“I’m struggling with my faith.”
Nothing sounded more annoying to me than those words. And I heard it all the time. From my Christian friends to my fellow churchgoers, from coworkers to pastors.
“If you’re struggling with your faith.…”
“Are you struggling with your faith?”
“Yeah, I’m really struggling with my faith.”
I would roll my eyes each time.
For one thing, why is it my faith, as though you’re at the center of your faith. As though it’s an individualized experience. (This takes us WAY back to when I wrote the blog post: ‘God-and-Me’).
But most of all, what was with the idea of struggling? I’m struggling with my faith. I was like, WHAT THE FRICK DOES THAT MEAN? Does it mean you doubt God exists? No? Oh, okay. Do you doubt that you’re a real Christian? Oh, sometimes it means that—in which case, I also can’t sympathize—but it could also mean other things in which case, what more is there to faith??
If God is sovereign, then why do these struggles matter?
I couldn’t see the point in dwelling on ‘struggles’ when I knew they couldn’t be the barometer of God’s presence. Struggles shouldn’t affect your faith in God. They shouldn’t have anything to do with it. God is God no matter what you’re going through.
So I prided myself in not ‘struggling with my faith.’ I liked to make the distinction that I focused on God Himself rather than my personal, dynamic relationship with Him. This is what I believed—flashback to an old blog post:
“Although it’s valuable to have a personal relationship with God, there’s a danger in putting too much emphasis on the relationship rather than God Himself. I don’t have a deep, theological reason for it.”
But recently, I have rethought my aversion to talking about ‘struggles’ and ‘a relationship.’ It’s because I recognized that I actually do have struggles. I always do. I struggle to trust in God’s will. I struggle to deny myself and take up my cross and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24).
Maybe something more tangible is that I used to struggle with drunkenness (read ‘Good Little Churchgirl’). It wasn’t addiction or alcoholism. But it was turning a blind eye to what the Bible teaches about being drunk. And that made it a faith issue.
However, instead of using God’s sovereignty to comfort me in my struggles, I would at times use it to trivialize my struggles. God is sovereign, and everything is in His hands so therefore, what is the point of thinking about these things I’m going through? As though acknowledging my inability to be a good Christian exposed a gap in my belief that God ‘had my back.’
But once I took stock of my experiences, I came to realize that struggles aren’t trivial. They’re very important.
For one thing, God uses struggles to grow us up. Romans 5:3-5 says:
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…”
Yes, God is still sovereign. But acknowledging that you’re having trouble being a good Christian does not undermine that. In fact, it could reinforce it. Struggles are humbling. Struggles make you realize that you need God more than anything else.
Also, as much as I hate how individualized it sounds to say ‘my faith,’ I also don’t want to take it for granted that I have my own faith. I have my own personal motivation to believe. It’s no longer my parents’ faith or my culture’s faith—it is a belief that I autonomously hold.
So if you were to tell me that you’re struggling with your faith, I might flinch a bit—but out of pure Pavlovian habit. I know what that phrase means for me now and I respect it.