When I Lost My Faith

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“Without faith it is impossible to please Him (God)…”. You may have heard this before. I’ve recently been soberly contemplating this verse as it seems my faith has largely vanished. Being brought face to face with the ugliness of this life and seeing the general condition of the world around us, I’ve found myself where many others have been: “How can a good God allow these things?”.

For some perspective, I’ve spent the last 16 years as a worship leader in local churches (the last several of which at what many would refer to as “mega” churches). But this past year I’ve seen the disintegration of my family as I have known it through a divorce. I experienced the loss of my father and caring for a mother whose health is deteriorating. I have mourned the untimely and tragic death of a new found love and witnessed the tidal wave of sorrow and confusion for those left behind. I have seen the resulting poor decisions, loss of career, finances and the broken hearts that I have hurt while trying to pick up the pieces. I don’t say this to garner pity or justify any of my poor decisions but to give some perspective of where this comes from. This is not the story I wanted to write.

My faith has been shaken to the core. I have honestly and intently looked elsewhere for meaning, fulfillment and some sense of purpose in the wake of it all. I have perused, pursued and participated in (too) many “alternatives” and have come up just as empty as I went in. Nothing brought relief and nothing seemed to satisfy. Have you ever stood before a congregation leading them in songs that you aren’t sure you even believed yourself? I have. Have you posted inspirational scriptures to social media hoping to find the faith to one day believe them? I have. Have you ever led “worship” while living completely opposed to the values that you claim to share? I have. Have you ever used others that you claimed to love in an attempt to drown out your own pain? Yep, that too. What I have found, though, is my story is not all that rare. Through my trials and poor decisions, I have found far more people that identify with the story I never intended to write. If there ever was an ivory tower, it has been torn down to its foundation. For too long, all I could see was the rubble, but now I’m beginning to see how those pieces could be used to build something of even greater significance (who actually lives in an ivory tower, anyway?), and someplace I hope to one day call “home”–a place that’s honest, and yes, at times uncomfortable, but always real and relevant to me, my family and to anyone who cares to share in the journey.

So why do I write today? Obviously, my audience (both of you), may have changed. I used to write mostly about issues in the “church world” from the perspective of a pastor engulfed in worship and the arts. While those are still of high interest to me, I doubt my current job in sales gives me much credibility in the “arts” world and my past year has pretty much determined that the word “pastor” not be used as a title in my name at least for some time. So, with that in mind, I write here today as simply someone learning how to be a child of God–a beloved child of God. It’s not easy. It feels like it should be. But it’s not. I don’t write as someone who has the answers and I don’t write from a place of healing and victory (yet). I do write from a changing perspective that though I may not have the answers, there are questions still worth pursuing.  It’s these questions that I hope to ask and share with you as I journey on this path of being “beloved” of God and rediscover with my heart some really important things I’ve known in my head for a long time.  Some will think less of me (yes, I am a hypocrite and a pretty big one at that), but maybe some may find my story redemptive enough to join me on the journey. I still have doubts. Many. BUT I am also finding that if you’ve never doubted, I doubt that you’ve ever truly believed.

So, what has brought me to this place?

I cannot ignore the rational evidence of God.

When I had no faith, I was forced to look at alternatives. I also realized that all self-conscious creatures have to exercise “faith” in something. If there was truly no God, then where did everything come from? I am familiar with many of the alternatives, but honestly, I don’t have enough faith to believe in those either. I’ve always known this intellectually, but now I know this from experience. You see, either way, daily life is a matter of faith or willing ignorance. I’ve never been a fan of willing ignorance (it’s just the way I’m wired), though I’ve participated in it plenty. So, that left me with either putting my “faith” in some form of chance or in an intelligent designer. Personally, I have to choose design. I cannot “prove” God but I also cannot deny the evidence.

I cannot ignore my past experiences with God

If we’re honest, many of us church folks have had “questionable” religious experiences–you know that time the hair on your arms stood up during the key change of your favorite worship song that “spoke” to you during that horrible time in your life only to find out it happened again at the Journey concert with your girlfriend while listening to the intro of “Faithfully” (which is also, no doubt, goosebump worthy–thank you Jonathan Cain). BUT, also if I’m honest, I cannot deny several times that were undeniably “God moments”.  It was those moments (mostly during quiet prayer or passionate private worship) that kept coming back to me. Sure, some may explain them away as internally constructed “promptings” of my own creation, but my experience tells me different. Again, I cannot prove them to you, but I also can’t deny them.

I cannot ignore what I know about the Bible

The Bible is an incredibly complex collection of “books” written by over 40 authors over more than 1,500 years amid varying cultural contexts. Most reasonable people (based on many years of archaeological research) won’t deny that. It’s what you believe following these facts that dictates how you respond. I will also be the first to tell you that anyone who tells you they have ALL the answers to the difficult parts of the Bible–you need to be the first to run like the wind. No one does, no matter what they say. There are difficult parts of the Bible–there is no doubt about that. Some appear at a surface glance as a result of differing cultural and religious contexts (should we really stone disobedient children? should women really be silent in church?), and some from seeing what seems to be competing ideas about who God is (like God’s judgment vs. His love, or how can a loving God allow such evil in the world, or what is the Trinity, really?). There are many who have written much about these difficult topics with varying levels of success, but if most of us are honest, we probably identify more with Mark Twain who said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts that I do understand.” What I have found about the Bible can probably be summed up in the answers to 2 questions–and herein lies the difficulty:

1) Am I really as bad as the Bible says that I am? Yes.

2) Am I really as loved by God as the Bible says that I am? Yes.

Religion (based on my performance) can’t fix that.

I can’t ignore what I know about Jesus

In John chapter 5 in the New Testament, Jesus sees a crippled man and asks a question we all need to answer: “Do you want to be made well?”  If you are a human being and have lived any length of time on this earth and believe that you have absolutely no need of being made well, you can feel free to move along and stop reading now. I can’t help you. You don’t need it. BUT, if we’re truly honest, we know we’re all broken to some degree or another. Most of us deep down inside know we need to be fixed and we all want to be loved unconditionally. But I’ve discovered religion can’t fix me. Turning a new leaf can’t fix me. Living by a set of “theories” about love or anything else can’t fix me either (regardless of what a well-meaning, charming, yet ridiculously moralistic “Christian” movie may say–sorry “Old Fashioned”). But being transformed by a living relationship with God made possible by Jesus can. I need to be reminded of this.

If you want to know what God is like–look at Jesus (John 14:9 – “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…). Study the gospels, look at the life of Jesus and see the passion (and the failures) of His followers and His beloved in the days following his resurrection. We are not all that different. I resonate with C. S. Lewis (once an agnostic) who said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”²  It’s the only “filter” that really works for me. Are you free to reject Christ’s claims and go wherever you want? Sure you are. I have. But I had to stumble over a Savior with out-stretched hands on a cross to get there and you will too.  At the end of the day, the Bible isn’t about rules, but about revealing a relationship with God. In nearly every belief system and civilization in history, citizens died to make someone king, but in Christianity, a King died so we could be citizens. I’m finding a love like that to be more and more undeniable even despite my many doubts.

I can’t ignore the power of genuine community

When my faith has been at it’s lowest points, it seems that often at just the “right” times, God sends the “right” people into my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still struggling with those times where I felt completely isolated and alone and those times still come. Bot too often to deny, my faith has been strengthened by someone or a group of “someones” who were there for me. It takes some brutal honesty to get the greatest benefit (at great vulnerability and risk–they might really judge you despite what they tell you), but when you’ve hit rock bottom, what do you have to lose?  Over 15 years of “making church people happy” (the unwritten job description most pastors have of their worship and music leaders but will deny to their grave) can wear on you. BUT with all that said, while many churches don’t “get it”, many Christians do and churches everywhere are full of people who do actually “get it”. You just have to work a little to find them sometimes, but they’re there. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water (look it up if you’re under 30). If you’ve been burned by a church before, I challenge you to give it another shot. Just quit looking for the perfect church, because they’re filled with people like me. But if you find the right one, they just might point you to Jesus.

Have you ever been in a place where you doubted your faith? What brought you to that place? How did you get back or have you?  I’d love to hear your story and I think others would too. 

“The story we’re telling the world isn’t half as endearing as the one that lives inside us.” – Donald Miller from Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy.

 

 

44 Responses to When I Lost My Faith

  1. Kathleen Bailey says:

    Thanks Jason – Kathy Bailey (GBC)

    • jason says:

      Thanks for reading, Kathy! I hope in some way it is an encouragement to you.

