The Common Good

What If I'm Not Sure What I Believe?

I get asked questions sometimes that I feel are useful for a larger audience to consider and discuss. One such question was submitted to me by a reader a while back, which echoes the sentiments within many other similar questions I’ve received. Here’s the essence at the heart of those questions.

Close-up of hands, Diego Cervo / Shutterstock.com
Close-up of hands, Diego Cervo / Shutterstock.com

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What do I do if I’m not sure what I believe?

First of all, don’t freak out. Most of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament is about a priest suffering a crisis of faith. And though some argue it was more a fulfillment of prophecy (quoting a psalm) rather than a personal cry of distress, it’s hard not to feel Jesus’ own existential suffering when he cries out from the cross for a God who seems to be missing.

We tend to make the mistake, when leaning too heavily on the norms of modernist thinking, that what we believe should be provable, watertight, and presentable on demand. But faith is inherently more mysterious, more restless and fluid than this. It sits with open-ended questions and welcomes mystery, without necessarily having to wrap everything up in a neat little package.

Also, consider taking some time to sit with people you love and respect, and ask them about their story. What do they believe? Why do they believe it? Have they ever wrestled with their faith? What helped them through it? We are a story-driven species; we gain our individual and collective identity from story. And the Bible itself is filled with stories – some fantastical, some horrendous, still others fairly basics and, well … kind of boring.

The thing is, the way we think about Christianity in the modern context suggests that not knowing what you believe is a problem to be solved. But in my experience, the open-ended mystery and the eager “what’s next?” kind of anticipation is far more useful to our daily faith walk than having all of the details of our faith firmly nailed down. In fact, I’d suggest that it’s such certainty at the heart of some peoples’ faith that leads to so much ideological conflict, division and, in some cases, even violence.

Faith is more than a feeling, a quick high we get from feeling filled with God’s presence. Of course these moments are nice, if and when they come, but faith is more about a promise to keep searching, a practice of feeling around half-blind in the darkness, open to the possibilities of what we might find.

Christian Piatt is a Sojourners Featured Writer and an author, editor, speaker, musician, and spoken word artist. He is director of church growth and development at First Christian Church in Portland, Ore. Christian is the creator and editor of Banned Questions About The Bible and Banned Questions About Jesus. His new memoir on faith, family and parenting is called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

Image: Close-up of hands, Diego Cervo / Shutterstock.com

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