“I’m renouncing my faith.”
I seem to hear this line more and more lately, often from people who are in crisis or who have fallen out of the limelight they once enjoyed. People come to faith and people abandon faith when their life isn’t working. There is certainly a place to evaluate beliefs, but when someone switches camps, it isn’t necessarily a commentary on the veracity of their previous belief system. It is a commentary on how they felt that their life wasn’t working.
The longer I try to grow and develop my faith, the more people I see around me who are abandoning their faith. Last year a pastor made national news simply by stating that he was abandoning the faith. It turns out he had previously abandoned his wife and been disciplined by his church. His life wasn’t working, and it was the reason why he switched faith camps.
Then, there was a believer with higher notoriety in the headlines. Joshua Harris had pastored a large church and had a cult following as a best selling author in his 20’s. Unfortunately, Joshua Harris was going through a hard time. He had separated from his wife and changed long held beliefs that he professed to live by. He renounced his Christian faith on Twitter. This must have been a very difficult and tumultuous time for him.
What originally put him on the map was his book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” which encouraged young people not to date, but rather go through a courtship process for marriage. The points in that book may be true. I don’t know. I never read it nor recommended it to anyone. This fact actually made me an outlier in the 90’s, when others who share my faith were like rabid dogs with a bone, treating his book like the abstinence Bible. I wasn’t interested because I knew that what validates your message is if your life is working. It was too early for any 23-year-old to have a life that is working. No 23-year-old is qualified to write a book on anything (except maybe video games), let alone long-term, sustained relationships. He may have kissed dating goodbye in his twenties, but he kissed his faith goodbye in his forties.
One of the tests of a belief system is whether it leads to a life that works. This is a subjective question that only you can answer for yourself. You may have all kinds of financial plans, but are you weighed down with worry around debt? If so, then your life isn’t working. You may talk a great fitness game, but if you see the drive through more often than the gym, I promise you you’re headed for trouble. The same is true for faith; if your beliefs aren’t bringing joy and fulfillment, they won’t last for the long term.
People switching faith camps never causes me to reevaluate nor embolden my beliefs.
Instead, it causes me to do some introspection over what things I’m doing that could lead to frustration and pain, or what things I am doing that are bringing me fruit and joy and need to be continued.
Not to gloat, but my life is working. To be clear, I have some major pinch points in my life. Not long ago, I was in a season of suffering. Having a life that works doesn’t mean you have a life void of difficulty. Jesus actually promised we would have trouble. But make no mistake about it, my life is working. The way I manage my money is controversial to some, but I’m void of financial stress. The amount of energy I spend on play is puzzling to some, but I laugh and smile a lot. The level of responsibility I’ve taken on with a growing church and broadening the reach of my books would be a horse choker to some, but I feel used and appropriately challenged. Some scratch their heads at why I like alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. I like them because I like them, and they are a part of the balanced rest and joy that ensure my life keeps working.
When people reject their faith it is often actually the rejection of a system that they thought would work, and it didn’t. This, then, wasn’t a system based on the identity of Jesus, it was a system that was just supposed to bring them the life they wanted. The reality is that Jesus isn’t here to give us the life we want. It is our responsibility to build it. If it doesn’t work out, let’s not blame Him or the religion that has taken up his name.
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