As many of you know, I have written much about the epidemic of people losing their faith. It is not only a concern, but an obsession of mine. Because of this, I engage with quite a few people on the issue. I often feel as if I serve as a last chance stop for many who are in their darkest hour, heading out the door of Christianity.

Recently, I received an email from a lady I know. Not too long ago I met with her and her husband to discuss her doubts about her faith. She now informs me that her niece who is a missionary in China is experiencing the same doubts about God.  Here is some of what her niece has to say:

“I don’t know what to do. When I hear people talk about God I almost feel uncomfortable…THAT scares the heck out of me. I find myself being pessimistic or maybe just skeptical. When people talk to me about trusting God for my finances, for my time here,  finding a mate, or what comes after China, etc I hear the thought in my head “yea, if He’s real.” What is going on with me?!! How did I get this far? I feel like such a child; an immature Christian. I went from a huge turn around in my faith in 2005 and continually growing closer to him, being closer to Him than ever right after my dad died all the way until last September (God and I were best buddies) to completely questioning his existence.”

Her brother advised her: “Push those thoughts out of my head and simply believe what I know to be true.”

I responded:


Thanks so much for remembering me!

I feel for you both so much. It looks as if you have such a wonderful relationship with your niece. She sounds like she respects you a great deal.

You both are in such a hard position right now. It is often referred to as “the dark night of the soul” (Google it). It is a time of substantial doubt and disillusionment, and it is common for Christians, even very good Christians, to go through. I don’t have any silver bullet that will get either of you out of this, but I can say that it is often a very positive thing for your faith. But, I have to admit, it is often a time when one comes to the realization that they don’t have any faith. I don’t know where either of you are at, but I know that it is dark.

Her brother told her that she just has “to push those thoughts out of [her] head and simply believe what [she] know[s] to be true. ” I don’t like this advice at all. In fact, I think it could make things worse. The very reason why you are going through these things is because you don’t know them to be true. This is ok. None of us has perfect knowledge, but we need to make our decisions based on sufficient knowledge that God has provided. Often, when I am in the dark night myself, I have three things that I look toward.

1.  The lack of sufficient explanation for all things outside of God.

For me, to not believe in God would take a greater leap of faith. Even though he seems to be absent at times, this does not provide sufficient rational for me to believe that everything came from nothing. Intelligence from non-intelligence. Beauty from non-beauty. An understanding of good and evil from an amoral void. Personhood from non-personhood.

Romans 1 tells us that creation itself is a grand display of God’s nature and attributes. The absurdity of a universe without God produces so many intellectual deformities that I don’t know how to recover and remain emotionally stable or intellectually fulfilled. To reject God, I would have to go intellectually dormant. Therefore, I reestablish my belief in God. Here is a good place to go to read a little more on the arguments for God’s existence.

2. The prophetic nature of the Scripture.

In Isaiah 53 we read a detailed account of Christ’s atonement and resurrection which was written 700 years before the events took place. This passage is an outstanding testimony to the reality of our faith. What makes it even more convincing is that copies of Isaiah were found among the dead sea scrolls. One of them, according to believers and non-believers alike, dates back to nearly 200 years before Christ. This is significant to me since it rules out the possibility that someone wrote this after the fact. For 2000 years, people have scrambled to interpret this passage in other ways to avoid coming to grips with the obvious—that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.

We don’t have time to look at other very convincing prophetic passages such as Daniel 9 and 11 (which are nearly as stunning), but suffice it to say that when I have doubts, my mind simply does not know what else to do with Isaiah 53. There is simply nothing like it in all of literature. In Isa 40-48 God calls on people to test him and compare him to other gods asking if they can predict the future the way he has. The answer is “no.” Here is Isaiah 53.

3. Finally, and most importantly, I consider the resurrection of Christ.

What an extraordinary claim. Our faith rests on the reality of Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead. It is the focal point of all else. If Christ rose from the grave, then our faith is true. If he did not, God must still exist, but we need to look for him elsewhere (1 Cor. 15: 16-17). Yet I believe that there is overwhelming evidence that he did raise from the grave. We have dozens of first century documents which purport such an event. We have eye witness testimony and we have the mass growth and expansion of the church that evidences that something had to have happened in the first century significant enough to produce a belief that overtook the world.