      • kbailey374 says:

        I recently started a blog and even so it is hard for me to be 100% honest about what is going on, I’ve had a lot of depression. I know God is there when I pray but I seem to hear an echo lol… anyway thank you for being brave. And I am sorry about all the things that have been happening. HUGS

        • jason says:

          Here’s something I just wrote to another friend that relates to what you’ve said:
          “I find it’s a matter of balance especially when you’re in those dark places, because at the end of the day few people really care that much, and even if they do, there’s little they can do but listen because we all have pain that no one else can really understand. BUT, I’ve found it’s important to have at least one person who will put up with your bs enough to keep from sinking too far into depression (fortunately for me, I had more than one). With that said, honesty about your past is most helpful to others when it’s in your past or at least no longer in crisis. I have by no means “arrived” (and never will), but I feel that I’m at least no longer on life support. That’s why I chose to share my story now as I feel like I at least have turned a corner enough for it to be constructive. If I would have shared my story earlier I may have shut down the internet with the amount of profanity I would have liked to print lol. It was definitely authentic, but probably not all that helpful.”

          • Jon Grindell says:

            Just started reading book of Job. Most teaching I’ve heard really puts down his three friends…. But I am intrigued that they actually sat with Job for seven days— and were silent… but with him as he was in pain… Made me think of what friends I have that would actually sit WITH me that long!!

          • jason says:

            Jon, you’ve been one of those for me. I’m a lot closer now in Tennessee, if you ever need me holler! Not sure how much help I’ll be these days but I can certainly listen. We nee to catch up soon!

          • kbailey374 says:

            lol… yeah I try to limit the profanity. 😀 I do have a best friend I’ve had for years and I can’t fool her … 😀

  2. Jason, my “old” young friend, thanks for being transparent and honestly sharing the difficulties of your journey. Of course, so many of us can relate to so much of what you have written. I will pray for you, not as one who has it all together and all figured out (I know I will never be in that condition and I really don’t think I really want to be!) but as one who knows the Grace of the Father, the Love of Jesus and the abiding Presence of the Holy Spirit. Continue with HIM and trust that HE is working even in the midst of the turmoil you’ve been through. Stay in touch and keep on sharing as He leads you to.

    jd

  3. jason says:

    Thanks John. It’s been a crazy year for sure. It’s people like you who’ve strengthened me during the most difficult times. I never thought I would be here (with a faith on life support), but it happened. I think it’s true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but it definitely leaves scars. But it’s those “God moments” and the strength and prayers of many like you that have kept me going.

    jc

  4. pscott@tbc.org says:

    Good word, Jason! Your transparency has honored Jesus and will bless others!

  5. Ralph says:

    hey bro-just came across this and thankful that you are willing to lay it out there. Praying for Gods plan and peace in your life!

  6. Teresa Shull says:

    Thanks so much Jason for your honesty and transparency. We have all been there or will be at some point in our journey…it doesn’t look the same in everyone’s life but I am certain of it’s occurence. Also many times there are unspoken rules in ministry. You are not imagining that. We are so lucky to be loved and adored by Jesus,who will never let us go. You can be sure He is proud of you for the willingness to be vulnerable and help others who have had this struggle. Love and prayers from Charlie and I.

  7. Shon says:

    Jason,

    As I read this, I could not help resonate with what you said for I DO know what it is like to be in at a loss in faith. I can relate to a lot that you said. For years, I have been trying to put it into words like you did. In all sincerity and encouragement my brother, I have learned that you do not need a title in front of your name to carry out the message of the Name that is above all names. In my opinion, (and it’s just an opinion) the valleys help us discover or uncover whose reputation is more honorable. When and where I lack in faith, Christ’s glory reveals itself. He still has you. Know I will continue to pray and encourage you.

    • jason says:

      Thanks, Shon for taking the time to read my post and thank you for the encouraging words. You’re right, titles seem to mean little in God’s economy. Still on the journey.

