Friend, I see you in this hard time. I know it’s a struggle, this faith business. I know that sometimes it all seems like a crazy dream or a silly idea that some people invented. Opium for the masses and all that. I know what a dark night of the soul feels like. I know how it feels to have your heart break because you can’t find God right now. I know how you’re asking for prayers and simultaneously wondering if it even matters. Is anyone listening out there?
I want you to know that I know. I see you there because it’s a place I’ve lived. I’ve been there, pacing the floor in the middle of the night, wondering about life and meaning and God and is it all in vain? You can see the place on the carpet where I’ve worn it down with all my pacing. Right there, down the middle. See?
I see you looking for the way out. The hallway of faith used to be so clear but now the light is dim and the doorway isn’t marked. What was that about following Jesus? Because his footsteps are getting pretty faint.
I have some words of wisdom I’ve saved up for occasions like this. I’d like you to know that doubt and belief aren’t opposites. No, they’re just two sides of the same experience. God can work with doubt. Every story of every biblical figure is a story of doubt. (I dare you…find one that isn’t.)
Plus, there’s a thing that Richard Rohr said when I heard him speak last summer. “There’s no shortcut to the transcendent.” This is written in my notes in large letters. Apparently, we have to go through the nitty-gritty in order to grow.
Of course, this sucks and is a small comfort when you’re in it but the point is, you’ll make it out. You will. You won’t be the same person you are now but you’ll make it.
Those might be helpful things to ponder. However, I definitely won’t tell you that a spiritual crisis is required for growth. A mentor told me this once and I cried all night. That’s just discouraging news, to think you’ll have to do this again someday. (Although, when you get there, you’ll have a little more strength because you’ll know that you did it before and you can do it again.)
Those are my words of wisdom, for what they’re worth. Really, though, the most important thing I can say is this:
I believe it for you.
I believe you will come out of this. I believe that God is there, and when you can find that again, you will run to God like a child finding a lost parent. And then you might go ahead and yell a bit, like a parent finding a lost child. You know, the kind of yelling that’s only brought on by intense love coupled with incredible fear. “Don’t ever do that to me again.” This is ok, too, when you find your way again.
I believe you will find your way again. Sometimes the trick to weathering a period of doubt and desperation is just to let someone else hold your faith for you. Give it up. Let them believe a bit because you just can’t.
I know, that sounds crazy. You’re used to bearing it alone, walking your own separate groove into the carpet because we don’t talk about faith and doubt very well. But trust me, it’s ok to let go of this need to hold it all together. Just set it down for a while.
Know this, though: someday, when the light becomes clear again, you’ll walk out. You’ll walk out and regroup, you’ll run and hug and scream, and when you’ve rested, you’ll turn around and look back. You’ll see that place you used to walk, the windowless room and the lack of exit signage and you’ll feel relief that you’re not there anymore. Then you’ll peer just a little bit closer, trying to figure out why that place had such a strong hold. When you squint, you’ll see another dim figure pacing the floor. You’ll know just what to do. You’ll carefully reach in just enough to hold their hand and whisper quietly, “I believe it for you.”
And you will.