How to Hold onto Faith

Why do people deconstruct their faith and how do those who hold onto faith hold on?

Disappointment in the church.

Frustration with God.

Unanswered prayer.

Confusing theology.

Scripture out of context.

Rumors that God loves genocide and maybe hates your child who is questioning his sexuality.

That one preacher assuring Oprah that Hell doesn’t exist.

Politics.

A friend walks away from faith and is doing fine.

Personal failure.

Church split.

Boredom. (God never speaks to me. I’ve never seen a miracle. Maybe I just don’t get it.)

All kinds of reasons to question or walk away from faith. Many do. Some slip away quietly, almost unnoticed while others merit headlines, magazine covers, book deals, podcasts, blogs, and social media coverage granting them celebrity status.

Still, some of us face all these challenges and we stay. 

No one lines up to interview us and ask why we’re keeping our faith. We don’t awaken and update our status to say, “Hey world, it’s a new day and I’ve chosen Jesus again!” But, we do.

Why? How? What makes the difference between those who keep the faith and those who walk away? What is the alternative to deconstructing our faith?

There are likely as many answers as there are people, but here are some things I do when the church lets me down, when Christians disappoint, when God feels distant, or when faith-life feels impossible:

Examine expectations:

G.K. Chesterton once said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” Early in my faith life, I absorbed a message about Christianity that was more like a Coke commercial – “Jesus will make everything better.” That false belief led to much frustration on my part until I deconstructed it and realized it wasn’t based on what Jesus actually promised.

Jesus promised that in this world we would have trouble. He said that we would be hated by others like He was. Peter warns us not to be surprised when we face fiery trials of all kinds. Elsewhere in the New Testament we’re warned that wolves will infiltrate the flock, that false teachers will abound, that Satan is a roaring lion, and that as we near the end of the age, people’s love will grow cold.

Those aren’t fun facts but it’s reality. My college professor would always tell us “The facts are our friends,” because even when they are unpleasant, they orient us to reality. If soldiers arrived at boot camp thinking they’d won a holiday at a resort, many would not survive boot camp. They survive the rigors of training because they expect it to be difficult. Mindset makes a difference. Equipping ourselves and others with realistic expectations about the life of faith will create a mindset that holds one during trial. We aren’t home yet, loved ones.

Rally conviction:

In the 2011 film Seven Days in Utopia (which I highly recommend), Luke Chisolm is a young pro golfer who has lost his game. He meets an eccentric rancher, Johnny Crawford, who was once in Luke’s golf shoes and who promises to help him find his lost game. His first assignment is to write down why he does everything he does – from the way he holds his club to the way he sees the path of the ball. The first step in finding your game is getting some conviction. If you don’t have conviction your confidence can be corroded.”

Do we know what we believe and why? When someone laughs at the idea that Jesus raised from the dead, what understanding do we fall back on? When someone says God hates women, why do we know they’re wrong? When another says that God is unfair or that the disciples concocted a new religion based on a lie or that the Bible is full of inconsistencies, how do we know they’re in error?

Luke wrote his gospel so that his friend, Theophilus should know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.” Reinforce the certainty of all you’ve been taught. When you’re not certain of something, lean into that, not away. Pursue certainty. There is much to be had in the life of faith. This is our life we’re talking about and the lives of others. It’s worth the investment of time to explore and be certain of what we know. If we let fear back us away from that, we’ve already set the stage for a crisis of faith. There is nothing to fear because God is the truth.

Deconstruct experience:

We are a generation that relies heavily on our own experience of life. That’s not all bad but it is when it goes unexamined. Any one painful trial we encounter can feel like an event that defines us, the world, and even life itself – in the moment. Our experience can feel like the last word on anything – until.

Until we set in the context of our entire lives. Until we listen to the experiences of others who may have a different perspective. Until we set our experience in the context of world and church history. Until we view our experience in the context of biblical truth and in light of eternity. Until we view it through the lens of healing.

Helen Roseveare, a life-long medical missionary, was as passionate about Jesus in her eighties as she was when she met Him in college, despite having suffered capture and brutal assault during a rebellion in the African country she’d been called to serve in His name. Someone asked her once if what serving Christ in Africa cost her was worth it. You’re asking the wrong question, she replied. What I ask is Christ worthy of it all and to that, my answer is yes.

Helen didn’t dismiss her diminish her own pain. Instead, she viewed it through a greater context than that single moment in an eternal story and this helped her hold onto faith when others may have walked away. In deconstructing our experience, we don’t dismiss it, we honor it, but we also examine it in a greater context.

Those are just three actions we can take to hold onto faith when we’re up against the wall of hardship, doubt, or relentless trial. What steps do YOU take to hold on?

(This is part two of a series. Read part one “Is Deconstructing My Faith Our Only Option?” HERE.


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5 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Deborah Kreyssig says:

    I press in, pray, worship and read the Word. Through scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit, God faithfully restores, refreshes and resets my thoughts. He encourages me to continue on in my faith and to trust in His perfect plan for my life.

    I love the part where you said to know what we believe and why. This takes work on our part but is so important not only for us but as a witness to others.

  2. Maureen says:

    Thank you once again.
    One thing I do to keep pushing forward in faith…
    In the words of the late Amy Carmichael and, later, Elisabeth Elliot, “Do the next thing.”
    But that comes with something else… Something else that Amy Carmichael said and made her spiritual mantra.
    “YES, LORD!”
    I keep showing up because God’s mercies are new every morning. He has met me at every curve that life’s thrown me and comforted me when I was called to walk through HARD.
    I pray for grace to keep saying to Him, “Yes, Lord.” And in saying yes to Him, watching Him show up again and again as I DO THE NEXT THING.
    Amen!

  3. John D. Seither says:

    Thank you Lori for laboring over the hard issues and offering solid, encouraging content to the body of Christ that is biblically sound. My dear
    wife is also a writer and I know the doubts and struggles writers have. Your labors are not in vain. Keep pressing in to your gift.
    With regard to “keeping” our faith I believe there exists some wonderful mystery and sort of paradox to the answer. We struggle mightily to keep what we intuitively know to be the only answer to life and meaning. But ultimately it is our Father in heaven who sees to it that we are successful in our struggle. He is the keeper of all who are truly His. Our names were recorded in the Lamb’s book before the foundation of the world. We are not His sheep because we follow Him, we follow Him because we know His voice, because we are His.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Brilliant Threaded stitches in a unfinished life.

  5. Libby says:

    I struggle mightily with doubt (and not for any of the same reasons you list, which was a great list!) but I have three things that are seared into my soul:
    Jesus said “be thou faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life”–I really want that crown! And when I pass into the next life I want to hear Him say “well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the rest of the Master”– I want to hear that more than anything! And lastly, I guess I read the Chronicles of Narnia at an impressionable stage of life (I was 16) but I was so sad that Peter and Susan “grew out” of believing in Aslan and looked back at their time in Narnia as a fairy tale. I want to be Lucy, who was changed to her core and faithfully held on to her knowledge of Aslan.