[I’ve started to do some serious reflecting on my time in Zimba as my flight back to the states creeps closer and closer. 28 days. Here’s some thoughts so far…]
I have this theory about transparency.
I’m met a lot of people here who are searching for God. In the face of reality and suffering they are looking for reasons and answers. And in all my struggling with various questions these past few months I don’t have many answers to give besides pointing to who God is and my experience of him.
I think that’s exactly the point. We don’t have answers to all those questions, but we have shared in the struggle for them. We’ve felt disappointment; we’ve been frustrated with God. We haven’t understood why different events in our lives had to happen. We’ve been overwhelmed, experienced doubt… and we’ve made it through.
We don’t have all the answers, but we do have hope. Hope that, despite everything, God is still who he says is.
We are called to always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks the reason for the hope that we have. I think that hope grows most through times where it is forced to become stronger, and in those times when we encounter the refreshing presence of God.
Somewhere along the way we learn that not all the Psalms were written in the major key. Times of darkness, storms or silence don’t just go away when we want them to. There is a reason for these things. I think they are essential to our growth and our ability to impact the world.
Questions, struggles, hardships, pain… they are a catalyst for examination and strengthening of faith. The challenge of a weighty question refines us. Working through it brings a new depth to our faith; just like a tree slowly growing it’s roots into a rocky terrain. It’s not an easy thing.
The process of experiencing doubt serves to teach us how to navigate that wilderness of confusion, and in doing so learn to go further into the mystery of God. What’s more, it allows us to come alongside fellow wanderers and share what we have learned along the way.
I think the transparent Christian is one who has learned the value of wrestling with these things and the impact that can be made by sharing their story.
Life is a continuous cycle of living, experiencing challenges and doubts, working through them and moving towards a deeper faith. So, why don’t we talk about it?
God doesn’t get nervous about His existence or character when we misunderstand or question it. Instead he invites us to keep seeking. To keep asking. To press in deeper. He promises that those who seek him with all their heart will indeed find him, and so find that unshakable hope.
I think if more Christians were willing to be honest about their struggles and doubts then they could help others who wrestle with those same things. If we would be vulnerable and allow light to pour over our doubts and fears then maybe the shadows wouldn’t grow fangs.
I’m not saying that you should let the process of the struggle surpass the ultimate importance of who God is. Or that you should let the questions become more important than the life of love you are called to live. However, we shouldn’t neglect the challenge of wrestling with questions.
I can say without a doubt that the people who have impacted my spiritual life the most deeply are those who are transparent Christ-followers.
People who have walked through the muddy wilderness leave boot prints for us to follow.
But, I see a want for people who are willing to be honest and vulnerable enough to share their struggles. When we fail to share our experiences with others we rob the world of the story of God’s love he is writing with our lives.
Many people today seem to wear a mask of perfection without any blemish of doubt. Maybe if we were more willing to share our questions and doubts the true reality of faith would come through for others to see. Like light streaming through the darkness.
Not like people trying to pretend the darkness isn’t there. Perhaps then Christianity could be more understandable for those who struggle with questions and doubt.
Perhaps then, speaking the truth in love, we can grow and mature in our faith.
Perhaps then people would be attracted to an authentic church dynamic in its growth and love. A church full of fellow wanderers, not a masquerade.
One thing that I know for sure, through living in Zimba and struggling with so many questions about life and God, my faith has grown. Faith has become more precious to me. I see the grace of God towards me as a true blessing and I want to continue to go deeper into the mystery.
Though the questions and struggles I have experienced here are daunting for me, they are of extreme value. Reality and faith meet at times with a clash, but the experience never leaves me the same. I think that for me it is better to wrestle with these things, though it is painful. I see the testing of my faith producing character and character that is growing in me the hope that will not disappoint.
If you’re wrestling with something I want to challenge you to talk with a mentor or someone you trust about your struggles. God is faithful, he will bring to completion the work he has begun in your life. And he has put other people in your life for a reason.
Keep seeking. Be brave enough to wrestle the questions, God is bigger than they are.
Share the story of what God is doing in your life, and don’t leave out the parts that were filled with doubt and questions. That process of wrestling and coming through to the other side, those are the parts of your story that can speak life into someone else’s.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1