A few weeks ago I was really struggling with where I am in this uncertain season of life. I wrote a post called “I go back and forth” that detailed how my personal fears had seeped into questions about my faith.
I was flooded with comments, Facebook messages, and emails. All were encouraging. Most shared about the times others had wrestled with the exact same doubts.
I can’t tell you what a relief it was to simply be assured that what I was feeling was normal. And that empathetic encouragement was just enough to keep me going.
A couple of insightful blog posts also helped. Randy Elrod described his spiritual experience to a reporter as a “questioning faith.” He received “quite a few concerned and well-meaning questions about my ‘questioning.'” Why are we uncomfortable with questions?
“It makes me feel petty and immature, but it’s true—I questioned if God was with me. I think most of us tend to base our plans, dreams and desires on our concept of God’s presence. Then, when things don’t turn out the way we planned, we assume God’s just not there anymore…
Psychologists describe it as ‘languishing.’ It’s not depression or anxiety, but rather a failure to thrive—a loss of hope and meaning. I know those feelings. And I’m hardly alone. It’s a common experience in today’s culture.”
So I have to ask: In my experience, these “languishing” times of dark doubts and questions, a “common experience in today’s culture,” are rarely – if ever – frankly addressed by the Church in more than a simplistic way. Are we afraid to acknowledge that believers question their faith? Do leaders fear losing esteem by admitting they’ve questioned at some point? Clearly, a time of languishing is when someone especially needs the understanding and encouragement of Christ’s Body.
In Romans 15-16 Paul gives lots of instructions about how believers should behave towards each other. The Message makes it clear: “Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help?'”