How do I explain the existence of the church without the resurrection? How do I explain supposed eye-witnesses dying for this claim if it were not true? How do I explain someone making up a faith built on the humiliation, rejection, and murder of a first century carpenter Messiah? How do I explain the empty tomb. While people attempt to provide alternative explanations, and while these explanations are possibilities, they are not, in any sense, probabilities. (more on this here:  and here). The most probable explanation for these things is that Christ really did raise from the grave. And the implications are tremendous. I would read my article on the death of the 12 Apostles here.

In the end, I don’t think either of you should be ashamed of your doubt. Doubt is often the a bridge to strengthen your belief. Don’t neglect your mind. Don’t push these questions into a closet somewhere in the back of your mind. God is not afraid of your questions or doubts. You will not be reprimanded for them. Bring them before him and seek the answers to your questions.

God is the only one who can ultimately give you security in your beliefs, and I believe this is his perfect will. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can convict you of their truth. Yet, the Holy Spirit uses your search, journey, dark night, and mind to prepare you to accept him at a deeper level.

We all have room to grow in our faith. Myself included. Take courage and don’t lose heart.

I might also suggest that you both get involved in The Theology Program. Its purpose is to help you work through these things at a fundamental level. You can find out more about it here.

I will be in prayer for you both. Please keep me up to date and let’s keep this dialogue going.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    40 replies to "A Response to Two Women Losing Their Faith"

    • cherylu

      I don’t know what either of these ladies are experiencing in their life now besides these doubts or what they were experiencing just before the doubts started. I just know that from personal experience–I have experienced a similar thing twice in my life–that they both happened right after or during a time of intense physical exhaustion and/or a time of intense emotion–some good and some bad. The last time was after going through a miscarriage with a baby that had been deeply longed for and that I believed at the time God had promised that I would have. I think these times make us very vulnerable emotionally, physically, and spiritually for these times to happen.

      If either of these ladies have experienced anything along these lines recently, it might help to be aware of this. It is very overwhelming to find ourselves in these places. I think that knowing others experience them too, as you have said CMP, and that there may well be reasons that they were vulnerable at the time can help ease the pain and anxiety we experience when we do go through these things.

    • Michael R

      I have always had a hard time with belief, and still do. For that reason, I have never been able to come to God (as a Christian) from within the normal Christian context. For instance, I’m still unsure about the Bible in terms of inerrancy, I still have issues with many christian leaders, church doctrines, etc. But that no longer matters to me as much. What compels me to believe in Christ is really the philosophical approach: #1, considering all the options (science, history, etc), it would take more faith for me to not believe in a sentient God than it does to believe. #2, If I believe in God, then the only one I believe can coexist with the evil we’ve created on this earth is one that has voluntarily subjected himself to it. With that in mind, I finally can concede that there are some things I don’t understand, and maybe never will, but it really makes no difference now. I have faith that someday I will. Yes, I still have many, many doubts, but I believe more than I doubt, and that majority vote wins.

    • Jason C

      Amen CMP, I agree completely.

      Without a doubt even… 😉

    • Josh N

      Hey Michael,

      I’m not sure if you are familiar with Dr. John Coe at Talbot (He’s the head of their Spiritual Formation and Soul Care program called the Institute for Spiritual Formation). But you may want to take a listen to his 2006 lecture on the “Dark Night of the Soul” (its part of an ISF series with other speakers like Willard, Moon, Wilkins, etc).

      I think it would be useful to these ladies because it attempts to explain what God is doing during those times (i.e. showing us our true self and where our hearts affections really are [hint, its not in God lol]) and what to do during them (especially when you have no desire to do any of the spiritual disciplines and when God feels absent or far off). In addition, it provided me with much hope because it affirmed the reality that God has worked with His people in this way in the past (i.e. St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, etc), sustained them through it, and as a result fostered a deeper and more intimate love relationship with Himself.

