enrich my faith even more as I lean on God and my history of belief in Him. I still have questions. But just as I can’t explain how my eyes work—the process of color and depth and response—I can still choose to see through them. And I have decided to see my life through the lens of faith, even when all the answers aren’t there.

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Don’t Give Up

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Every day I read a verse. To help me to remember what God has spoken to me on that day, I hand-letter the verses. On one of these days, 2 Timothy 4:7 came up and I was reminded not to give up in everything I’ve been dealing with, even in the little things. God is good. His unconditional love always brings me back to Him and spurs my faith on.
 
Contributed by Kath Melisa, Indonesia
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Why Am I Afraid of Sharing My Faith?

Written By Aryanto Wijaya, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia

Have you ever been afraid of sharing your faith with others? I have.

When I was in fourth grade, my family and I were the only Christians in our neighborhood. One day, when I was cycling past a mosque, some children my age came up to me, blocked my path, and tried to force me off my bicycle. When I didn’t get off, they started kicking my bike and tried forcing me to say verses from the Koran. They also accused me of being an infidel—because I was Chinese and a Christian.

I had no idea how to respond. Thankfully, an adult showed up and dispersed the children.

Since then, I have always attributed my fear of sharing my faith to this incident. But after giving it more thought recently, I realized there were three underlying reasons that stopped me from sharing my Christian faith.

 

1. I was afraid of offending people from different religions

Where I live, Christians are a minority, so sharing my faith can be a sensitive thing. On one occasion, my friends gathered for a prayer meeting at my home. Though we did not play any music or make loud noises, a neighbor reported us, fearing that our house might become a church. Two men then came to my house and told us, “Christian activities are not allowed in a Muslim neighborhood.”

Though that incident fazed me a little, God quickly provided me other opportunities to share my faith. One time, I was staying at an elderly woman’s house. On one of the mornings as I was getting ready for church, she asked me, “Hey, where are you going so early in the morning?”

I told her honestly that I was going to church. To my surprise, she expressed curiosity about church, as well as about my faith. It turns out that she had never met a Christian before! I ended up sharing with her a little about God and what going to church was like.

Whether or not we realize it, people around us are watching our actions daily. The way we live could be the very thing that sparks their interest in our lives and in Jesus Himself. It’s exactly as Jesus told us, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

 

2. I was afraid my friends would think poorly of me

Whenever I prepared for church each Sunday, my roommates would tease me, “What for go to church in the morning? It’s better to sleep in . . .” In their opinion, the best way to spend Sunday morning was to sleep in, since our weekdays were always packed with so many different activities.

I admit that peer pressure sometimes got the better of me. When a friend asked me to go jogging with him one Sunday morning, I gave in—and attended church in the afternoon instead. I wanted to be accepted by my peers; and I wanted to be seen as a faithful friend.

I also struggled with what my friends thought of Christianity. Some of them felt Christianity was “complicated” since there seemed to be so many rules to follow: tithing, going to Church, Bible reading, etc. To avoid being seen that way, I hid my faith from my friends.

But God reminded me through my quiet time that I should be focused on God’s view of me, and not that of my peers. I am precious and honored, and God loves me (Isaiah 43:4). Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross for me. Therefore, I should give everything―my money, energy, and thoughts―to show my gratitude to the loving God who has saved my life.

So now when my friends ask about it, I tell them I don’t mind going to church or tithing or serving, because this is an expression of my gratitude to God.

 

3. I was afraid I couldn’t answer questions about Christianity

Some people have told me that Christianity does not make sense. For example, they ask, how can God have a son? I found myself getting stumped by some of the questions and sometimes wondered if this was because I still had doubts myself. As a result, I didn’t make my faith known to my friends so they wouldn’t ask me about it.

But during church one day, God spoke through the preacher to remind me that I shouldn’t be so preoccupied with whether I can answer my friends’ questions. Instead, I should pray for them regularly, that they may experience the peace of God, which transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Sometimes, when we are unable to articulate our faith through words, we can do so through our actions. I once had a female classmate in college who did not have any friends. Nobody wanted to be in the same group as her, so she was lonely all the time. I decided to invite her to join my group for one of the class projects.

She was surprised and asked me, “Why do you want to be my friend?” I replied, “God made each of us special. If you are specially made by God, why should I avoid you just because of some trivial reason?”

I don’t know whether if it was because of my actions or my words, but since then, she has joined a Christian community and has been growing in her faith.

 

Our faith is special. It is not just about us, or about building churches. Christianity is about a holy and loving God who cares for sinners.

Being a Christian is a gift we need to be thankful for.  I now understand that I am Jesus’ disciple, and I no longer worry about people labeling me as a “Christian”. I am no longer afraid of sharing my faith. Instead of keeping it to myself, I want to share my story about Jesus.

Even though people might mock or oppress us when we share our faith, like my experience in fourth grade, I pray that these words of Jesus may strengthen us as we follow Him in the midst of our suffering: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

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Why Should I Still Believe in God?

Written By Priscilla G., Singapore

I don’t see, hear, or feel God anymore. Why love God then? Why go to church then? Why believe then?

Recently, a friend whom I had led to Christ seemed to have such thoughts. And they were the same thoughts that went through my mind about a decade ago.

