This is the first post in my ‘Faith In The Fog’ series on my experiences with doubt, skepticism, mental health and forging a different kind of faith.
How do I trust God when I’m no longer convinced he even exists?
How do I stop myself from being swallowed whole by the fear and despair that can come from seriously rethinking my beliefs?
How do I pray when it seems like there’s probably no-one listening?
Can my faith survive this?
If you have ever asked questions like these, I hope you know that you are not alone.
If your doubts become so overwhelming that you wonder if you are losing your faith altogether, then you are in good company.
Having serious doubts about the faith that has been a (possibly the) central part of your life can be unsettling, confusing and scary.
I don’t know many things for sure these days, but I am fairly certain that it’s possible to have an authentic, healthy and soul-nourishing faith whilst also being a skeptic. I continue to wrestle with these questions almost daily, but I no longer fear that I am losing my faith. I actually think these questions are a valuable part of my faith.
One of the biggest shifts in my thinking has been the realisation that faith is not supposed to be about having strong beliefs.
It’s still a pretty widespread assumption that being a Christian is mostly about what you believe. Of course, how you choose to live is important – there are very few Christians who would deny that. But it seems to me that what matters most to the majority of Christians is believing certain doctrinal statements. If you accept these statement as fact, you are saved; not by doing good works, but by asserting the validity of a particular set of intellectual propositions.
I’m not saying beliefs don’t matter at all. What we believe to be true drastically affects how we live our lives. It’s just that when we’re talking about things like God and the nature of reality and the future of the cosmos, we can never really know, can we? We are human beings, by definition limited in our capacity to understand such things.
It’s fine (and necessary) to have ideas and theories and doctrines about God, provided we remember that as long as they are contained within language and can fit neatly into human brains, they are utterly inadequate. A human claiming to understand God is not dissimilar a fruit fly landing on the tail of a Boeing 747 and claiming to understand the intricacies of aeronautical engineering.
(This may seem obvious to some, but it took me a long, long time to come to this realisation).
Once I started letting go of intellectual beliefs as the centre of my faith, things started to get decidedly foggy. My beliefs had been a sturdy framework on which to build my life; an interpretive lens through which I made sense of the world. When those beliefs started to shake and evolve, it was unnerving to say the least.
I’ve asked about every troubling question you can imagine, and yet my faith remains intact. It’s a lot less comfortable than before, and in some ways barely recognisable, but it’s also deeper, richer and more authentic. It’s constantly changing too, which can be exhausting, but also kind of exhilarating.
Forging a different kind of faith
In this Faith in the Fog series I plan to go into detail about various aspects of my evolving faith, coping with skepticism, and ways of thinking about things that have helped me navigate uncertainty and doubt.
I have things I want to say about the Bible, science, learning to trust again, prayer and spiritual practices, and mental health.
Mental health has been a particular interest of mine for over a decade now and it has become intertwined with my understanding of spirituality and faith. I think the two are inextricably linked in many ways. I particularly want to explore the mental health issues that can arise as the result of a “crisis of faith”, and share some coping strategies I have picked up along the way. (My life has been one long “crisis of faith” in recent years, and as someone prone to anxiety I have worked hard to find ways of maintaining some sense of equilibrium in the midst of existential chaos).
Experiencing serious doubt and skepticism can be tough, scary and depressing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re losing your faith. It could be the first step into a deeper, richer, more authentic faith.
You can take the plunge and face the difficult questions head on. Your faith might change beyond recognition, but it can survive.