      Hopefully that’s helpful.

      Your brother in Christ,


    • J.R.

      It would be interesting to know what this young lady means when she says, “When I hear people talk about God I almost feel uncomfortable”. What is being said when they talk about God? Does it have anything to do with “trusting God for my finances, for my time here, finding a mate, or what comes after China”?

      Without specific knowledge it would be difficult for me to render an opinion directly to her. We have verifiable evidences as Michael pointed to for the existence of God. I can only pray that she is not looking for evidences for Gods existence through a lack of perceived divine movement through ones finances, marriage, or future after China.

      Doubt can be induced through many facets and maybe more times than not the doubt is placed on God rather than those we are receiving wisdom and advice from.

    • #John1453

      In rereading my post, I think I may not have been entirely clear. I wasn’t implying that either woman was sinning. Rather, I meant that in order to think clearly about God, it is important to remain pure and to practice spiritual disciplines. That is, live as if God exists even when one is not sure that he does.

    • Douglasah

      Sometimes powerful emotional events – such as the death of someone close to us – urges our spiritual delving to deeper places then we have gone before. We may speak to God in a different way, finding that sometimes we speak to God most articulately with our pain. This may bring us to a different place in our personal faith than we have been before, a place closer to God. Sometimes being closer to God is like being closer to a bright searchlight – we cannot SEE the light, because it is too bright – our eyes are overcome. All we SEE is the darkness from eyes incapeable of perceiving such a powerful light. To be aware of such a light we need to rely on other senses. We feel the heat of the light, we may smell the electricity arc across the carbon, etc. In short, we use senses we have not developed very well to accomplish a new task. Perhaps something like this occurs during these “Dark Nights” of our souls. Perhaps instead of retreating from the darkness, we might embrace it, and rely upon our souls to go towards and find a closer relationship with what it seeks – God. Perhaps our souls do not know “light” or “dark” but only God – and not-God. We may find relying upon our souls to find God – insead of using our intelect, our emotions, or habits is a new thing – and being new not something we are accustomed to, and therefore uncomfortable with.

    • DB

      I am one of the 2 women, and I think the title of this blog scares me. Do my struggles mean that I am losing my faith? That would feel like a death sentence to me. Can a person who has had a deep and intimate relationship with God and who still wants to have one just fall away against their will? These are real questions for me. I still practice everything I know to practice – it’s just that now everything feels “wooden.” I can’t imagine that God doesn’t exist – but I don’t feel any signs of relationship. I am counting on the fact that he is holding on to me, and that I am not on my way out the door when I want to stay. But things have been like this for over 4 years now! I appreciate everyone’s input. It’s hard to find people comfortable talking about this.

    • Chance28


      As a believer in Christ, I am not without doubts. I do not believe that we must come to Christ completely doubt free in order to be a true converted believer.

      If anything, the more that I have learned and the more questions that I have asked, I have had more doubts arise.

      I love searching and asking questions, but I have had to learn at times simply to trust. Even in the face of a doubts and unanswered questions.

      God does not always give answers to our questions. But He does give us peace when answers flee.

      I also believe that if you wait until all of your intellectual problems are solved before you come to Christ, you never will.

      Don’t know if that helps but I’ll be praying.

    • Jason C

      DB, what is the basis for your relationship (I don’t like using that word because the modern church has loaded it with the kind of simpering unmanly “I’m so much in love with Jesus” homoerotic imagery that sometimes I want to puke) with God?

      Your feelings; or trust in God because of his prior performance (the resurrection of Jesus being a historical example).

      Feeling as though you’re going through the motions may be a time to sit back and evaluate whether your trust is based on the wrong things.

    • Michael

      I agree with what Jason C has said. I have never found emotions to be a good way to judge reality. Feelings have no effect on what objective reality is. The fact that I don’t feel God is moving or feel that God is far away has does not have any bearing on the reality that He is never far away and is always moving anymore then an anorexics feeling of being overweight changes the fact of being underweight.

