Copyright Sarah Lane Studios – One of My Senior Pictures, 2009
Author’s Note: This is the first part in a three part series on my personal struggle with doubt and faith in God. Please stay tuned for the upcoming posts in this series so that you get the whole story of the long journey that I went on and that God brought me out of! Please feel free to comment or send me an email with any questions you have regarding these posts!
I was sixteen when the thought first entered my mind.
What if God isn’t real?
What if the faith I had built my life around and accepted for so many years was all just a lie?
For years my walk with Christ was not just something I practiced and believed, but it was what identified me. It set me apart from my peers. It was the most important thing to me.
I honestly don’t remember a time when I didn’t know Jesus, so by the time I had reached sixteen, I considered myself a pretty “seasoned Christian”. I grew up in a solid Christian family, underwent a very thorough Biblical education, and participated in pretty much every church activity available from elementary school on.
God was what my life revolved around.
But you see, even though it may have seemed this way, God was not just something that went along with my life, kind of like the way that milk just went along with my cereal. While God might have been that way for many other church kids I knew, I wasn’t one of those kids.
I was the kid that really loved Jesus.
It wasn’t an act. It wasn’t because I was trying to earn my way to heaven or appease my parents. I really, truly loved Jesus and wanted my whole life to be devoted to living for Him.
My extensive Bible knowledge was not something I had to pass a Sunday school test; it was because I spent my evenings studying my Bible. The plethora of church activities I participated in were not because my parents signed me up for them to keep me busy, but because I thought they were fun!
Jesus Christ was what gave my life meaning, even as a child. When anything went wrong, He had an answer. When anything went right, He got the praise. By the time I reached middle school and was forming my own identity as a young girl, I was convinced that my purpose in life was to share the meaning that God brought me with others so that they too could have the joy that I experienced as a result of my relationship with Him!
Who would have thought that someone so strong, so unwavering, so passionately convinced of her faith, could suddenly…..question it all?
But I did.
And I didn’t just flirt with doubt casually. I engaged in an intense affair with it for what lasted about year.
I remember that conversation with him. He was struggling and confused, always moody and brooding over some unknown mystery to me.
“Why are you so happy all the time?”
I knew he had a thing for me, but I was definitely not interested in going there with this guy. However, I was okay with how his interest in me caused him to open up. I thought maybe his vulnerability with me would make him more open to me sharing my faith with him.
“Because of God! He is what gives all life meaning and purpose. He is the answer to all our questions!” I replied sincerely.
“Well, that’s easy for you to say,” He shot back. “Your life is so easy. You’ve never gone through anything really hard.”
Immediately, I felt bristly and defensive. I always did when people said this to me, because even with the few minor heartaches and challenges I had gone through in my short life, I knew deep down it was true. I had never gone through anything really devastating before. Not at least compared to what other’s trials seemed like. Sure I had struggles, insecurities and felt misunderstood, but I’d never gone through my parent’s divorcing or my best friend dying or a family member going off the deep end kind of tragedy before. Life had been pretty good thus far.
“Everyone’s trials and heartache’s look different, and I have had plenty of things I’ve really struggled with. It’s just they haven’t been as noticeable! But I don’t have to go through some tragedy to know God is real either.” I defended myself with.
He still seemed curious, so our conversations became more frequent – primarily revolving around his faith crisis. He would reveal all his doubts and disillusions with God to me, and I would do my best to convince Him with the most eloquent logic, reasoning and historical evidence that the God of the Bible was in fact real. I was positive that I could persuade him to see things the way I did if I just said the right thing.
It was around this time that a quiet desire of mine that had been present for a few years suddenly began to resurface with full force.
I needed a testimony.
You know the testimonies I’m talking about.
The ones where the believer has some dramatic conversion or goes through some intense trial and Jesus’ presence is just so glaringly obvious. Those were the stories that were impactful and that changed people’s lives! Those were the testimonies that were relatable and people identified with.
But not mine.
I was becoming convinced that my big heart was not enough. I would never be able to reach people as the nice, good, little church girl who always seemed to have everything fall into place. Of course Jesus made sense to someone like me! But who could relate to that?
So I began praying for a good testimony.
Eventually the conversations between my friend and me ceased and we both drifted apart, but I continued to pray that God would help me to be relatable. What I didn’t know, is that this prayer would end up changing my life.
For not only was God about to test me and stretch me in ways I couldn’t even imagine, but He was about to reveal that not all testimonies are ones of salvation…
Some testimonies are stories of what happens after.
Unlike the romantic movie that culminates in the couple who overcame so many odds now driving off in their “Just Married” car, my testimony would be more like the sequel to the movie where after years of marriage the couple almost divorces.
Because my testimony would be one of struggle along the journey.
And after a long, long fight…