I Don’t Know What I Believe: Confessions from a Guy Having a Crisis of Faith

hands-of-god-and-adam

I have a confession: I don’t really know what I believe. About God. About faith. About what happens after we die. I’ve been having what some might call a ‘crisis of faith’ for years, but I’ve been feeling the weight of these questions especially heavy for several weeks, and I wonder if opening up about them here might help me get closer to the answers. Or, perhaps it might help someone else who has questions feel a little less alone.

I grew up going to church every Sunday. Twice every Sunday, actually – we had a morning service and an evening service. I attended Wednesday night Bible Study, which was actually just another church service. I went to Friday night Youth Group, and Saturday night Prayer Meeting. To top it off, I attended a Christian school that was hosted by our church. I was at church every day. Every day.

Church wasn’t just something I attended. It was a part of who I was. It was family. It was home. With all of this Christianity surrounding me, there was very little room to question what it was that I believed. Even though I didn’t feel as though there was much room to question, I must have made room, because I still found myself questioning. Wondering about why we did things the way we did things.

A lot has changed since those early years. A lot has stayed the same. I still go to church every Sunday. I see so much benefit it doing life as a part of a community, so much benefit in believing in something bigger than myself. I still identify as a Christian. I believe that there’s a Creator, and I believe that Christianity provides a framework that makes it possible for me to connect with that Creator and with other people. I don’t still identify as any particular brand of Christianity, though. I’ve put away the letters that I think did more to separate me from other humans than they did to inspire unity among people or connection with God. For the most part, I feel pretty grounded in this.


What if there’s not a right way? What if there is? What if I’ve missed it?


But, I still have doubts. I still have a lot of questions. Like, is the Creator that I believe in only the God of Christians? Only the God of a particular denomination of Christians? Am I supposed to believe that, out of all the people on the planet, I happened to be born into the tiny percentage of them that had stumbled upon the right way to get to God? What about the billions of people that grew up believing a different way? They’re all doomed unless they do something I was taught that I could NEVER do – convert to another religion? How do we even know that there is a ‘right’ way? Aren’t we all doing this for the first time? What if there’s not a right way? What if there is? What if I’ve missed it? If there is a God (and, I truly do suspect that there is), shouldn’t he be big enough to handle my questions?

Of all my questions, though, the biggest one is this: Does my doubt mean that I don’t have faith? Do my questions preclude me from participating in something that means so much to me in so many ways? I hope not. It didn’t seem to for folks like Job, or David, or Moses, or John the Baptist, or even Jesus – and the list goes on and on.

Maybe I’m not having a ‘crisis of faith’ as much as I’m acknowledging that faith itself is a crisis – a struggle to believe in spite of the inability to know something for sure. I have the following words tattooed on my right arm:

קוֹלִי אֶל-אֱלֹהִים וְאֶצְעָקָה;    קוֹלִי אֶל-אֱלֹהִים, וְהַאֲזִין אֵל

It’s the first verse of Psalm 77, in its original Hebrew form. A paraphrase would read, “I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might, I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens.” (The Message) These words serve as a reminder to me – a reminder that I choose to believe my Creator hears me even if I don’t know that he does. On the opposing arm, I have inked, 

τετέλεσται

It’s Greek, and it is recorded as being Jesus’ last words, “It is finished”. This tattoo reminds me that I believe I can’t earn God’s love. If the Gospel is true, no amount of believing or questioning can undo the work that Jesus did on the cross. This faith grounds me even though I often wrestle with it. 

I think life would be a lot easier if I had answers to all of my questions. But, maybe there’s something sacred in not knowing. Maybe the quest for truth is a kind of truth in itself. Maybe the questions that inspire me to look outside of myself for answers are the conduit for connection. Maybe doubt doesn’t mean the absence of faith as much as it proves the presence of it. I don’t know that I’ll ever find the answers I’m looking for. Maybe if I have the courage to ask the questions, though, I’ll get a little bit closer. And, maybe doing life with other people that have questions is just as important as finding the answers to the questions that plague us.

What are your questions? I’d love to hear about your journey, so join the conversation by commenting below.