      I honestly have often been where these two women are. I have often felt that God has abandoned me or even wondered if He exists. Every time I keep coming back to the points made by CMP above. There is simply no way for me to conceive of a probable explanation for the world being the way it is outside of Christianity. I must instead accept that the chemical reactions in my brain do not determine reality and how I feel is not always going to be connected to what is real. Our emotions are fallen and can mislead us just as easily as anything else.

    • J.R.


      I would venture to say that it’s not your faith that’s at the root of your struggles but maybe a superficial understanding to a “relationship” with God. This could be brought about by a lack of full understanding of the word.

      Our relationship to God is a relationship brought about by the person and work of Jesus Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection.

      I agree with Jason C. and would say pop-culture Christianity has loaded the meaning of relationship/personal relationship with so much myth it’s lost its meaning.

      Experiencing God and God’s movement in my life through my emotions always leads me into the highest highs and the lowest lows. For this reason I always try to check my emotions through the ultimate object of my faith.

    • mbaker


      As some above have indicated, we have been where you are. I was in an extreme charismatic church for a time, where I was taught that the strength or weakness of my faith in God depended upon on how I felt at any given time. After a few years, I became emotionally weary and began to have serious doubts about Christianity because God always didn’t act like I felt, or as I was told He ‘should’ if I just followed a certain formula. That was one of the hardest times of my life.

      Like others here, I just had to stop worrying and thinking so much about how God ought to act, and humbly submit myself to His will again, and stop trying so hard. That finally gave me peace, but for a time it seemed like I was completely empty because I wasn’t particularly experiencing any feelings at all. Withdrawal, I guess.

      That has been a lot of years ago, but I haven’t forgotten how lonely you can feel when everybody is so enthusiastic and so full of faith, and you are kind of in a cocoon of doubt that you can’t understand or explain so that anyone else can.

      I have come to see (and, unfortunately, isn’t hindsight always 20-20 somehow?) that I had to be emptied of some of my former beliefs, in order to be refilled with something better and more grounded in what God wanted than what I expected from Christianity, if that makes sense.

      All this just to say, hang in there. You are not alone. Many of us here understand perfectly and empathize, even though our situations may not be the same at all. Just know God will bring you through, as He has us, and believe it or not, you will be stronger than before.

      God bless.

    • tamara

      It is completely normal and natural, I think, to have periods of doubt and disappointment in our faith walks, and I think it’s ok to have seasons where we struggle, and where we wrestle with ourselves and our ideas about God. I don’t think you can be a thinking person and not from time to time ask yourself, ‘Am I completely deluded?’ I wonder if part of the problem is just that we think we need to be afraid of those times, for ourselves and for others, and that we respond to God and one another out of that fear. I don’t think we need to ‘fake it till we make it’. I do believe we need to learn not to be alarmed, but rather to learn what it means to ‘rest in the Lord’. I live in a part of the world where we have very clear seasons… winter is long and deathly cold, and summers are abusively hot. This is where the farmers live… the place where things for eating grow. Everything moves around the seasons. When the earth rests for the winter, it really RESTS; all we see or feel are dead, frozen things.. but it is under the frozen soil that the dead seeds are coming to life. That is where the resurrection takes place… in the dark place, under the ice and snow, where there is no one to see it but God Himself.

    • DB

      A question, a central question to me: During a time like this (especially one that has lasted for years), how does one know if they are in a season of rest or rebuilding vs. gradually moving through the phases MCP outlines of leaving the faith? That is where my fear comes from.
      I spent many years under a series of wounded and wounding pastors and charismatic teachings. One was near cultish. Before we successfully extracted ourselves from this setting, I felt like I began to shut down spiritually. I heard so many people claiming to know what God was saying or thinking that to this day I feel squeamish when anyone even hints that God has told them something or led them in a direction. People would get up and “prophesy” something that didn’t come to pass, and no one ever reflected back on that or questioned the validity of the process.
      Many people that were with us in these churches were so wounded that they no longer want to have anything to do with church at all. Others are like me in that they continue to go through the motions, but feel like the walking wounded.
      Thank you again for your comments. Each one has been helpful in its own way. It’s nice to feel like there are understanding companions on the journey.