  8. Ellen Brady says:

    Jason, I tell you that I appreciate so much your honesty and your willingness to be open and candid about your life in recent times. Our circumstances were certainly very different from yours, but about 11 years ago, He chose to put us in a place of doubt also. When we were out there, totally broken, it took us a very long time to allow God to heal us. But, He did!! As only He can!! Looking back now, I think it would have been so helpful to have the courage to be as honest as you are being here. Thank you for being able to share. Maybe we still should. Even though our journey was different from yours, we can certainly relate. We love you!! Ellen

  9. Jason, I had no idea about all the trials you have face in a very compact amount of time. I’ve lived long enough to understand that rarely does God do His deepest love work in my life in a neat and tidy way. I remember in my early 30’s having to just remove myself from the local church to wrestle with acceptance and know know know that my relationship with Him had nothing to do with serving. It was not pretty, but an invaluable messy journey. I’m still on that messy journey, in fact! You have so eloquently shared what many are going through! His joy today to you, Linda

    • jason says:

      Thank Linda for your thoughts and for sharing your story too. You have no idea how much I have drawn from your creativity over the years. Blessings to you and your family!

  10. vince says:

    Dude! Thank God somebody finally said what the majority thinks and feels. It’s hard. And it always will be ..so people quit acting like you got it all together, you don’t and never will. If the church as a whole would be this transparent, true revival would ensue. I’m afraid we will never see this come to fruition until people are willing to lose it all for the sake of the one who gave it all ! Love ya bro!

  11. rachelzinzer says:

    God certainly is preparing His Army… the polishing up is so painful – but when we release ourselves to His Artistic Abilities – we can trust Him and find an unbelievable beauty never imagined…. You are His Workmanship – We Praise HIM for His Faithful Work. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to hearing more.

  12. Scott Harlow says:

    Bro. Thank you for this. Your words resonate with my spirit, and with my own ugly journey. I haven’t figured it all out either. I pray for you often.

  13. Joshua Harvey says:

    “True faith often had an element of doubt,” one of my professors said. It is only recently as I have worked with hurting and searching (real) people, that I have begun to understand the depth of this statement. Faith can only be chosen when something something else is also present. Faith doesn’t get strong through ease but through testing and trial. Our doubt often provides the incubator for our faith to grow, if we handle it correctly.

    Hang in there brother, we love you, are here for you, and are praying for you. Keep choosing faith and following God!

    • jason says:

      Thanks Josh! Great thoughts. One of my favorite quotes is “A faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted.” I’ve learned that to be too true.

  14. Terri Fetner says:

    Jason, I’m brought to tears by your honesty. I’ve been in that place, and truthfully, I vacillate in and out of that darkness. Walking into the light is much easier said than done. In the deepest part of me, I believe, as I’m sure you do. Unfortunately, the deepest part of us doesn’t always guide our daily decisions. Thank you for sharing your story with such transparency.

    • jason says:

      Terri, you have said it very well. I think that is one of the real problems with Christian identity. We allow what we think we should be to keep us from becoming who we really are. Guilt and fear weigh us down (often with the help of the church) and we fail to operate from what we know deep down inside to really be true. Image sucks, but real is so much better. Praying for you.

  15. Thanks for writing this post… while it is well-written, but it is much more than that… it is well-reasoned and wonderfully honest and full of hope. Come see us soon!

  16. Mike Roper says:

    Jason, had it not been for the times of immense pain and struggles I have experienced in my life, I would not have been able to embrace or receive the depth of God’s love for me. It was during the times of my greatest darkness that the light of Christ broke through and assured me that He loves me unconditionally. Thank you for your honesty and for sharing your struggles. You are loved!!!

    • jason says:

      Mike,

      Had it not been for you being there in one of my darkest times, I honestly don’t think I would have made it. You sharing your story with me gave me more strength than you could ever know. Honestly, you should write a book sometime–I would read it! It still boggles my mind at how you have been able to receive the grace of God the way you have after all you’ve been through. That is something I still struggle with. You are an example and hero to many. Thank you for being there, my friend. I miss you all a bunch! -jc

  17. Karen V. says:

    Jason – I knew there were some things going on with you, but I didn’t realize the depth of them. Bob and I have also been struggling with some extremely difficult things (some may be similar to yours…). Please know that we are praying for you, and that your honesty is a sure sign that God is working and walking with you – He will be there for you. I know, because he has been there for me!

