I may not have my faith figured out yet, but I’m starting to believe that that is part of the journey. And if you can relate to anything that I’m writing, then it means you and I are not alone.
Over the last decade, I have struggled to define my faith. Growing up in a Methodist church, I had a different view of what my relationship with God should look like. By the time I got to college, I didn’t know what to think. Everyone around me had a different view, denomination, or outlook on religion than I did. And to me, that was strange.
Looking back now, I know that when I got saved at eight years old, my faith was genuine. In a brief interaction with my dad at 2:30 in the morning, I knew that I wanted to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He was more than all the Bible stories I was raised on, but He was also deeply and intimately personal. He was my best friend, and I always wanted Him to be. I guess what I didn’t realize as a child was that the dynamic of faith often changes as we grow.
As a Christian, I want to be transparent enough with my readers to tell them that I still struggle with my faith. But even more so is the struggle I have being authentic with God. Because while I can write to all of you about the importance of being real, and sharing your bloody brokenness, I deeply struggle to be that way with my Creator.
In a sense of honest confession, I’m writing this post to wrestle with and validate those struggles. It is my hope and prayer, that maybe someone else out there will be able to relate to and understand what I’m going through. To walk through these growing pains with me.
By the time I attended college at Ohio Christian University, I’d been a Christian for a decade. I went to church, occasionally read my Bible, and was notorious for doing a lot of works for the Kingdom of God. But my heart was often far from Him, and my intentions, while I wish they were, weren’t always pure.
When God first called me to the altar in the fall of 2014, I sensed a true definition of faith. Faith beyond my comfort zone, and faith that was more than all the “works” I’d been living.
For nearly two decades, faith was represented as repetitive motions, emotionless songs, and mundane routines. It was characterized by what I did, yet not necessarily who I was. But at this particular chapel service, God called me from the pew into the front of a crowded room. Kneeling down at His feet, I looked around. Hundreds of others were doing the same.
That day, I released many things that had been holding power over me. I loosened my grip, asking God to truly do with my life, what He intended. Within the next five years, I transitioned to a more charismatic church and began to experience God like never before.
Standing at a Crossroads
Today, I feel as if I stand at a crossroads in my faith. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to have a faith stuck in routine, order, and reciting the daily memorized prayer. And yet, that is exactly what I do day after day. It’s as if I can feel the verses Paul wrote written on the interior of my soul: "For that which I don’t want to do, I do, and that which I want to do, I do not do. Something I desperately wish I understood, but simply put, I don’t" (Romans 7:15-20).
On the other hand, there is a part of me that is scared to change. Scared to break out of my box; scared to not be in control (even though I already know I possess none of it), scared to let go (even though I really want to). Scared to see, know, experience, and taste like I did as a child with effortless faith and wonder.
It’s as if I want to experience God differently, more relationally, and truly like a best friend, but suddenly, it’s become so much more difficult than it was when He was my best friend at eight years old. But why should it be?
The Ebb and Flow of Faith
I’m confident that faith ebbs and flows as we mature. This is also why Paul talks about spiritual milk, as opposed to spiritual food. But on the other, faith seems to grow so much more complicated the older I get.
In a recent counseling session with my therapist, we identified that my struggles have often made me doubt the presence and validity of my faith. And it wasn’t until I got sick after graduating college that I began to learn what it really means to walk by faith, and not by sight. I never knew how much I needed Jesus to heal me of pain and suffering until I begin to experience it. Nothing will test your faith in Him more than experiencing grave physical and mental distress and remaining unhealed. More than that is watching those you love experience the same.
Although I grew up in a Christian household, it was also extremely chaotic and dysfunctional. The trauma, problems, and horrific circumstances that I have lived through are only now starting to resurface and impact me. Perhaps because I’m learning to live with them, or perhaps because I kept them hidden for so long.
So much of my anxiety and depression are often rooted in the fears and disbelief that I may be a fraud. Maybe, as much as I love Jesus, or think that I do, I really don’t. I am absolutely petrified that I will spend my entire life seeking to get other people saved, while not really being saved myself. Yet, that is only half the battle of anxiety and depression. While it would be easy to blame it all on things like my family upbringing, trauma, and genetics, that simply isn’t the case. I am a human being with multi-faceted issues that require multi-dimensional approaches to their healing. And I suspect that you require the same.
I may not have my faith figured out yet, but I’m starting to believe that that is part of the journey. And if you can relate to anything that I’m writing, then it means you and I are not alone. We are merely among all the others who are walking on the same difficult path. A path often riddled with questions, doubt, anxieties, fears, depression, struggles, and things that are not simply black-and-white answers printed in the daily news.