    • mbaker


      It’s a little easier for me to understand where you are now, since you too have come out of the charismatic fringe.

      Yes, there is a period of readjustment in which you question the very foundations of Christianity. For some of us it is longer than others. If you were like me, you were taught to respect and follow the words and teachings that came from the pulpit because the pastors and others were God’s representatives. Most of us trust our leaders as such, and just assume they will represent Him in a trustworthy and faithful manner. However, as it turned out for me at least, the group I was involved with mostly wanted personal power and recognition, and their agendas were more about advancing themselves and their ministries rather than doing the work of God first. They began doing all kinds of weird things to get themselves noticed. Christ’s agenda, and sound theology became secondary to them. That’s when the Holy Spirit woke me up, finally.

      So, this is a trust violation issue I believe. Once we lose trust in the very people who we think are real true men and women of God, it seems we automatically begin to doubt God as well. That is sad, and maybe unfair, but true exactly because of the high level of trust we do have in our clergymen and women. That’s why I believe all leadership in the church needs to be so careful that in their quest to grow their ministries, or advance their own positions, they don’t wind up killing off more Christians than they save.

      Individually, however, I just don’t think we can hold God responsible, because even Jesus had to deal with difficult religious leaders who put their traditions above the word of God. I think whenever we see a professing Christian doing that, it should be a red flag warning, because Christianity is supposed to be advancing Christ’s agenda, not ours.

      That’s why I blog. The one and only reason I began to do it in the first place was to warn people like you of what was going to happen to them if they continued to follow such questionable leaders and teachers. My views aren’t always popular, because I do speak out so strongly sometimes, but that’s okay, because it if it helps somebody avoid what I did, I will continue to do so.

      I would recommend you use this ‘quiet’ time in your spiritual life to read and absorb as much as you can of God’s word., and allow yourself the time to heal. I’m not too much on ‘Christian’ self-help books, because when I read too many of them trying to find answers for myself, I was more confused than ever by all the different theological opinions out there. Use God’s word as your bar. You can’t go wrong again that way.

      Hope you will stay in touch here, and let us know how you are coming along.

      God bless.

    • cherylu


      I agree with the things mbaker said. I have been there too. And it does take a long time to heal.

      You have stated that you still want to walk with God, so I don’t believe for a minute that He will let you down.

      The church and it’s leadership can let us down terribly, but He never will.

      I would, like mbaker, suggest that you immerse yourself in God’s Word. Soak it up. It is what will untangle the true from the false in what you have been taught. And yes, it can be a long and painful process. But it is truly worth it! And it is also what will bring you the comfort and strenth that you need.

      When you find yourself really struggling, my personal suggestion to you is to immerse yourself particulary in the Psalms and other portions of Scripture that speak over and over of who He is to us and the promise that He is always with us. In many difficult life situations, they have often been what has given me the courage and the needed faith to go on. Some of my personal favorites in the Psalms are Psalm 23, 46, and 121. But there are many, many more that speak of His faithfulness to us and about Him being our refuge.

      Just one final thought. I think when we have come out of an environment where the emphasis was so much on feeling, experiencing God, and going from one spiritual high to ever increasing spiritual highs, it can be very difficult to “come down to earth” again and learn to walk a much more practical walk of faith. If you are like me, and from something you said I think you may be, you also become almost afraid to “feel God’s presence” or experience Him in any way for fear you will be entering into the false hood you have just left behind again. I think that is something that can take a long time to work through and learn how to deal with too. I haven’t gotten there yet either!

      God bless you, Sister! Hang in there for He is faithful. And I am glad that you have felt free to share here. Don’t isolate yourself. Stay in touch with Christians that you do trust. I believe that He will bring you through!

    • Warren

      CMP – gently pastoral yet to the point. Good counsel.

      DB – The little bit that you’ve shared cries out to me that you are a survivor of spiritual abuse. That is a strong word, but from what I’ve read, I think it fits.

