Surviving a crisis of faith and living the Gospel fully
If you care about faith and about being a sensible, honest person, you’ve probably struggled with doubt. Maybe you’re going through a crisis of faith right now. If so, hold on.
A few years ago, I remember going through a crisis of my own, and my doubts made me feel like I was in a free-fall trying to grasp for something to hang on to. Around that time, I participated in a work retreat and confided these struggles to the facilitator (the host) of the retreat. In response, he shared the story of a man he once helped out:
This man was a native american who was torn between two identities: the warrior, and the healer. He felt both of these identities within him, and he felt them fighting, conflicting as opposites. The warrior within him wanted to fight and destroy; the healer within him wanted to heal others, renew them and re-build them. He felt wrestled between the two, restless at the energy it drew from him.
Before we continue with this story, let’s look at two opposing statements about God: ‘there is a God’ and ‘there is no God’. Which one is true?
The facilitator proposed to the native american the following exercise: take both your hands, and stretch them out on each side of your body. One of your hands represents the warrior, and the other, the healer. Now feel the conflict between the two hands and how they are separate things. Slowly, bring them closer together in front of you, then bring them together. Now they are one.
Consider again the two statements above and apply them to the exercise: One of your hands represents ‘there is a God’ and the other hand represents the statement ‘there is no God’. Which one is true?
Bring your hands together: can both statements be true, at the same time? Watch, carefully, what happens in your mind as you consider this question. Notice how you struggle to accept two opposing ideas being true at the same time. Have you noticed that you are putting a word, in your mind, between these two ideas? Do you hear yourself adding an ‘or’? “It’s either ‘There is a God’ or ‘There is no God’. It can’t be both.”
What if you change the ‘or’ with an ‘and’? Ask yourself the question: “Is there any way that, — and this is the important part — within myself, I can live with the two opposing ideas, together, at once?”
This exercise may seem really strange, yet I think the lesson it teaches is necessary for a mature faith, a faith that tells the Gospel freely.
Nurturing an ‘and’ in your mind will allow you to freely concede the possibility that there is no God. Without that possibility, the Gospel that touched you wouldn’t be a Gospel of choice, but a Gospel that needs to be true. That’s hardly a choice at all, is it?
When we talk with so-called non-believers while carrying an ‘or’ mindset, we take out our foolish, proof-laden arguments for why God must exist. With an ‘and’ mindset, the discourse becomes centred on relatable testimony and personal experiences. The us-or-them dichotomy transforms into an inclusive exchange. After all, we are, deep down, both a skeptic and a seeker. And that admission is a fertile place to start the discussion.
So consider the idea of ‘and’ while you work through your doubts. It might not only dissolve a crisis of faith; it might help you live the Gospel freely, fully.