Will You Take The First Step?
The first step that I’m taking, that I encourage you to take as well, is to not only be real and honest with those around you but to be real and honest with the God who loves and desires for you to be real with Him. It is praying prayers that probably scare you and asking Him to move in ways that He’s never moved before. It’s taking a good, deep, and hard look at your life and truly making time for God to move. It’s often in doing less that we really do more. Making more room for Him than all the other people and activities on your weekly checklist. Because He doesn’t move within boxes. He’s the Master of rearranging, destroying, and rebuilding them. And that’s a good thing.
Over the last month, I’ve reduced my prayers. I’ve read less Scriptures. I’ve taken less notes. But I’ve memorized verses. I’ve intentionally focused on passages that take me deeper. I’ve written more “God, help me,” notes than pages on pages of biblically, scholarly notes. God isn’t looking for my evidence of faith. He’s waiting for me to be real.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve realized that God is in all the places we look for Him—and all the places that we don’t. He’s shown up in countless ways—all outside of the window and time frame I predicted or desired Him to answer them.
In an hour-long panic and anxiety attack coated with depression, He didn’t show up and take the suffering away. He showed up in the darkness by providing someone to sit with me in my wrestling.
In the passions I’ve prayed about pursuing for years, He sent a woman to speak to me. A woman who just so happened to be in the right place at the right time, when my husband and I weren’t even planning to be there in the first place. Too ironic to be a coincidence.
In career navigations, you can imagine my shock when I’m cleaning sap off my car (leaking from the tree above), and a stranger approaches me and personally offers to submit a job application for my husband to a place he’d been waiting to hear back from for months, my socks about fell off.
Meeting an old staff member while visiting a local church.
Running into a random guy in Whole Foods who was bold enough to strike up a conversation about Jesus.
Offering a student free supplies and having them ask me about Jesus; my reward.
The instances have been innumerable. Maybe because I’m looking to see them. Maybe because I’m not.
But God is doing something radical in me. Even if it means stripping down the faith I thought I once knew and replacing it with something better. Something built on a more foundational and relational experience. One that ebbs and flows. Stretches and touches its toes. One that doesn’t just walk by the water but gets in it. One that doesn’t ever look like I think it will. One that answers on His timeline and not my own.
Sometimes, God answers prayers in the form of people. People around us. People within us. People we love. And people we can’t stand.
Sometimes, God answers prayers in the form of places. Places we end up. Places we’d really rather not be. Environments we want out of. Environments we don’t. Jobs we want to have. Jobs we don’t.
Sometimes, God answers prayers in the form of things. Things we wrestle and struggle with. Things we think we’ve mastered. Things we avoid talking about. Things we talk about all the time.
And sometimes, God answers prayers even when we think He doesn’t. They might be at a different time, or place, or location than what we desired or expected, but He’s still in the works of answering them. Exactly on His time.
The measure of my faith is not how I lived it out as a child. It’s how I live it out now. Nothing is saying it has to be like it was, but everything is saying it needs to be how He desires it to be in the present.
It’s an act of surrender.
It’s an act of confession.
It’s an act of people, places, and things.
The Journey of Faith
My faith is a journey, and this is just the beginning. A beginning of often chaos and disorder. Questions and concerns. Failures and mistakes.
But it’s also a beautiful journey of grace and mercy. God’s unfailing love and forgiveness. His tender and compassionate character that never changes, and the passions and purposes He’s living out inside us.
It’s a journey I’m still trying to figure out, my friend. It’s a journey I believe we’re all on. And something within me tells me that’s okay.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/vadimguzhva
Amber Ginter is a teacher, author, blogger, and mental health activist who resides in the beautiful mountains and cornfields of Ohio. She loves Jesus, granola, singing, reading, dancing, running, her husband Ben, and participating in all things active. She’s currently enrolled in the Author Conservatory Program and plans to pitch her book: Mental Health and the Modern Day Church for Young Adults, soon. Visit her website at amberginter.com.
LISTEN: Being Complete in Jesus (Understanding Matthew 5:21-48)
Hearing Jesus is a devotional journey through the gospels, where we explore the teachings of Jesus chapter by chapter. If you're seeking to live a life that reflects God's, this podcast is for you.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
WATCH: 10 Sins Christians Downplay (and Why They're So Destructive)
Stock Footage & Music Courtesy of Soundstripe.com Thumbnail by Getty Images