I experienced a spiritual crisis of faith by the time I was 10.
When I was five-years-old, I had accepted the gospel whole-heartedly. But five years later, I wondered how I could have so easily believed it.
I was living in a little evangelical bubble: not only did my family attend a small conservative church, but I was also homeschooled. I realized that I was a product of my environment. I believed because I was raised to believe. So how could I be sure Christianity was true?
Throughout high school the nagging questions remained. My frustration only increased when well-meaning Christians gave me over-simplified “proofs” for the faith. I was shocked that they believed my objections could be so easily resolved. It sure wasn’t easy for me, so I moved on to study philosophy in college.
During the next four years I engaged with the world’s great philosophical writings, and I discovered arguments for and against God’s existence. Yet these also left me unconvinced. Some of the brightest minds in history had tried to answer my deepest questions, and failed. I concluded that my intellectual quest for God was futile, and I would never arrive at certain belief for or against God.
Convinced that I couldn’t reason my way to God, I decided to change course. I’d try to forget about intellectual certainty and focus on serving God practically. On the surface I suspect this shift was barely noticeable. After all, I’d been living a Christian life since I was five. But inwardly it was significant. I had always had this small inner voice saying, “What if your faith is just an illusion?” I stopped trying to silence this voice intellectually and instead sought to live as if God was real in the hope that He would make Himself known.
I’ve now spent the last seven years as a missionary, immersing myself in other cultures. I’ve taken countless trips to places such as Jamaica, rural Honduras, and the devastated post-earthquake streets of Port-Au-Prince. I’ve worked with various people groups including the indigenous Bribri of Costa Rica, the Navajo of Arizona, and urban American homeless individuals. Along the way I’ve moved from the Bible Belt to Seattle. How my world has grown since those days as a homeschooler!
In these diverse environments, I’ve seen so much pain and suffering. I’ve known people who battle hunger, inadequate housing, sickness, abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction. And in the midst of such suffering, I’ve also witnessed something remarkable. When people turn to Jesus they are transformed into a better version of themselves.
I’ve come to know a Jamaican pastor who has personally battled poverty yet spent decades serving the poor in his community. It turns out he was once an angry, stuttering youth who had been abused. Everything changed for him when he was alone in his room one night, and he decided to let Jesus take charge of his life.
Another dear friend is a Navajo pastor who was a drug addict and alcoholic until he encountered Jesus in a vision and was freed from his addictions forever. His wife doubted at first, but the change was so real eventually she had to believe. To this day, he devotes his life to serving his people and explaining what Jesus did for him.
I work alongside a group of young Haitians who devoted their lives to Christ after the horrific 2010 earthquake rocked their community. Now they are becoming people of integrity in a culture dominated by corruption.
I could go on listing examples of how people have surrendered to Christ and subsequently risen above their circumstances to serve others. In my own life, I’ve seen that when I serve God I become more loving and strong than I thought I could be, and when I turn away I become selfish and weak.
I still can’t prove Christianity. Yet the more I see of the world the more I become incapable of explaining my experiences without the reality of God.
There was a time when I desperately wanted to believe, but intellectually I didn’t know if I could. Today I look back to times when I wanted to stop believing, yet I couldn’t. I can’t. I’ve experienced God too clearly, and I’ve witnessed evidence of his work too much.
Flickr photo (cc) by EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection