I had my own faith crisis a few years ago.
When I found myself with more questions than I had answers, I felt like the earth had fallen out from beneath my feet for a time. But then ultimately I decided to focus and reflect back on some of the answers I had already received in my life, and by doing so, I began to more easily recognize the source of my confusion.
I got through my crisis by looking back and reflecting on the times when the Lord’s guidance was clear and the answers were sure. To be honest, they were few. I was reminded of how quiet, but piercing, unmistakable and true His answers were – something that cannot be duplicated by anything else – and the memory of it was enough to get me through another day.
It was different than a feeling of “wow,” “amazing,” or “empowerment,” “love,” and “light”. Those feel good and expand my soul, and I’d prefer to only feel those things.
But this was deeper than that. It was more like a sobering Alma 36 moment – like the jolt you feel when you suddenly realize you nearly fell asleep at the wheel with your family in the car.
God doesn’t ONLY deliver love and light. Sometimes out of love he also delivers uncomfortable wake-up calls. The God I follow does both, and so I have to be willing to receive both.
Did you know there are other ‘gods’ that would have our devotion? I’m not talking about ‘materialism’ or other worldly distractions, I’m talking about literal spirit beings who love to build their following of worshippers, but who did not CREATE us.
At one time I felt a sharp reprimand – the words delivered to a crowd, but striking me with particular force, “Return to the God of Israel.” It was an odd thought, but it certainly got my attention – I didn’t know I had left. I never intended to, and I didn’t think I had, but it definitely got me thinking and discerning more carefully. Before that, it never dawned on me that there were other so-called ‘gods’ competing for my attention, but there are. Not all promptings that make you feel good and light are from the one true God. Other ‘gods’ promise to lead you to a life of love and freedom, but only One will deliver on his eternal promises, and His is a straight and narrow path.
I had to make a choice and finally declared, “I could be wrong here, but here it is. I CHOOSE to believe.”
Regardless of what we know or don’t know, we have a CHOICE. And I chose to believe.
Afterward I felt a renewed and unexpected confirmation of peace. Unmistakable. Love, light, assurance, all of it. Even “wow”, “amazing”, and “empowerment”. The best feeling, though, was the PEACE – a peace that no other feeling can touch. It’s not grand. It’s not earth shattering. It’s too quiet, too deep, too solid, too sacred. It’s anchoring. But it only came AFTER I made my conscious choice, not before. That’s agency.
That’s the test: we have to study things out in our own mind, come to a conclusion, and then ask God (not Google, not Facebook) if we are right. There are wonderful answers online, but the only kinds of answers that endure faith crises are the ones that come directly from God. (James 1:5)
I don’t need people at church to be a certain way. I don’t even need the sermons at church to say a certain thing, because I can always learn and study true doctrine on my own. People are imperfect and get it wrong all the time. But they get it right a lot of the time, too. They’re trying, and there’s grace. We’re all just doing the best we can.
My relationship with God is personal. I feel that He still wants me there. I go to worship, serve, learn, teach, and most importantly, renew my covenants. Covenants with God are as old as the earth. I wouldn’t dare presume that we’ve evolved so much as a people that they don’t still matter in 2017. There is at least one very real and jealous influence that would love to make us believe otherwise, but the potential consequences of letting go (to me) just aren’t worth the risk.
I trust the Lord’s pace for my understanding.
I choose to stay, and I am at Peace.
“When problems arise and questions come, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you don’t have… I’m not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not!”
“Honestly acknowledge your questions and concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe. Be candid about your questions; life is full of them. But please don’t hyperventilate if issues arise that need to be examined. What we know will always trump what we don’t know. So don’t let questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.”
~ Jeffrey R. Holland (emphasis added)