Is it okay to have an ongoing struggle with faith? In other words, do you, at some point, need to move on either way? I was watching the JK Rowling interview with Oprah the other day, and JK said that she struggles with God and faith. She’s said this in interviews before. I listened to her say that, and felt relieved by her honesty. I definitely think people can go through times of serious doubt, then suddenly something happens or changes in them and they have their faith back, maybe it’s stronger than ever. I don’t know. But people are different. We feel differently. We react to things differently. I think some people go through times in life when their faith feels dead (recognize that I said, feels, not necessarily is). When I think about my relationship with God, I try to think about my relationship with people, specifically Jeff. With Jeff, I am in an ongoing commitment. Whether I feel like I love him or I don’t–I’m never going to leave him. (Lucky for us, I can’t imagine not loving him.) There are days when I feel loved by him, there are days (not many) that I might not feel that as strongly. I definitely have those moments with God. But it’s comforting to me to think that how I’m feeling doesn’t necessarily have to change my commitment. It’s like the vows you make on your wedding day, they don’t dissolve easily. You can ignore each other, be angry with each other, even stray from each other–but that covenant between you is going to be there until some drastic measures are taken.
If you’ve ever seen the movie The Painted Veil (Edward Norton), you know there’s a scene where the Mother Superior is talking to Kitty. I found it so profound. Here’s what she says, “I fell in love when I was 17… with God. A foolish girl with romantic notions about the life of a religious, but my love was passionate. Over the years my feelings have changed. He’s disappointed me. Ignored me. We’ve settled into a life of peaceful indifference. The old husband and wife who sit side by side on the sofa, but rarely speak. He knows I’ll never leave Him. This is my duty. But when love and duty are one, then grace is within you.”
It’s that line “He knows I’ll never leave Him” that strikes me. But no one wants to live forever without the passionate side of that sort of relationship. I’m reading Crazy Love right now by Francis Chan. It’s an encouraging, challenging read. But sometimes, for me, reading about how God feels about me doesn’t do all that much. Like in anything, I want to feel how much he loves me. Not just listen to other people tell me how God feels. I wish God would tell me. You’re probably thinking I should read the Bible–God’s love letter to me, right? Yes, I know. His love letter to me and 6 billion other people. I’m not trying to say it’s not God’s own words to me–but if Jeff writes me a love letter, obviously it’s for me alone. Do you ever feel like you want that from God? Him speaking to you alone? Just a conversation between you and Him? And you might wait and wait and never get it? There’s a Scripture verse that says something to the effect of “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I think that can happen in a relationship with God, just as much as with people. You become heartsick when your hope is never realized with something tangible. You get tired of waiting. You lose hope. You become indifferent.
So, do I think it’s okay to live in this kind of struggle with God? I don’t think it’s ideal, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I don’t think pretending to be different from who you are works for anyone. I don’t think ignoring your inner doubts gets you anywhere. I do think God is more patient that most people. And that is something I’m sincerely grateful for. I can expect people to run out of patience way before God does.
I decided to try something new. I think it’s a step in the right direction. I’m at least going to be open to seeing God do something. I’m going to be actively looking for movement from God. It’s not about wanting proof from God. He doesn’t have to give that and waiting on that is a never-ending game of almost certain disappointment. It’s about believing He’s actively a part of this world, and watching for the ripple effects of His involvement. We’ll see what happens.