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16 thoughts on “I Don’t Know What I Believe: Confessions from a Guy Having a Crisis of Faith

  1. I always enjoy reading what you write. There is such an honesty and transparency about it. As you know, we grew up very similar, almost identical, and I remember thinking as a kid, how do I know that what “we” believe is the right way? What about my friends? They think that they’re going to heaven too, but they don’t look the same as me, or even believe the same as me. It was a question that, as a kid, scared me to death! I definitely don’t have all the answers, or any of them for that matter… But I do feel like I’m getting closer. Closer to people that I used to push away, closer to God. I now love it when someone asks me a tough question! Why? Because I’m no longer afraid to say I don’t know, or give a cookie cutter answer like “because my pastor says so”. I like to hear what others think, I love talking to anyone and everyone about who God is to them, and what it means to have a relationship with him. My life may not look like it’s changed much in the past few years, but I feel like I’ve gotten closer to some of those answers than I have ever been in my life. No small thanks to people like you! Keep being honest and open and asking questions!!

    • Brittany,

      Thanks so much for reading, and for taking the time to reply! I feel so lucky to have friends like you guys! I’m glad to know that you feel closer to the answers. And, even more than that, I’m happy to be among the people that you ask questions with! Love you guys so much!

      -Eric

  2. Eric, I LOVE your posts!!! And I too, have questions. I was a pastor’s daughter and church was also an integral part of my life. My home away from home, so to speak. But, there’s always been questions. I also wonder, if that makes my faith shaky and “not enough”. My best friend and I have discussed this quite a lot. She grew up as you and I did with the church and faith as second nature.

    Because of my upbringing, I have often struggled to say a have a “story”. I have no life-changing event or tragedy that made me turn to God. I have just always known he was there. I always knew He had my back and things would somehow work out, whether it was the way I wanted or some other way. I used to have the childish mindset that if things didn’t go my way, it would somehow, end my world or my life as I knew it. But, I’m still here, needless to say, so I guess that my story is just one of a blessed life with relatively little upset and I know that’s thanks to God.

    I’m off the subject, sorry. But there are questions. Am I enough? Is what I’m doing enough? Am I teaching my children about God appropriately and showing them that hurt and vulnerability doesn’t mean that He is not there? I already feel/know I’ve dropped the ball with my oldest who doesn’t really buy into religion or faith as we weren’t active in a church when she was growing up. But, I can only keep praying for her and hoping one day she’ll “see the light”. Anyway, sorry about the ADD thought processes here, I know that Jesus knows our hearts. I know we are not capable of His perfect thinking. I think just hurting for those things that hurt His heart and doing our little part about those things, brings Him happiness and tells Him that “Yes, we do believe” or else why would we give of ourselves. As humans we are programmed for survival. Giving of what we have for others who don’t have as much is not the survival way of thinking. We give knowing that we will be taken care of by Him because of faith.

    I think questions tell Him that we ARE believers or why would we worry about the fact that we have questions. As Christians, we strive to please God but as humans we struggle with self doubt. God sees us and we please him by always striving to be “enough”. Satan brings questions and I, for one, am not capable of blocking satan 24/7. We can only trust that the negative questions come from Satan and the questions that could make us bring God glory and helps us to improve our walk with him come from Him.

    I am so glad God brought you into my life at United Church to share these thoughts and questions. He has given us each other do do life with and support and lift each other up when the doubts creep in.

    • Sally,

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here! I’m encouraged to know that I’m not the only one that has questions, not the only one who doesn’t feel like I’ve got it all figured out. I’m glad that our paths have crossed as well! I count myself lucky to be doing life with you and with the rest of the folks at United!

      -Eric

  3. Thank you for your questions and the courage it takes to post them publicly. I don’t think asking questions mean you lack faith. As in any relationship, questions are the conduit to deeper connection. I’ve learned that God is so much bigger than us and that much will remain a mystery until we see Him face to face. But, He is a revealing God and has done much to help us know Him.

    I went through the same journey, Eric. About eight years ago, I reached a breaking point in my faith and was struggling personally. I told God that if He was completely for real and if the bible was completely true, then please help me believe it and understand it. To make a long story short – He did. My relationship and understanding of Him is nothing like it was back then. I wonder if faith and struggle go hand in hand. Maybe the struggle grows our faith? The Bible certainly teaches this repeatedly.

    There’s a lot more that I could say, but I’ll wrap it up. I respectfully suggest you start with the faith you have and give it to God, asking the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth to illuminate the truth in your heart, mind and soul. Then sincerely search the Scriptures and continue wrestling with this in community. He will answer you.

    I’ve learned that the quantity of faith matters less than the presence of it.

