The faithful among us… the strong, the stout-hearted – how I admire and envy their stolidity, their strength, their unwavering belief in the face of the worst situations, the most devastating diagnoses, the most painful abandonments.
You know somebody like this, I’m sure – someone who, no matter what happens, their immediate response is, “Yes, this hurts, but God is good. He is faithful; and He will come through.” Maybe you are that person.
And yet sometimes, I wonder – do they doubt, but speak their doubts only to God? Do they fear, but only whisper their fears to the ears of their Savior in the quiet places? Do they become angry, but voice their concerns in private, in the safety of their prayer closet?
I wonder, because in the not-too-distant past, I was this person.
Some weeks ago, I published a blog post I wasn’t sure about – not because it wasn’t true, but because it was so gut-wrenchingly honest I feared what people would think.
I came clean about my doubts, my fears, my frustrations, my mistrust of the God everyone claims to know and love.
Worship leader, Christian blogger, Jesus-poet, marriage advocate, Scripture-memorizer, Bible-teacher:
I told the world (or at least, anyone who would listen) that I often feel lost, my marriage is difficult at best, I don’t believe everything mainstream Christianity teaches, I question whether everything in the Bible is accurately translated, and it infuriates me when people tell me to just “trust God more.”
I have often feared that airing my doubts and questions to others would cause some to lose faith, or at least poke holes in it.
I have feared that being honest with my children about doubts I have, about fears I often face, would worry them, make them insecure, or cause them to question God and His existence. Then, I would come back around to what I always believed, and I would have lost my children. I still fear this at times.
I have feared that, when I finally land in a place of truth, I would leave a trail of destruction behind me, having caused others to falter and stumble with my careless words and uninformed guesses, wonderings, and doubts.
In spite of my fears, I pressed “Publish.” What happened was predictable:
“You don’t spend enough time with God. If you did, you wouldn’t feel this way.”
“You don’t know who you are in Christ. If you did, your problems would go away.”
“Every word in the Bible is accurate. If you question any of that, you have nothing left.”
All well-meaning. Every one of them.
Then came the unexpected responses:
“I know that was really hard for you to put out there, but now I don’t feel like such a bad person.”
“Wow… now I don’t feel so weird. My prayers nearly always go unanswered. In fact, sometimes, when I pray about things, they just seem to get worse! And I’m like, ‘Really God??’”
“Thank you for being brave enough to say what a lot of us are thinking. It’s not really accepted by mainstream Christianity, so I often feel like a fraud.”
And as I read the messages and listened to some of my friends on the phone, I was reminded of something my cousin Jimmy once said to me:
How dare you or me or anyone else act like we have it all together when we clearly don’t? You know what that does to other people? It makes them feel like failures. It makes them feel like they can never attain to our ‘level’ of spirituality or goodness – a level that doesn’t even exist. So then, they just stop trying. They make no effort, because they feel like it’s a lost cause. They know they can’t do it.
Well-said, Jimmy. Pretending to have it all together, acting as if everything is fine, telling people that if they trust God more, read their Bibles more, believe harder, try harder, things will be better – and then acting as if that is working for you (and maybe it is) – it often does nothing but promote what I call “The Gospel of the Fraudulent Faithful.” This gospel tells others around us that we have it all right – that we are constantly faithful and never doubt; and as a result, God rewards us with a good life. And if they would do everything right, all the time, just like us, they could have a good life, too.
This false gospel tells the struggling among us that their pain and their struggles are not what’s important – that it is more important to pretend all is well in order to protect God’s name, to make sure that outsiders want to come in, and to not cause another to question their own faith or to fall.
And so, the hurting among us go stumbling alone in the dark, smiling and strong on the outside, not wanting to lead anyone astray…
…afraid to admit they are falling apart, for fear their faith will be called into question, they will be taken from leadership roles they love and are called to, or even worse, they will destroy someone else’s faith.
Instead of admitting we are lost, we walk blindly ahead, leading those in our care into this place where the light of Jesus is used to cover up the darkness instead of dispelling it, where the good name of God and the church takes precedence over the honesty and messiness involved in admitting we have doubts, answering the hard questions, repenting when we are wrong, and just being the inside-out, deeply flawed humans that Jesus died for.
Precious, beloved, hurting, exhausted, and trying oh-so-hard. This is how He sees us.
And I believe it breaks His heart. He never meant for us to carry the burden of inner turmoil disguised by an attempt at outward perfection.
He is not concerned for His Name – not at the expense of your heart.
For at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, in Heaven and on earth.
Let me take a burden off your shoulders: Every knee will bow, whether you get it all right, or not.
His Name will be great, no matter what you do or say.
Now here is the hard saying:
Perhaps we should be a little less concerned with our own names.
Paul, in II Corinthians, wrote,
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me.” (12:9)
No hiding. No covering up. No trying to be perfect or show a perfect face. He boasted of his weaknesses, that the power of Christ might be seen. He showed everyone it was ok to not be strong, because then, Christ can be strong for you.
My grace is sufficient for you.
Come unto Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. ~ Matthew 11:28-30
Here is a God Who knows how hard you have been trying to hold it together, trying to keep up appearances for His sake, for the sake of everyone around you, and He is saying,
Stop. Lay it down. That is not your burden to carry. And don’t lay on My children a burden they also cannot bear, by pretending that all is well for you, and it should be for them, too.
Don’t try to cover up your unfaithfulness. When you mess up, admit it. Seek forgiveness, repent, and move on. This will give others of My children freedom to admit their mistakes as well, and turn from their sins instead of hiding them.
When you are lost and directionless, don’t be the blind leading the blind. Admit you don’t have the answers. Stop and pray. Seek godly counsel. And seek My face. This will encourage my other children to admit when they are lost, without feeling shame.
Reality is this, dear child: In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart – I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
If you want to keep from leading My children astray, then remind them of this very truth. Don’t give them false expectations of a trouble-free life when they choose to follow Me.
One of my most prized possessions is a gift I received from my daddy – a Precious Moments figurine, bearing the following message:
I said it would be worth it.
When I see the face of my Savior, blazing with glory, and eyes soft with love, it will be worth it.
When I run into the arms of my Jesus, because I know how immeasurably and unconditionally He has loved me since the beginning of time, it will be worth it.
When my precious Father lays His hand on my head and says, Well done, good and faithful servant, it will be worth it.
When I look around and see the faces of those I love, basking in the glory and the love and the brilliance of Heaven, it will be worth it.
When we begin to understand that the here and now is preparing us for eternity, and that the struggle, the trials, the falling and getting up, the sinning and repenting, the enduring til the end, are all producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,
Then even when we don’t understand,
It will be worth it.
To the truly strong, truly faithful, and yet incredibly honest, I say thank you. You are a shining example of the power of Jesus to transform lives. Don’t stop what you are doing. Press on. We need you.
To the quietly faithful, the ones with incredible, unspoken strength, who never question God in public, yet somehow never make me feel bad for doing so, thank you. When I am with you, I feel like I am with Jesus, and everything is going to be ok.
And to the constantly struggling, always falling, never measuring up, but desperately wanting to, I say this:
Hang in there, my friend. You don’t have to measure up. You don’t have to have every question answered. You don’t have to get it all right all the time.
You only need believe that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was enough.
Because He thought you were worth it.
That’s all that matters, if we’re honest.
A fellow struggler
I John 1:9 James 5:16 Isaiah 58:6 I Peter 5:7
II Corinthians 4:17 Philippians 2:10