Testimony Series: Fears of Failure
“… What if this isn’t real?”
Fall semester of my sophomore year at GU I found myself asking this question. I was scared to death. I grew up in church – it was my entire life. I was so young when I became a Christian that I do not actually remember praying that first prayer, but I knew that God loved me. I never doubted His existence or love.
That all changed one chilly October night.
I remember the moment it hit. I was standing in a circle with about fifteen of my closest friends. Things had been really heavy on campus, and several of us felt called to get together to pray for each other, the college, and the world around us. It was in this circle that one of my friends confessed that he was having doubts. It was in this circle that the thought hit: What if he’s right? What if this is not real?
This was not the first time I had a friend that I saw as a strong Christian express their doubts. Throughout my time at Greenville, I’ve had a handful of friends fall away from faith. It saddens me, but it’s happened. For some reason, this time was different. A thought entered my head, completely uninvited, and set up camp. I was terrified. What kind of Christian doubts God? I knew my faith was real, I knew my God was real, but suddenly a part of me wasn’t so sure.
Let me be clear here: throughout all of this, part of me still believed. Sometimes it felt as though my faith was hanging on by a little string, as though one little gust of wind would completely break it, but it still was there. That little bit of faith was what I clung to when I had nothing else. It was a very dark time. I felt alone and lost. I felt like a fraud and a failure. I was in spiritual leadership positions and I didn’t know how I felt about my own faith. I knew I was supposed to be where I was, but I didn’t feel worthy of those positions. Nothing had prepared me for this. When I was in high school, my youth group talked about a lot of things – God, sex, relationships – but we never talked about doubt. Part of me knew I was not alone in this, but it was so heavy and dark that I didn’t know where to turn or who to talk to. I was afraid of being judged if I was honest, and I didn’t want to worry my friends, so I kept it in for a very long time.
I do not remember a specific moment that I confessed to someone that I was doubting. I remember begging God to take it away. I remember thinking “wouldn’t it just be easier to let go?” I remember refusing to let that thought take root in my heart. Deep down, I knew that God was there and if I just remained faithful, this would end. Slowly, He began to open me up to others around me. Late night discussions and tearful conversations with friends began the process of healing my fearful heart.
I’m not perfect. I still have days where it seems a little hard to believe, but even my doubts have changed. I no longer doubt the existence of God. He has shown Himself to me in so many ways, both big and small. He is in the friend who randomly texts me on a really bad night to remind me that I am loved just because they felt called to do so. He is in the chills that go up and down my body during Vespers when I can barely contain my tears at the thought of how awesome He is. He is in the way I feel called to pray for people in a way that feels as though it is not coming from me at all. He did not show Himself to me in the way I wanted, but His ways are so much better than what I had hoped for.
If you find yourself doubting, please remember these things: First, you are not alone. Reach out to someone. Talk to your best friend, your roommate, your pastor, or somebody you trust. Second, you are not a bad person, nor a bad Christian. You are not failing. You will get through this, and it will be okay. Just trust that God can handle your mess.