    God is bigger than our doubts.

    • Risha,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story with me here! I’m so encouraged to learn that I’m not the only one who’s asked these questions, wrestled with these doubts. I think you must be right about the struggle growing our faith! Love you and appreciate you more than you could know!

      -Eric

    • Risha and Eric…I love you both so much. Remember He doesn’t require us to know or understand everything. We just have to have the Faith of a Mustard Seed! Keep the Faith and listen. He will reveal to you what you need, when you need it. God is so big and amazing, it’s just hard sometimes for our physical-human minds to comprehend God’s Awesomeness! Love you guys!

  4. Appreciate this post. I was raised in a home where we did not question our pastor or what he said. Fortunately for me, our pastor was a man of great integrity and humility, never taking advantage of his position. Said that to say this, one of the greatest disservices we’ve done in what I would deem the Apostolic / Pentecostal movement is teaching kids that questioning is bad. I know a lot of people who have walked away from church altogether because of this one reason. They were not given opportunities to question anything. I also think it’s why Christianity (at one point, haven’t seen statistics in a while) as a whole was losing the 18+ age group rapidly. They leave a home where they weren’t allowed to question and enter into a world that will question them. I need to do better about teaching others it’s okay to have questions. Seek out the answers so you know them for yourself.

    • Willie,

      Thanks for your comment! Thankfully, I too had a pastor that was sincere in his desire to do good! Still, when family and church become the same thing, it can be difficult to navigate the nuances of that reality. I appreciate your comments about the importance of questioning. I think you’re spot on! Blessed by your friendship, man! Love you guys!

      -Eric

  5. I don’t know what’s more impressive….the extraordinary thought you put into your blog post or your amazing and wise friends that responded. I am blessed by reading each of these posts. I can only add that my journey of faith continues to grow out of necessity as I get older. The growing certainty of my ignorance in trying to fully understand God or life is being replaced by a peaceful satisfaction only found by faith. Can’t explain it, but it’s a cool and frustrating process all at the same time. It just goes to show the depth of God’s love for us. To create a system of faith that draws me closer to Him while I seek those endless questions is evidence enough that I will never understand Him fully. I see my faith as a His gift to me and my hunger for answers as my gift to Him. It’s just great to have others like you guys on the journey too.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Robb. Man, that line about faith as His gift, and questioning yours? Wow! Love that! I’m going to use it! Love you, brother! Thankful for your friendship and your influence in my life. God Bless!

      -Eric

  6. One of the biggest things I’ve confronted over the past year is the idea that knowing, that certainty, is not faith. Faith inherently implies the idea of uncertainty, so if we had all the answers, we wouldn’t have faith, we’d have certainty.
    I’m not saying we can’t know some things. That’s obviously facetious. There’s a lot of wonder and a lot of really good questions in our {uni,multi}verse. I don’t think God wants us to be crass and shrug off those things in light of certainty, but rather embrace them.
    It’s hard to be ok not having answers. Or neat ones, at that. Especially being a math/programming guy. In my world it’s wrong or right, it works or it doesn’t, there shouldn’t be square-roots in a denominator. But those things are the essence of our existence.
    Just a few cents from my not-so-worn-out loafers…

    • First, I’d like to thank Blake for opening this discussion. I’ve been looking for a place to explore my own questions, though I’m at a slightly different place than most here. I am no longer in a crisis of faith – I went through that painful experience and lost my Christian faith. I’m in recovery now, agnostic and still open all perspectives, including Christianity – but that only because certainty is one of the things I abandoned.
      Michael, I appreciate your comment so much because it addresses the issue of uncertainty. You said, “It’s hard to be ok not having answers. Or neat ones, at that.” I am coming to terms with that now and accepting uncertainty as a part of my reality. There was a time when I deemed such acceptance as heretical. Now, I actually find some security in uncertainty, an assurance that I need not become so dependent on spiritual understanding that I have no other means to cope with life.

      • Shawna,

        Thanks for taking the time to join the conversation here! My greatest hope is that my words can inspire the kinds of conversations that facilitate growth and change. While we’ve come to somewhat different conclusions about how to handle the uncertainty, I’m so encouraged by your courage – the fight to face the questions head-on and search for answers isn’t for the faint of heart. Keep up the fight. Keep searching, keep striving. There’s beauty in that journey. We’re all in this together!

        -Eric

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