One day in college I went to speak with a professor with whom I had a close relationship. “I’m struggling with my faith right now,” I said in frustration. I explained that in the last few days everything seemed gray. Questions were plaguing my mind. Life seemed more difficult than usual.
My professor smiled and said, “You and Lisa are having problems, aren’t you?”
I was furious and shot back, “Absolutely not. I can’t believe that you would assume such a . . . er . . . , um, well, maybe. We had a little argument. We’ve been talking about marriage, and she thinks we should wait until after graduation to get married. But I love her and I don’t want to wait.” It was clear he knew that what I was really wrestling with was my emotions and not God.
Do You Struggle With Doubt?
When we are going through tough times, one of the hardest things to discern is whether our doubts stem from a genuine struggle with God or our current emotional state. I amaze myself at how quickly I can go from being on top of the spiritual world into “oh-my-gosh-my-life-is-horrible-and-there-is-no-God” mode.
Speaking of this problem C. S. Lewis wrote:
“Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian, I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist, I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway.” – The Joyful Christian (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 130.
Just like you, there are times I have genuine doubts, but if I’m being honest, there are just as many times I doubt because I’ve had too much pizza the night before or simply because I’m exhausted.
I’ve learned, for instance, not to make any major decisions as a pastor on Mondays. After speaking and being with people all day Sunday, I’m emotionally spent come Monday. For years I felt like something was wrong with me every Monday—the world looked bleaker, my passion for spiritual matters bottomed out, and I was more irritable than usual. Some Mondays I would even allow myself to wallow in the depths of despair.
Training the Habit of Faith
It took me quite some time to discipline myself to realize that I couldn’t trust what I was feeling on a Monday. If I was feeling the same thing come Tuesday, I would address it then. If not, I knew I could attribute my “Monday morning blues” to emotional exhaustion and leave it at that.
C.S. Lewis continued in his book by explaining:
“That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.”