      In my ministry, I have counseled dozens and dozens of abuse victims. The similarities in emotional issues between spiritual abuse victims and sexual abuse victims is striking. These do not go away with only prayer and Bible study.

      Even when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11), He told those standing there, “Unbind him and set him free.” Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but the work wasn’t over. There are many people in the Body of Christ – some have even posted here in this thread – who have been where you are. Find someone who truly understands and have them help with the “unbinding”. That’s what 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 is about.

      I bring this up because it seems from where I sit that there are underlying matters that need to be addressed and that where you are emotionally right now shows now is the time. It can truly unhinge our faith and create enormous doubt when left unaddressed.

      We will add you to our prayers.

    • Ed Kratz


      Like mbaker and Cheryl, I have been there as well. I would reiterate mbaker’s recommendation to step away from the Christian life books as they would add more confusion.

      For me, it took a serious and intentional investigation into what scripture really said. Sure, I had read the Bible A LOT during my Charismatic days. But my bible study was tainted with the teachings so that I easily read positions that were being espoused into scripture.

      I had to learn how to read the Bible in a way that just let it say what it says, and this with the help of tools such as Living by the Book and other books that explain how the bible is put together and how to read it. In a way, it was like starting over and afresh. More importantly, I had to be honest about what I was reading. It is amazing how much teaching can get ingrained in you that when confronted with passages that seem to contradict it, the discomfort alone can cause one to want to give up. But don’t! It is well worth it. This also goes for all of the extra-biblical doctrine that is espoused in some circles. I had to learn examine against the biblical evidence.

      My quest for truth led me to investigate theology proper and eventually started the TTP program. The great thing about TTP is it does not tell you what to believe (as was the case with the circles I had come out of), but asks you to examine why you believe what you believe. Studying theology promotes an objectivity also in reading scripture and gives a more indepth understanding of how positions developed.

      I also agree with Warren, to link up with those who are honestly exploring God’s word and not buying into popular movements. I had the great fortune of landing at a church that seem to attract people recovering from spiritual abuse and provided great expository teaching (my pastor was a DTS grad). I also had a friend that was knowledgable and intellectually honest that walked along side of me.

    • DB

      Lisa, thank you for your post. I have a great deal of uneasiness reading the Scriptures. I can almost hear the echoes of them being twisted to serve sometimes very evil purposes. That aside, it is very difficult for me to trust that I can handle them well, given my track record of spiritual choices. When I was at my peak of spiritual weirdness, I was spending the most time in prayer and Bible reading. I also look across history at the devoted men and women of God who studied the Scriptures and came out at such divergent places, and feel almost a sense of futility at trying to come to an understanding myself. I know that’s not commendable, it’s just what I feel right now.
      I have taken a couple of the Theology courses, which were very helpful, at the time mostly to show me that, yes, I had just come from a very extremist place. That in itself was comforting.

      • Ed Kratz

        DB, thanks for that honest response. Yeah, my peak of spiritual weirdness involved more of what the Bible didn’t say as opposed to what it did say. And even what it did say was filtered through a misinterpreted lense. Even now in seminary, I come across yet another misunderstanding I had regarding some passage, especially when I took OT prophets last semester. So I do hear what you’re saying.

        I certainly wouldn’t want to push on the wariness of scripture. But, I would encourage you to just keep trying, even if just a little at a time. I find balanced commentaries very helpful in my studies. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary and Dr. Tom Constable’s notes ( are my standards. It’s like having a couple of teachers by my side to prevent going down some strange path.

        I have also found an overview of the Bible very helpful, kind of the macro approach to scripture that explains how all the pieces fit together. I think this is the greatest error in spiritual weirdness, taking passages out of context and not correlating them, or even themes of books, to the overall big picture. Simple resources that I have found useful in this endeavor are 1) How to Study the Bible for Yourself, by Tim Lahaye and 2) What the Bible is All About, by Henrietta Mears. So when you’re ready and feel comfortable, I hope you’ll check those resources out. I have more but I think that’s good for starters.

