My friend Monte Wilson is one of the most insightful writers that I know. He often understands important things and writes with passion and clarity. He sends occasional thoughts to his friends. The one that follows came to me earlier this week. I share it with his permission. (I urge you to check out Monte’s mission and support it. Information is at the end of this blog.)
I talked to N. today. O my, is he going through a crisis of faith. I hadn’t talked with him in a very long time and had no idea he was struggling so.
I think doubt is a normal and natural part of the Christian journey. When you reflect on the demands of Christ for a changed heart, mind and life-style, and how much these changes are at odds with those aspects of our psyche that are still drawn by the false-gold, “fun,” and flattery the (fallen) world has to offer, and the fact that spiritual change does not occur at the push of a button or a nod of the head, but only through the gradual conquering of what is at odds with the self God created us to become, I think it is a wonder we do not experience more times of crisis than we do.
The mind boggles at those spiritual advisors who seek to solve the crisis with a cheerleader’s exhortation to simply Have Faith. Well, duh, that is exactly where the individual is struggling! Each crisis is a unique event being experienced by a unique individual and shouldn’t be treated in formulistic manner. Nevertheless…
I have sat with my fair share of people having such crises, and one of the things that I have noticed is that it is rarely a matter of Truth—a doctrinal matter that is at the root of what is troubling them. O, that is there for sure, but only as a jumping off point for what is really bothering them, what is at the heart of their struggles.
In my experience with counseling people who are having a crisis of faith, two things most always occur: first, there is a passionate diatribe on what is “wrong” with the Bible (the Truth it asserts), filled with antagonistic accusations that are most always out of proportion to the importance of the truth they are disputing; and, second, in each case, as we dug deeper and deeper into the crisis, there was an unnamed angst, a shift in their inner self that placed them at odds with the God who had revealed himself in scriptures: they were madder than hell at God and weren’t going to take it—take Him—any longer.
When I was much younger I would allow myself to be drawn into debates about the veracity of the Scripture. I would spend countless hours explaining how a particular teaching was true or accurate. Yet, no matter how logical or clear my reasoning, the individual would remain in crisis. In fact, in those cases where the individual assented to my arguments, they would merely bring up another struggle. This is where I began to see that the issue wasn’t the Bible, so much as it was God himself. And here there are no sure-fire-kick-butt-thank-you-Jesus answers.
Within all of us are two competing natures at war with each other. Part of me wants the Love and Truth of God; the other part is at war with him, at odds with him, even hostile toward him and his ways. This is why a crisis of faith is so perilous: the latter part has become the motivating force within us.
All we can counsel a person at this stage of their journey is to patiently pray for light. “God, I want the Truth. I am ready to say ‘Yes’ to the Truth, to you, even if it means what the Bible asserts is true…Is it? Show me.”
The crisis is not so much about what the Bible says, but what it reveals about God himself. The struggle is not, then, primarily about a doctrine but about the nature of God and the demands it is placing on the individual in crisis. Or so I believe.
Monte E Wilson is President of African American Self-Help Foundation (aashf.org) and a minister in the Reformed Episcopal Church. His most recent ministry has been to those people presently suffering in the Darfur region of Sudan. His mailing address is 9925 Haynes Bridge Rd. Suite 200-135, Alpharetta, GA 30022, or you can email him at MonteThird@aol.com