Lately, I’ve sadly observed Christian friends from my young adulthood turning away from their faith. I have even read an article about the Gungors, whose music I love, and their struggles with faith–Michael stating he has now become an atheist. It is hard to see people who previously served God with passion and faith now walking away.
How does this happen?
I think that at some point there becomes a discrepancy between what they think is truth and what they see happening in life. This difficulty in lining things up makes people feel like they are living a lie. Things they previously espoused with great enthusiasm somehow seem harder to say. Because we weren’t designed to live torn in two like this, two things can happen.
Two Responses to This Struggle
First, the person can turn off any dissenting thoughts and lock themselves into a view of the world that refuses to change or take into consideration the events of life. These people often quiet the voice of concern within them by saying they are living the true life of faith.
Or the person can just walk away from faith saying there is no way for the faith they have been taught to be consistent with the world they see. Instead of choosing their faith, they choose their experiences to define them.
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The problem with both of these paths is neither is completely honest, taking into consideration our greatest hopes and fears. This life can then be consumed by a quiet despair–things are not what they seem, and there is nothing truly solid to stand on.
We Need Boundaries and Freedom
We do well to live in a world that is defined and understood but also a world with mystery and freedom. We suffer in worlds too narrow to move or imagine, but we get lost in worlds with no boundaries or direction. The perfect image of balance is the garden of Eden. Here was an exciting world with endless options, but also with some boundaries.
Immediately, Adam and Eve struggled with both making their world too narrow when Eve suggests that even touching the tree will bring death and too wide when they take the step of disobedience. Suddenly, the foundations shifted and humankind was lost.
On This Side of the Cross
We stand now on the other side of this disaster, but also on the other side of the Cross. The Cross erases the requirement of the Law that makes our world too small, but it also clearly defines the world we are to live in, one of love and sacrifice. We spend our lives both resisting the desire to squeeze our lives into a mold of man’s religion and pushing the boundaries looking for freedom.
The true walk of faith walks down the middle. In this path, there is freedom but there are also guidelines. In this path, there are adventure and uncertainty, but there is also a guiding force that gives us hope in the difficulties. God’s apparent lack of involvement to stop the evil in our world does not fit well into a narrow religious worldview. However, in a broader sense, we understand that everything will not fit neatly into categories, and we will have to live with a lack of full comprehension. This keeps us humble.
It’s Easier and Harder Than We Think
When I am in the throes of suffering, I need to know that my God is real and brings meaning to my suffering. I also need to know that there isn’t always a quick fix or standard response to my pain. Where Christians have failed so mightily is assuming that our walks of faith should look similar to each others’. We narrow our faith down to certain requirements and hold people hostage to this. This act cannot be emotionally or intellectually honest and downplays God’s obvious love for diversity in the world.
In only one thing can I be absolutely certain–the Gospel of Christ. In everything else, I concede I could be wrong to various degrees. But this truth of God coming into our broken world and providing a way of hope for those who respond is something worth dying for. The man-made contraptions we have built around this truth can only be marginally important to me.
This Gospel is what keeps me truthful in heart, mind, and soul. It leaves room for things I don’t understand but gives me a foundation that I can build my life upon. This is something I could never walk away from, no matter what I experience in this life.