    • Jess P

      I’d like to chime in, if I may, since the niece is in fact a missionary. I am the son of missionaries, and was slated for life-long missionary service as well. My post-high school years were spent at missionary training centers, leading short-term missionary teams and traveling all over the world sharing the gospel. They were some of the best years of my life, although there came a point when I could not continue, and I left to attend school.

      In the years that followed I watched many of my solid Christian friends, who I lived, worked, and traveled with for years, lose their faith one by one. These were not people who were Christians by name only, but ones that were as genuine as I’ve ever known.

      I still think about those days a lot and I keep in touch with almost all of my missionary friends, but I have connected my own “dark night of the soul” to my friends losing their faith. It’s as if my own faith is connected to theirs. My doubts about God and his goodness are directly tied to these people. It would be easier if their objections were trivial or obviously selfish, but they aren’t. They are heavy, weighty thoughts that keep me awake.

      It’s more than just a reflection on morality or even the temporal nature of everything, but a big question of whether any of this is good.

      I can trace my own disillusionment and that of my friends to several ideas:

      1. Unbridled positivist missional rhetoric. As if participating in the “great commission” qualifies you for the unrestrained help of the omnipotent ruler of the universe. This is usually accompanied by lots of success stories of those who obeyed and persevered. Also the constant burden placed on youth by constantly telling them that they are THE GENERATION!

      2. A well disguised “salvation by works” that concentrates on how we “should” respond if we “really” accepted the grace of God and if we “really” love Jesus. Can be anything from reading the Bible everyday or reaching the Yanomamo tribe. Makes a person feel they have to prove something, I know I did.

      3. Over individualized picture of God’s calling and leading. Everyone wants to be a leader. So many good things have come to an end because someone bailed out while citing something they got in prayer. They didn’t even want to talk about it.. ahem… I mean I didn’t want to talk about it…. sorry. Worst mistake ever.

      (I sure there are more, but those cover a lot.)

      To wrap this up, I used to think that my missionary friends and I were “doing” God’s work. But I see something that I wasn’t aware of at the time: We also WERE the work of God. That little community was something special. So when they started losing their faith, it was like the REAL work of God in my life unraveled. It wasn’t a bad church-plant or failed ministry, it was my brothers and sisters. And it had and continues to have a direct effect on my belief whether God really exists or not. Weird.

    • Amigo

      Part 1:
      I’m neither a woman nor formerly charismatic, but I was a missionary in China whenever my doubts first started to take over.

      For about a year after leaving for the field, I was plagued by doubts. First, when you come from a ministry-all-the-time setting to one where you are learning language, culture, etc. and not doing too much of the same types of ministries that you were doing before, it can be a hard change. I was out of touch with my close friends in Christ, although I had my wife. Sometime during this first year, doubts started to creep in.

      When (and if) I prayed, I was plagued by questions such as “Why do I do this?” “Is this prayer actually being heard by anyone?” “Would a non-Christian think this is cultish…that I’m talking to thin air?”

      For a long time, I pushed these thoughts out of my mind and just kept studying and working. That was the worst thing I could have done. About a year later, my grandma was hospitalized and I got the news that my good friend (30 years old) had brain cancer. Where could I turn? I honestly didn’t believe prayer had any answers, and I was studying to be a missionary…it’s not like I could share this with anyone…wouldn’t they send me home?

      A few weeks later as my friend’s health degressed, I sat outside on a park bench with my wife and admitted to her that I was a missionary on the outside and an atheist on the inside.

      My wife cried with me and prayed for me, but she had suspected something serious was going on. I was at the same time happy and sad. I knew what this meant for our marriage, as my wife had no doubts. I knew what this meant for my career. At the same time, I had the easiest answer to the questions that I was struggling with (people just suffer because that’s the world we live in, and our emotional response is a defense mechanism), and I was sick and tired of struggling with the guilt from sin. If there’s no sin, then there’s no need for me to feel guilty about it. I had some emotional release as well from being honest about where I was at in life.

