It was only two years ago that I found my faith. For me it wasn’t an ah-ha moment, but rather a fight. I found it buried amongst tears and heartache while battling with anxiety and depression. Little did I know that finding my faith was the easy part; keeping my faith in the midst of the church community would prove to be so much harder.
Sundays at my church are full of small talk and smiles, nice clothes and hotdish recipes. Going to church as a new believer was hard already, let alone when I found myself surrounded by picture-perfect families held together by picture-perfect women with unwavering faith. No matter how much I wanted to, I just didn’t belong.
Small group took place each Sunday following corporate worship and gave me time to openly share my struggles, my questions, and my doubts, but this was difficult when it seemed it was greeted time and again with scriptural platitudes. I know that people were well-intended with their suggestions on how to improve my prayer life and their encouragements of taking time to just “listen for God.” Yet nowhere was there anyone saying, “I know what you’re going through” or “I don’t understand that either” or even the simple “me, too” I so longed to hear. Instead of feeling supported and uplifted, I was left worrying that I was alone in this struggle. That somehow, questioning and seeking to understand God’s ways made me weak or unfaithful. That when I didn’t “hear” God it was because maybe I wasn’t listening/reading/praying hard enough -or worse- that he just wasn’t there for me. What I was missing was the true connection and support that comes from empathy, not sympathy. Showing one another empathy starts with honesty; it begins with admitting our own struggles out loud.
Church isn’t the only place we should consider bearing our testimonies. Numerous times I’ve heard it expressed that how we live our lives speaks volumes to others about Jesus’s love and what it means to be a Christian. We are ambassadors, walking billboards of our faith. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Most people in the world won’t bother to pick up a Bible to read about Christ, instead they will glean what they know from watching how Christians around them conduct themselves. This is all the more reason to be transparent and openly show our weaknesses. In fact, I would argue that being honest about our feelings, our doubts, and our struggles doesn’t undermine our faith, but rather speaks more truthfully to outsiders and others in the church about what it truly means to follow Jesus.
People don’t come searching for Christ because they have it all together, because life is easy and comfortable. They come because they are hurting and broken. To allow people to think that professing a belief in Jesus heals all wounds and somehow makes life easier is simply dishonest and risks turning people away from Christ (particularly when they see you fumble, which you inevitably will). If we lead with our hurt and our struggle we will find common ground with everyone and from there the Holy Spirit intervenes. From there, we have the opportunity to tell them how we get through the struggles. Verses stop being platitudes and start being hand holds.
Ask yourself: Has becoming a believer made my life easier? I don’t know about you, but for me, becoming a Christian has at times made my life harder. It has strained relationships and I have lost friends. People have openly ridiculed my faith in front of me.
So will becoming a Christian make anyone’s life easier? No, but it will make it much more worthwhile. Finding Christ has made life bearable even in the darkest of times. I have felt loved even when I cannot love myself, and his love has helped to lead me back from the brink time and time again. Life has not been easier, but it has been better, richer, sweeter.
I can understand the desire to dress up for Jesus and put on our Sunday best, but is that really what he wants? Church is a place to come in your rags, bruised and battered, to find comfort and forgiveness. Church is the place to go when you need to speak your truth even when it’s hard, when it hurts, when you might not like the answer you hear, and when the only answer possible is “Jesus.”
Having attended that church now for two years and taking time to speak to women one-on-one, I am just starting to hear them speak of their struggles, to admit to feeling lonely in the church. Funny enough, most of them are all saying the same thing! There is no picture-perfect. Most often I am let into their struggles only after admitting my own vulnerabilities first. Being honest and open comes easy for me. I can’t help but wear my heart on my sleeve. What I once thought was my weakness, I am slowly finding out, is indeed my strength.
So I challenge you: Let’s be painfully honest with ourselves and with those around us. Sometimes our faith feels small. Sometimes we have to fight tooth and nail to hold onto it. For some of us, faith is present more than it’s not, but we too have moments in which we waver. For some of us, hanging onto faith is a struggle, everyday, but it is so very worth it. Faith is active. That is the honest truth
Written by: Kelly Meyer
Kelly is an avid bookworm, tattoo lovin’ nurse, writer, wife, and mama who loves to collect rocks, troll thrift stores, read good poetry, write bad poetry, be a carb-loving, full-fat, creative type who loves to garden, draw, paint, sew, and create. She wears her heart on her sleeve, believes in honesty and laying it all out on the line, dreads small talk, and strives to be transparent and an overall good egg. You can find her at her blog Thoughts of a Former Skeptic.