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Loss of Faith

It happens.

by Everett Wilson
May 12, 2007

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Loss of Faith
I read yesterday that another eminent intellectual, this one a former missionary, has lost his faith. He did not lose his value to the world; he's been spending the rest of his life in a spectacular career on the frontier of a demanding and necessary field of inquiry.
On the other hand, it wasn't necessary for him to lose his faith in order to achieve in the secular world. No honest field of inquiry is closed to persons of faith. The loss and the achievement both occurred; they may have been connected, or they may have been coincidental.
Occasions for losing faith are endless, but are not, even usually, intellectual crises. Many come down to this: "God did not live up to my expectations. He (or she, or it, or they) did not conform to what God, in my opinion, ought to be or to what he ought to do." Not that it is stated in such a precise way. It is more likely to be stated as "Why should I go to church if I don't get anything out of it," or "I just stopped thinking about it and sort of grew away from it." Almost never does it rise to the passion of Job's wife when she told her husband to curse God and die.
In some cases what is called "loss of faith" is no more than the recognition of the absence of faith. There was nothing substantial in the mind and heart for the person to lose! What is affirmed as belief by many who "believe in God" is closer to superstition than to intentional faith. Angry atheism is at least as old as Job's wife, but superstition— unconsidered and easy explanations thrown ad hoc at mysteries—is even older.
What is somewhat newer is the popular notion that in matters pertaining to God, personal opinion is triumphant. We don't want it to triumph in the operating room—at least not while I'm on the table!--but it triumphs when the subject is ultimate truth.
Faith, and its loss, deserve better.
  • In the first place, losing your faith in God is about you, not about God. If you have decided there is no God, or at least no God worth trusting, your decision reflects only your opinion; if there is a God, he doesn't cease to exist on your say-so, any more than he comes into existence because you think he is a good idea.
  • In the second place, losing your faith in God is not the loss of God but only of your connection to him. It doesn't even mean that the possibility of a connection has ceased to exist. How could we know that?
  • In the third place, if there's a God anyway, apart from your what you think, you are still a part of his universe, even if you think he is not part of yours.
But what if you have lost faith and feel that you can't help it? That is the real sadness of the loss of faith; in the Bible it is not an intellectual problem but a personal one. We do not lose faith when we lose an argument, but when we lose hope.
Those who lose faith have lost a great treasure, and know it. They are in grief. If they feel relief instead of grief—"Oh good, I don't have to believe that any more" they either have no faith to lose, or they have confused it with dogma.
Christian faith is a living relationship with God, not only believed as truth but experienced as truth. Believers sometimes lose the experience, but it may return to those who continue to believe anyway, and do not lose hope.

Comments (9)

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Rick Wilson writes:
May 17, 2007
I love this article.

True belief is to know a calmness that is indescribable.
One comes to know God when he turns his life over to Him and trusts Him to lead him in the direction He wants us to go. If we truly believe we are on the path of His choosing, then success or failure is placed into perspective.

I remember the exact moment when I turned my problems over to God in 1996 on my way to work one morning. To this day I look at life in a different way. Defeats are turns in the road. Victorys are forward momentum. I simply follow the path.

And, as you say, I never lose hope.

CLare from New Jersey writes:
September 9, 2007
I am going through the struggle of questioning my faith presently. I had a strong belief and then it just hit me that maybe what I believed in was not correct. I am a practicing Catholic and had an active prayer life. Now I can't seem to pray. My priest calls it a "dark night of the soul". And everyone is giving me encouragement and saying all the right things. I just don't feel it.

Everett Wilson from The Partial Observer writes:
September 9, 2007
Responding to Clare from New Jersey

The real question is not whether it is correct, but whether it's true--specifically, that Jesus is the Truth, as he claims. If he is, then he is, no matter what you feel. If he is not, then he is not, no matter how much you believe. I am among those who say he is the truth, and I treat him as such. I take him seriously, in part because by dying for me, he took me seriously.

It is distressing not to feel your faith, but it is not fatal unless you treat it that away. Emotion is probably the least dependable (though the most enjoyable) of religious components. You can live without the emotion, but you cannot live without God.

Everett Wilson

Gene from MN writes:
February 26, 2008
I agree this is a very good article. My Christian friends have known for two years that I have been struggling with my faith and I hear absolutely nothing from any of them, expect my dear wife. From this it seems one could draw one of two conclusions ( or maybe combine them) 1. I am a bad person and nobody cares about my spiritual state or 2. Concern for other Christians during their times of struggle is a hoax, probably along with the rest of American evangelicalism. I sense I'm selfish because this comment is all about me.

Francisco Da Silva from Goa-India writes:
March 9, 2008
I am a roman catholic by birth but I feel depressed about it cause it always potrays way above other religions. Say, what about the rest of humanity?
Will they be saved only by my religion?

Everett Wilson from Ceresco, NE writes:
April 2, 2009
In response to Francisco: The Roman Catholic Church is not the Savior; Jesus is. As Paul and Silas said to the Philippian jailer, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31). It is both that simple, and that complicated.

ELM from USA writes:
April 8, 2009
America has religious freedom! Time to come out of the dark ages and recognize that fact! Noone has a monopoly! It is an act of pious to think one religion is the only way! All roads lead to spiritual enlightment. Wearing a label does not necessarily mean you are spiritually
enlightend. The Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. The Buddists do not either. Are they not enlightened? Not for me to judge! "Judge that ye be judged not."

Everett Wilson from The Partial Observer writes:
April 10, 2009
In ELM's version, which is common today, there is no truth. Only opinion. It's not just between the major religions: Nihilism is in the picture. So is Satanism. So is the Flat Earth Society.

Religious freedom means that you do not have to uphold what you believe to be false, and neither do I. You are free to believe, or not, and I am as free to disagree with you as you are free to disagree with me. This freedom, however, does not define the truth. The truth is itself, and where there is fundamental disagreement as the nature of ultimate reality--as between Buddhism and Christianity--everybody could be wrong, but it is a dead certainty that not everyone is right.

Dave from Georgia/Dirty South writes:
May 5, 2010
There is only one entity to blame if one loses their faith, THAT entity. Reason is, If a person gives 110% of their life, energy, love and animosity to their faith and believes with totality that their actions(mental and physical) will be rewarded(love, happiness, peace for the soul, contentment, children) on earth and beyond for his devoted service, love and conviction. Whats to happens when they are disappointed or when called upon, you are left to just suffer alone. When true evil enters your life and destroys everything you've built, everything youve made with your own hands. When prayer and faith doesnt change the outcome or prevent the destruction of your soul. I just think those of us who were faithful and had TRUE faith, lost that faith for a reason, we were failed, we were disappointed and we were utterly left alone. It has nothing to do with whats expected, demanded, or entitled. Its about respect and love and how we give so much, even when down and out we give. Only to hear, see and feel nothing.

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