The Faith That Fails

Stacks of FaithI’m tired of my faith.

I grew up thinking the quality of my faith carried some sort of mystical weight on an eternal scale. The quantity of faith wasn’t the issue; it was never about having more. I mean if you have faith the size of a mustard seed you can cause earth changing events. As long as the quality is pure and unwavering, it’s like dealing with a loaded bomb.

The explosion never came though. Either my faith is a dud, or I lack the conviction that actually brings about change. I must not be believing well enough. So I’ll double down on my resolve, dig into the bible, work harder at prayer, force my self to remember God throughout my day so that I can believe better. When that didn’t work, well it must be that I’m still lacking the top shelf faith needed to move mountains, to remain secure in my calling, the kind of faith everyone else has.

Here’s my problem: when I focus on the quality of faith, how can I ever know when it is pure enough? It may sound holy and pious to pray, “not more faith, but stronger, more sure faith O Lord”… but in the end, the perfection demanded from seeing faith this way leads to hypocrisy,  spiritual depression, or a deadly mix of the two.

The Self Doubters Faith

Most of the time, I feel like a fraud. This fear resides in my gut that somehow, somewhere, someone will discover something deep and dark about me, and everyone will see that I really am worthless. I doubt my worth and value, and every flaw and failure is magnified through this lens. With this kind of vision, how could my faith ever be enough? If I don’t see the dead raised, the sick healed, the lame leaping, if mountains aren’t moved and life remains an uphill struggle… The quality of my faith (or the lack thereof) must be proven by the results produced in my life, right?

So why won’t my mountains move?

See, I doubt too much to rely on my faith. It’s not the big things that I doubt; it’s not truth, scripture or the God (at least most days). My doubt is the doubt of the self. I must not really count, must not have the right faith, must not be good enough because I can’t move the mountains.

The truth of the matter is this: looking at faith this way is starting off in the wrong place. If we don’t ask the right questions, we can’t ever see the truth clearly.

For those of us that doubt ourselves, for those of us that lack the spark of confidence, the quick step, and the flat out swagger…

For those of us who are barely hanging on, trying to find ourselves, trying to understand who the hell we are and why we were made he way we are…

For those of us who are too terrified to admit anything other than “I am not good enough!”…

For everyone who is like me…

Maybe it’s time we learned to look to something better than our self-assurance. Maybe it’s time we began to try to lean on someone other than the crumbling, broken self that we desperately want to matter. Maybe it’s time we stopped trying to fulfill our own need.

 Voices of Faithfulness

These days, I don’t really think too much about my faith. Instead I try to keep fixated on Jesus’ faithfulness. I know what a bloody mess I am. I know how messed up and bound by my own lies I am. I know the voice of my inner asshole too well. Yet, despite all that, in the middle of all that, Jesus shows up. Not only does he show up, be he tells me he loves me, he whispers to me about hope; he leads me to a place where I can begin to believe what he says: I’m valuable. I’m not worthless. I have good things to do, give, and share. I am not a fraud. I have nothing to fear.

Normally, when people start talking about hearing Jesus the cynical part of me starts eye rolling and coming up with a million ways that an invisible God just isn’t actually there in the physical way I need to be reassured. Lately though, I have been hearing, reading, and experiencing Jesus telling me the truth about my self through the voices of the faithful: people who are trying to believe Jesus and see something good in me, in my attempts to find my identity, and in my efforts to maybe see a mountain moved.

These people have come around me in a time when I needed them. I don’t even know if they know that I need their voices, that I hear Jesus speaking in their words to me.

People like Andi Cumbo, Jim Woods, and Pam Hogeweide: fellow writers who have encouraged me to write out my passion with hard writing, somehow making me believe I can do this writers life.

There are friends like Alastair Roberts, Graham Ware, and Brandon Johnson, people who talk theology with me, push back on my ideas, and ultimately help me remember that start to finish, deep and wide, top to bottom, it all centers on Jesus.

These are some of the voice I need to hear. These are the voices of Christ’s faithfulness to me. Their faithful words point me to the faithfulness of Jesus that I can lean on as I learn that I can be used faithfully.  Somehow, their words, reminders, challenges, and presence pushes me into the arms of Christ in a way that frees me from focusing on my own faith that fails. These are a few of the people that tell me my worth, reminding me I am crafted in the image of God. These are some of the voices that are helping me discover that I can believe Christ’s faithfulness, and that Jesus can, will, and wants to use my words and deeds to illuminate his faithfulness.

What voices of faithfulness are you listening to?

  • Brandon

    Aaron, your writing is an inspiration. This post is just one example of how your willingness to keep searching through the struggles you face ends up providing wisdom and a place to hold on for others who might struggle too. Thank you for allowing your story to help shape your search for Jesus and vice versa, feeding the rest of us who need truth not just from textbooks but from life.

    The voices of faithfulness I am listening to primarily right now are my core group of people working to start our community house and the missional and monastic writers who contribute to the conceptual stream we swim in, like Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Alan Hirsch, and Michael Frost. It is from the wisdom of these authors and people in my life that I have heard the wisdom of faithfulness.

  • Love this – “These days, I don’t really think too much about my faith. Instead I try to keep fixated on Jesus’ faithfulness. I know what a bloody mess I am. I know how messed up and bound by my own lies I am. I know the voice of my inner asshole too well. Yet, despite all that, in the middle of all that, Jesus shows up. Not only does he show up, be he tells me he loves me, he whispers to me about hope; he leads me to a place where I can begin to believe what he says: I’m valuable. I’m not worthless. I have good things to do, give, and share. I am not a fraud. I have nothing to fear.”

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