Back then, it was very tempting to give it all up. Doing so would free up all my Sunday mornings and some weekday nights spent at cell group sessions or meeting mentors. I might lose some church friends, but I still had other friends, I thought to myself. The church friends might get disappointed, but I figured they’d get over it in a matter of time.

But I knew it was immature to give up on something just because I didn’t have “the feeling”. I knew that I should love God even when I didn’t feel like it. This not only applied to my relationship with God; it applied to other human relationships and work too. This world would be in a mess if people fulfilled their responsibilities only when they “felt like it”.

I also knew—even with my limited knowledge of the Bible back then—that “without faith, it is impossible to please God”.

And yet, my love for God and faith in Him got weaker as the drought of feelings dragged on. I wasn’t sure how to get out of this dry state even if I wanted to.

And I wanted to. I wanted to go back to better times in my relationship with God. God’s presence had been real to me before; I had felt touched by Him—both at altar calls and in my own bedroom. I had gone through times when I felt comforted and filled by the Holy Spirit, times when tears just flowed beyond my control, times which I knew were not the result of some contemporary music psyching me up but simply, the result of God’s supernatural work.

I remembered those times. I missed those times. And that’s when I realized: to give it all up and stop believing would be akin to saying that all those times with God were a lie.

So, back then, and for every similar “desert season” since, I ended up doing the following:

 

Remember what God did

Many times, we forget what God did for us. When the Israelites left Egypt, they complained about various inconveniences in the desert and said they would rather die in Egypt where they were slaves (Exo 16:2-3). They focused on the immediate problems and failed to remember the miracles that God had performed (Neh 9:17).

This is probably why Moses, in his first address to the Israelites before they entered the promised land, reviewed the entire history of how God had cared for them (Deut 1-4) and told them repeatedly to remember how God led them out of Egypt (Deut 5:15, 7:18, 8:2, 15:15, 24:18).

Remembering what God did helps us to not take Him for granted, and to remember truths which we may have lost sight of in the midst of busyness or trials.

Whenever I have a conflict with someone, I remember what we’ve been through as friends and I remember the good that he has done. This enables me to trust that his intentions are good even if I’m upset about something he did or said. Similarly, if I’m upset about not feeling God or not having prayers answered, I remember the good that He has done in my life and trust that I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living (Psa 27:13).

Some ways to remember His goodness include writing about it in a journal or sharing a testimony with your friends. Count your blessings and name them one by one!

 

Seek God

Recalling God’s goodness in the past helped me to see the importance of my relationship with God and convinced me that this effort to seek God would be worth it.

If I believe a school lecture to be important but feel sleepy, I’ll try to get over this feeling. I’ll eat a sweet or drink coffee and fight to stay awake. Similarly, it helps to make the effort to overcome the emptiness you feel, and fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12).

To be sure, faith is a gift from God. But the Bible also says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10:17). Salvation is a gift of God, but we’re called to work out—not work for—that salvation.

This fight starts with admitting that we need help. Have you met people who needed help with directions but are reluctant to ask for help? Sometimes, when we are caught up with problems, we try to fix things ourselves instead of seeking help.

When I eventually came out of that desert season in my life, I felt convicted that I had not sought the Lord earlier. There was a lot of self-talk—“I’m not feeling God”, “I don’t feel like I’m receiving from the church service”, “This is not working out”—but not much of actually talking to God about how I felt.

Psalms has records of people lamenting that they felt distant from God. They were honest with God about how they felt (Psa 27:9, 88:14, 102:2), and I tried to do the same.

I sought the Lord as I continued going to church, hearing the preaching of God’s Word, and singing songs of praise with whatever little faith I had left. It was like visiting the doctor’s: I did not know what exactly was going wrong in my relationship with God or why things turned out this way, but I prayed to God; I was honest with Him (the doctor) about how I felt (my symptoms) and I was open to receiving help (medicine). And I gave God and myself time for the situation to improve (even medicine takes time for its effects to be seen).

Seek God and you will find Him (Matt 7:7). Call to Him and He will answer you (Jer 33:3). Finding Him or hearing His answers may not happen instantaneously, but it will happen, in God’s timing. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9).

 

Trust God’s Promises and Persevere

I held on to the promise that God would never leave me or forsake me (Heb 13:5). I also held that promise up to God and asked: “You said you won’t leave me or forsake me, but somehow you don’t seem close. Why must you hide when I need you the most?”

Over time, I felt His assurance that He had never left me, and that this desert season was a time to refine my faith in Him, so that our relationship would not be based solely on feelings (important as they were).

I even composed a song (the tune sounds rather amateur to me now and it’s the only one I’ve ever composed to date) but it has served as a personal reminder that His love never fails even when I stray.

While waiting, it’s important that we do not close our hearts to God. Nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom 8:38-39), but sometimes we ourselves are not opening our hands (and hearts) to receive His gift.

God is a speaking God and still speaks today, but do we have the ears to hear His voice (Matt 11:15; Mark 4:9, 23)?

“So do not throw away your confidence; it holds a great reward. You need to persevere, so that after you have done God’s will, you will receive what He has promised.” (Heb 10:35-36)