Personal Rant: Hope and Theology

This was a comment I posted on a thread about spiritual depression at Internet Monk. Wanted to put it up here so that I would remember.

For the past two weeks of so, I have been questioning whether or not I can believe in God any more. I won’t get into it all here, but it has had to do with feeling that everything I thought I knew about God was wrong. Theology didn’t have the answers for me and my (at the moment) crappy life.

The hardest part about this is that if I want answers, I have no where to go.

Sometimes I really wonder if ‘just Jesus’ is enough. I mean, everyone is telling me that I need to believe x in order to be really right or join the real body of believers to truly have life. And I look at there life (at least what small part I can see) and they are happy, or filled with faith, or loving in ways that I wish I was. I see examples of the Christian life and experience in these people and wonder if their theology is right after all. But then I see another example in a ‘competing’ denomination, and my mind swirls again.

Growing up in a myriad of denominational streams, I have always had a hard time finding my balance amid a sea of voices and opinions. Good, God fearing people all telling me seemingly different ‘truths’ about God, the Bible, Jesus, spiritual power, life, the length of my hair, my theology, drinking, coming to the communion table, etc. etc, etc. No matter how used to this I have become, it is always a source of confusion… which leads to depression.

I think the reason depression and the search for ‘the true church’ are so interrelated is because what we are really looking for is hope. It’s what the gospel offers, what we need, and when we feel that we can’t find it despair is the only valid response.

At the core, we are looking for a hope we can understand and find comfort in. We are looking for a place where we are accepted and won’t be left out. We are all dying to be part of the sanctified, holy people of God… and some of us are filled with the fear that at the end of it all we got it wrong and God really won’t welcome our shaky, barely holding on faith into his Shalom.

We fear God won’t love us unless we believe the right things rightly because too many people have filled us with the fear of being wrong and going to hell because of it.

To many people have told us in one way or another that hope really isn’t for everyone. Only those who believe correct theology, who get onto the ‘right side’, only those who are worthy enough will get the salvation Jesus offers. So, our need for hope drives us to listen to each and every take on theology, wrestling with question after unanswerable question, all the while praying that we can somehow get it right.

Sometimes, people in this cycle find relief. This grace comes to them in the form of a denomination they feel is their ‘home’, or somewhere they find the answers to the questions, the hope they have been longing for. I am happy for them, and quite jealous. But, I have to remember (and here my theological leanings shine through) they are finding God’s favor and grace manifested to them in the denomination or theology that meets their needs. In other words, Jesus is making him self known to them in this way. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have Jesus, or that the denomination across the street is not really part of the true church invisible.

But that’s hard to remember because I can’t see Jesus, sit beside Him on Sundays, hear what he has to say and what it means and have a room full of people say ‘amen’.

I don’t know if I will ever find myself part of a denomination again. But I believe that somewhere, somehow Jesus will show up in my living life, and I will see his grace know his love.

Maybe my addiction to theology is really an addiction to pride, trying to prove to God that I am worthy enough. Maybe I do believe a lie, the lie of pride that binds and kills love. Maybe I need to let go. maybe I can, maybe I can’t. But I can hope that this will all change, that the denominational confusion and fences will be made right along with everything else when Jesus comes to set all right once more.

I don’t have an answer to these questions. I wrestle with them myself, and will probably die with them in my heart. I will go up and down in my life, some days believing and others gripped by spiritual depression of various degrees. But the fact that I can’t solve this answer my self tells me that I still need Jesus to make me right with God. If my theology is driving my further from the truth of that need, then to hell with it. Jesus is the only one who can cure this long dark night of the soul. He may not do it before his return, but It will change.

The belief that something will change and my admission that I am helpless to change it… that is hope. We either chose to hope, or give up and let the night swallow us.

  • Random (not really) question, but have you ever considered that your addiction to theology is to fill those missing pieces “voids” in your life? Hence, the spiritual depression.

    • I think it can be. If we are determined that the correct theology is going to secure our “in”status with God, theology can become just as much of an idol as sex, drugs, TV, church, nature, etc… That is why more and more I believe that our theology has to start with, center around, and lead us to Jesus. Otherwise, we are replacing hope with works and that will always leaves us depressed at best and damned at worst.

  • I hope we get there. More importantly, I hope YOUR writing takes us there.

    • I’m just one voice. It has to be a bigger conversation that includes many voices. We have to hope together, each of us helping the others hope better.

  • Artisangeek

    My wife and I spent some time trying to find a church to call home. We visited an Evangelical-Free church, a Baptist church, a This church and even a That church. All along we where praying, together and apart, that God would lead us to a church we could call home. Finally after two years, we visited a church that my wife had been wanting to visit for some time.

    Now, during the whole searching process, God took me through a research phase. I studied the fundamental beliefs of various denominations all in the hopes of being the one to lead my family to the right church. All of them essentially said the same thing. “We have it right, they have it wrong.” Some went as far as saying if you don’t believe everything precisely as we teach… you go to Hell! The majority, however, taught that they had it the most accurate but where willing to coexist or love their Christian brothers and sisters. For the sake of peace we wont get into what constituted as non-christian, suffice it to say there are many cults that exist and most, if not all Christians would agree on who those are.

    Now, I found my first mistake… I thought I would lead my family. If God is not the head, the true leader, well, you’re in for disappointment. I gave up control, to Him.

    Then, it happened. As we sat in the audience, it hit us. The choir had just finished leading the congregation in worship of our almighty God and the pastor was in the midst of his sermon. My wife and I looked at each other and just smiled. We knew we where home.

    I met with the Pastor in private to discuss the fundamental beliefs of the church and make sure they lined up with what I believed and… well, what is fundamental? They believed…

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 

    They also believed…

    “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

    They believed everything between “In the beginning God” and “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” Everything else is just details. In my church, we have staunch Calvinists. We also have staunch Arminianists. We have hard-core Weslyans. We have Pentecostals and we have people who believe the gifts of the Spirit are no longer needed. The fact is, what truly matters is Jesus! If you go to a church who says you must believe them and them only or you will burn in Hell…. run! Oh, and uh… don’t drink the cool-aid!!!    =0)

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