I believe one of the best things someone can do is share where they’ve come from, and what they’ve experienced. I wanted to include a testimony page… a reminder for me, and hopefully encouragement for anyone who finds it hard to believe—Christian or not.
Quick early-life summary:
Childhood seemed perfect. Middle school was awful—No one should be subjected to middle school. :-p
My step-brother-best friend at the time-ran away, moved out of state, and never spoke to the family again. I got involved with drugs and alcohol, had no idea who I was and regularly floundered between wannabe party girl to loner to major flirt to all-black-wearing depressed girl, which led into the first two years of…
High School: At 17, I went to a youth conference I did not want to go to and ended up finding it to be the best thing that ever happened to me. This is when I made the decision to follow Christ, though I had prayed the sinner’s prayer as a child and was a believer…not a follower.
In a period of a week, I turned 180 degrees to being in love with life and serving Jesus and wanting nothing more than to tell the whole world about how dramatically and beautifully he can save. There were times when I tried to be the person I once was (for whatever reason) and literally couldn’t. I know not all people have the same conversion experience, but for me, it was like God turned on a switch that no one—not even I—could shut off.
College: Amazing. I met people from a semi-Charismatic church who I noticed had the same passion for God that fundamental Baptists did (the denomination I was involved in through middle/high school), though they are pretty much opposite denominations. I had known his love in a profound way already, having a healthy fear and love of God, but I experienced his unconditional grace and love anew.
My first two years of college were full of joy. Beside the occasional over-emotional thought and opinion, it was all real, and the only word I’d use to describe it was supernatural. These were the days of my life when I had basically no desire for sin, no desire to rebel against anything God would have asked me to do. (I would even mute movies during love scenes and close my eyes in prayer instead, honestly loving prayer more!) Truly, I believe my world could have crashed around me and I would still have been bursting with peace. I never felt more alive and more completely whole. I jumped into the charismatic movement, listened to tapes, went to meetings, and out of a strong desire to help people in pain, I prayed for the gift of healing.
Not-so-quick later-life summary:
Over the next 2 years, I prayed for people who quickly died. I never saw people get healed; most things I did in faith failed, and as much as I tried to share what God had done for me, the people I hoped would come to know Jesus didn’t. As hard as I tried, I didn’t feel like I was ever helping anyone, and mostly I felt like I was failing God.
What I call my “spiritual honeymoon” soon turned into a difficult marriage that brought up only doubts and concerns. …Chaos in the world that I wanted so badly to explain and couldn’t. Friends’ dreams that were shattered for no apparent reasons. Bible verses that seem to say the complete opposite of what we’re taught in church. I felt like joy, peace, love, and God, was slowly slipping away over a 2-year period. Yes, there are plenty of reasons to doubt there even is a God sometimes. I can look back and wonder if God wasn’t hiding around the corner, asking: “Will you still love me, even when the happy feelings and easy answers are gone?” I loved him, but I didn’t like him… I was doubtful and cynical after so many months struggling with faith; I reached a point where everything that identified me as a strong Christian and even a happy person seemed unreachable. I wasn’t even desiring rebellion, I just didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t have joy, I was only confused and felt betrayed by God because of His silence, and I felt out of place in the world…in both worlds. I didn’t know where I – or anyone – fit into God’s plan, if he even had one.
I went to a new church every week, scrutinized each verse of the Bible, because I was tired of “being fed the truth.” I looked up the history, the greek, and I underlined everything that seemed to contradict itself and all that looked suspicious. I wanted reasons to believe God, but I became more withdrawn and doubtful – and soon, I started looking for reasons to disbelieve Him.
The hardest year of my life, emotionally speaking, was the year after I graduated. I never gave up going to church every Sunday or going to Bible studies, and believe it or not, I listened to pretty much only Christian music and surrounded myself with everything Christian. But inside, I ached. I was never happy, even when I was outwardly laughing with friends. (Prov. 14:13…)
I questioned my place in heaven when I started reading several verses that scared me. I got so angry at God, thinking he might just discard me though I’d never meant to doubt. I started questioning the validity of God and the motives of Jesus. I found nothing but more hard questions.
There are verses that describe what can happen to a Christian if they keep turning from God, like how the bad that was in them will return even worse than before they became a Christian, and the end result is that it would have been better for them to have never followed Christ than to have gone that far astray. I felt like it was happening to me. I was shocking myself at the thoughts that didn’t even seem like me anymore. Over the next several months, I was more like an atheist who maybe wants to believe in God but literally doesn’t know how. There were a few times I was at a crossroads of giving up my faith for good or continuing on, and each time it ended with God barely winning, as I was afraid.
One afternoon, I remember driving home in the pouring rain, praying, “Lord, if I’m going to give up my faith later on in life and you’re not going to accept me into heaven, please just kill me now, since I haven’t completely given up… just take me now.”
Moments later, as I turned too quickly off an exit ramp, my tires couldn’t grip the road, and my car slid out of control across two lanes of traffic. I remember yelling “Lord, help!” The car spun twice and stopped in a small field surrounded by trees.
(OK, maybe I didn’t want to die.)
I spent the next two hours in a tire shop getting my car re-aligned, and there were no magazines to read in the waiting room. No TV. Strange. (This was before smartphones) All I could do to keep from being bored was read a little Bible I had kept in my car. I decided to just open it wherever and start reading, and what I read was about our place in heaven, and a reminder of why Jesus died in the first place.
Weeks later, at the biggest crossroads beside my initial conversion, I made a decision. It wasn’t emotional. It was simply choosing a side. I would never give up on God, no matter what I—nor the people I loved—went through. It was not worth it… It wasn’t worth the loneliness and pain spent living a life “with no God.” (John 6:68)
It was a very basic realization: If I can’t prove there is no God… Could I move to the brighter side of that discussion?
I decided to make an actual point of trying to stop disliking God. To stop assuming he was a manipulative, hurtful God. I now believe this is the first step to any skeptic’s recovery. I learned that there is a BIG difference between not really believing there’s a God (or a loving one), and barely believing that He exists and might care. It felt like night and day as I allowed myself to drop the weight, even if it was more like a: “Fine, if you don’t want me to have answers—to just believe as if I’m a 4-year old kid—then ok.” God accepted me like that. If his terms are child-like faith, then those are his terms. I made a decision that I would not let only intellect rule my life, or the determination not to let religion or God get the best of me. I started thinking, “What’s wrong with him getting…the best of me? He gives me back the best of me. Without him, I am the worst of me.”
I don’t have solid answers to the hard questions, and often, there are none even if people say there are. But I started finding reasons to believe again, instead of only reasons to doubt. I started seeking again, reading books that would help me, like one in particular: Disappointment with God by Phillip Yancey…and another: The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. (If you grew up loving Jesus and the church but are bitter about it now, Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Evans is awesome).
I wondered if it made sense to continuously wrestle with God, when it was just making things worse. This is where the song “Is God Gonna Say” came from. I started praying, “Lord, you know I can’t make myself just believe things I don’t, so You have to give me faith. Give me hope. Give me love, because it’s not there.” I prayed this every day for a while. One thing I have grown to believe is that truly, “without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Heb.11:6) Maybe that’s another reason God kept himself so hidden all that time… After all, he refuses to break his own rules and wouldn’t go for the ones I gave him. I’m still prone to question, but I have underlying peace again… God has slowly given me my love for Him back, and for other people. I’m content… for those are the two greatest things a person can have, according to Him.