I’ve made no secret that I’ve been struggling with my faith for the past year or so. I’ve written a few articles on the subject in the past few months, and those articles have spawned quite a few comments and discussions both here and on Facebook, which is good. The whole point of my writing about where I was at and how I was struggling wasn’t to test other people’s faith or to cause anyone to doubt or stumble, but to offer a sense of comfort to others who may be going through similar experiences. All too often spiritual leaders such as pastors, priests, etc. feel the need to internalize a lot of the problems they experience, doubts that they have, or other struggles because they have a responsibility to the people that look to them for guidance and as an example. It’s a tremendous responsibility and it can put a lot of pressure on us. We’re human, just like everyone else. We struggle, just like everyone else. We have doubts, questions, moments of weakness, moments of anger, and moments when we’re just completely burned out- just like everyone else. For a long time I felt like I had to hide those things and put on a happy face because it would look bad professionally and could have a negative impact on others if I didn’t. Then I realized while that may still be true, it’s stupid.
People need to realize that no one is perfect. No one has all the answers. We’re all just trying to do the best we can with what we have to work with. I felt that it would be more beneficial to be honest about my struggles than it would be to pretend everything was peachy. I thought that maybe it might give other people who are struggling a sense of comfort to know that they aren’t alone, that they aren’t “wrong” for feeling like they do, and that it’s okay.
Well, it is. It’s normal. God doesn’t hate you for doubting or asking questions. He doesn’t hate you because you might get angry with Him and feel like life is unfair. He doesn’t hate you if you don’t drink the kool-aid and believe everything you’re told by people who claim to be Christian just because they have the word “church” on the sign in front of their building. It’s okay.
I’ve been completely burned out spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I’ve been lashing out and cutting myself off from everything. I’ve been doubting pretty much everything. Basically, I’ve just been struggling with deep depression and when you’re in that place it’s hard to not feel like your life has been a total waste and therefore you as a productive human being have been a total waste. My whole life for the past 16 years has been directly tied up in my faith. It’s who I was. It’s how I identified myself and found a sense of self-worth. When everything came crashing down for the third time in the last decade or so, I just imploded. It was a slow process, like watching an explosion disintegrate everything in it’s path in slow motion, but it eventually was complete and I was left feeling empty.
You know the old saying that doctors make the worst patients? Well, that works for pastors as well. Whenever someone would try to comfort me or offer me advice it just would make me more upset. It fed into that frustration I was feeling. This was something that was incredibly personal and that I had to work out for myself. It was between me and God and our personal relationship. Again, I’m not saying everything is peachy. I still have doubts and questions. That hasn’t changed. I can say, however, that I finally feel like I’ve reached a place of peace, spiritually. Me and God are cool again, and for me that’s more important than any of the other stuff. Let’s face it, we’re never going to have all the answers. There are questions that we just won’t know the answer to until we pass on from this life. At that point we’ll either move on to whatever comes next and we’ll find out how right or wrong we were about things, or we’ll just cease to exist all together and it won’t really matter anyway. Either way, we still have a life to live in the meantime.
J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.