As a counselor I have been given the honor of hearing the most private inner thoughts that humans can have and after years of meeting with different people, some distinct commonalities among us have emerged for me to witness.
One of the most closely guarded areas for people is how they truly feel about their relationship with God and faith in general. Many people are showing up each week to church services, volunteering in ministries and other outward expressions of religious belief but are inwardly struggling with significant doubts about a wide variety of points as they relate to their spirituality.
One of my most favorite types of counseling sessions is where someone can break through the guilt and/or embarrassment of admitting that they don’t feel close to God as maybe they once did. Why are these some of my favorite sessions? Because I am a huge fan of authenticity in life and faking religiousness is soul crushing to people. Now let me pause here and say that I know some people believe that the soul is bad and the spirit is good. I am over simplifying that a tich but you get the basic belief. I do not agree that the soul is evil and spirit is where God resides (but that may be a good blog post for another day).
When I say it is soul crushing to fake our way through living in a community of faith, I don’t mean that is a good thing. It’s not. It’s a heavy burden to carry when we don’t know what we believe regarding God and have no one to talk to about it. Often times our religious friends, family and church leaders don’t really know what to say when someone is not authentically sure of what they believe anymore. Well, they may know what to say but often times what is said isn’t helpful and comes wrapped in a box of shame.
How does someone come to a place of doubts about their faith? I believe it’s actually really common but most “good Christians” don’t talk about their inner thoughts and just wrestle inwardly. There are a few folks who are lucky enough to have a trusted friend or family member who can handle real conversations about this topic and those people are very fortunate to have a good sounding board to bounce ideas off of; from what I have seen a lot of people do not have that though.
Our faith should be a living organism that ebbs and flows with the normal rhythms of life. There are days we will feel very connected to God as we believe Him to be and then other days when we doubt everything we felt the day before. That seems normal to me and common from what I have seen among people who range from hardly ever in church to people in full time ministry. The trouble is that often in groups of religious people, that natural organic dance of faith is looked upon as a negative thing. I just don’t see it that way. It seems normal and healthy that our connection with God would have its ups and downs; just as any couple relationship experiences. If our faith hasn’t changed in many many years, maybe it isn’t really a living thing but rather just a dead statue on display that isn’t truly connected to us at all. Hmm. Something to ponder maybe.
I know this is a controversial subject and I hope I have expressed myself in the way I am intending too. I guess I can sum it up with this: to me it’s normal that our faith be a part of us that is so closely connected to who we are, that when we go through different stages in life, so goes our faith along with us for the journey. I hope that’s the case for people. Dead religious practices won’t really satisfy our deepest longings for connection to something greater than ourselves but maybe if we give ourselves the permission to let our faith grow and change, we might end up being better off than faking our way through this area of our lives.