  18. Joy says:

    I Have read and re-read this blog so many times. It truly hit home with me. I feel like you just verbalized everything I have felt. There was a time where I questioned everything I was raised to believe ( my counselor assured me that was normal!) honestly i didn’t darken the door of a church for months. I couldn’t stand there and sing “tis so sweet to trust in Jesus” and not believe it. I was the biggest hypocrite I knew. I hated the fact I had such bitterness and depression but on the flip side i didn’t care. It was a struggle. I have found forgiveness in my heart in certain areas of my life. It wasnt easy or the natural thing to do, but how freeing it really was. Things do get easier with time they say, and it is true. I still struggle with the fact that in my darkest moments not one single church person reached out to me. A pity party went on for a while until I wondered how many times I ignored the needs of someone just because I didn’t know what to say to make myself seem “spiritual” instead of just keeping it real. I have not felt at home in a church and really have nobody i confine in except the counselor I pay to listen to me lol. Thank you again for keeping it 100% real. You are a blessing.

    • jason says:

      Joy,

      I know how you feel and have felt the same way many times (especially in recent months). What I have found is that we are all fighting battles that most know nothing about and we bring those battles with us to church and unfortunately, hurting people hurt people and if we’re already hurt, it can often be even more painful. It doesn’t make it easy, but if a church can accept someone like me, I guess I can make room in my heart for one more hypocrite too. Doesn’t always mean that I do, but if I have that perspective, I find myself in a better position to help than when I dont. And helping others, even if it’s just accepting their b.s. from time to time, is one step closer to healing for myself as well. Hope that makes sense and doesn’t come across judgmental in any way. There will come a time when you get tired of feeling hurt and will want to move on. It’s different for everyone, but if you’ll hang on, that time will come for you too if it hasn’t begun to already. In the mean time, you have a story (even if incomplete) that someone needs to hear. Thanks for taking the time to read this and thank you for being part of my story as well.

  19. Kate says:

    I stumbled across this blog from another blog that someone sent me to try to encourage me as I am facing a similar situation in a conflict of faith. As I have gone through this time of doubts I have faced depression that seems almost too much to bare at times. I realize that without God there is no rationale for the meaning of life and that everyone on this planet exists by chance. While your blog has not brought ultimate comfort (because no human can truly hold all the answers), it has brought me comfort that I am not facing this alone and am not the only Christian who has suffered with these thoughts. I appreciate your honesty so much. Thank you for being real.

    • jason says:

      Kate,

      I’m glad it was an encouragement to you. You are definitely not alone in your struggle for faith. Keep hanging on and when you can’t do that, ask Him to catch you. He’ll be there. I’ve learned that. Not how I think He should be or how I think it should go, but He WILL be there.

  20. […] verbalized some things that I’ve been beginning to realize new and fresh in recent days. In a recent post (“When I Lost My Faith”) I talked about the journey I’ve been on the last year or so, the events that led to a crisis […]

  21. Becky says:

    I came across this blog through another blog on doubt. Boy, do I know about that subject! I can so relate to a lot of the things you said. I know what it’s like to get up and sing solo’s in church while questioning the very beliefs those songs are written about. I know what it’s like to try and teach a children’s Sunday School class while struggling as well. Feeling like the biggest hypocrite on planet earth. I have been on this long journey of doubt for many years. I questioned everything that I believed. I finally kept coming back to several things you mentioned. I realized that although I didn’t have every specific answer I wanted, no other worldview made any sense. The Bible kept disproving many of my doubts. I also knew that I had had many experiences with God. Times where His presence was undeniable. It has not been easy. I went into a deep despair and anxiety struggle. I ended up hospitalized because of those conditions. I felt such guilt after accepting that there is a God and His Word is true. I thought He couldn’t possibly still love and accept me after all of this. I finally began to get some relief when I started studying who I am in Christ. A lot more took place at salvation then we realize sometimes. I still struggle, but I am now in Bible College trying to learn all I can to strengthen my faith. I pray that God will use me to help others who are in the same battle. Thanks for your honesty. It helps to know others struggle with this too. God Bless.

    • jason says:

      Becky,

      Thanks for your honesty as well. It just shows that we are not alone in the struggle, but that it’s definitely a struggle worth wrestling with. I’m glad that we can find hope and healing and even greater faith even despite our doubts. Blessings!
      Jason

  22. […] and I bought it–hook, line and sinker. Much of the back story of this day you can find in my post here (“When I Lost My Faith”).  You see, the day before this, a very dear friend (of the romantic kind) took her own life […]

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