      Due to the issues going on back in the States, I had also become very depressed and decided to contact the people in our company who are in charge of helping missionaries deal with emotional/psychological issues. I arranged a Skype meeting with one of the doctors and told him everything. He said it sounded like a dark night of the soul, and I said it sounded more like a death knell in the coffin of my faith. He encouraged me to continue spiritual exercises and really try to take apart the issues one by one intellectually.

      So, from my position as an atheist, who still continued doing the missionary thing on the outside, I decided to spend some time (re)figuring out the intellectual issues.

    • Amigo

      Part 2:
      I’m a seminary grad, and so I had read some basic apologetics and plenty in historical criticism (Old Testament, not missions, is what I studied in seminary). I decided to dig back in, reading just about everything I could from both sides of the issues. I (re)read N.T. Wright’s three volumes on Jesus, and then I read Ludemann and Vermes. I also read the New Atheists (who were actually new at the time, haha). Dawkins didn’t really resonate with where I was at in my own atheism, so I dug deeper and read J. Loftus, M. Martin, Q. Smith and others. I didn’t read much on the creationism/evolution stuff that many people struggle with, because that’s never been an issue with me, although it often came up in the atheist literature. As I read these authors, I also read the responses from Copan, Craig, Murray, et. al. During this year, I literally read about 120 or so books completely and a bunch of articles alongside them. I read Bart Ehrman’s stuff, and I read Craig Evans and Nicholas Perrin’s responses (Perrin’s book was a favorite).

      I’m going to be completely honest…I found the Christian books much more intellectually satisfying. In philosophy and historical criticism, I found that the arguments provided from the atheists seemed difficult to maintain. About half way through my (re)studying these topics, I came back to an intellectual assent that God exists and that the resurrection happened. I realize that most people don’t have the time to study all of the books that I studied from both sides over five years, much less during a period of intense doubt…still, I’m thankful that I was allowed this time (which included many sleepless nights reading).

      Now, the heart doesn’t always follow the head. Even though I had intellectually assented to the basic tenants of the gospel, my heart was still slow in assenting to what I intellectually held. Emotionally, it was easier being an atheist on the inside because I didn’t have to deal with frustration at myself for sin, frustration with God over suffering, frustration with hypocrits in the church, etc. It was about this time that I started to honestly pray again. Sometimes it had to be forced. I would wake up and recite the Lord’s Prayer every morning, and try to rephrase it in my own words. I would try to pray during those sleepless hours of the night.

      Over the following year (about two and a half years after doubts originally started…about two years ago now), something happened and I (re)came to faith. My heart started following my head. I was able to serve the Lord in gladness once again…and I’m still serving Him.

      The best book I can recommend for this latter phase was Gary Habermas’ free online book “The Thomas Factor.” It helped me to separate out what types of doubts were occurring and figure out how to respond to them adequately. It can be found here:

    • Amigo

      Part 3:
      Fortunately, my missions agency allowed me to continue serving with them as long as I opened up and talked to other missionaries about my issues. During my year of intensive study, I was fortunate to have a medical doctor, who was also a missionary, take me under his wing and do nothing more than listen to what I had to say and pray for me. Being honest about where I was at helped immensely as I came back to faith.

      I’m now a church planter who loves God, loves serving Him, believes the gospel both intellectually and emotionally and despite the occasional doubts, has really been able to move on.

      I don’t know if my story will help either of you, but it helps me to share it! I don’t know if you will find a similar path, but I will honestly pray that you do. There are intellectual answers that are compelling, and although the Lord may test you with a period of dryness spiritually, don’t give up. Myself and plenty of others can attest to the hope of what is to come in your spiritual lives.

    • KBB

      I’m the niece. Here it goes…

      Part 1:

      Jess P and Amigo – I really appreciate your thoughts. I suppose they jump out at me because of your personal journeys.

      It’s difficult for me to articulate everything that is in my head and my heart. It’s extremely intense, complicated, dark.

      A couple of things I want to clarify: this doubt and confusion I am experiencing did not begin because I no longer felt God’s presence or because God wasn’t “moving on my behalf.” That’s the bizarre thing. Yes, I had recently experienced a great deal emotionally with the death of my father (I’m only 31) however God was an incredible strength for me through that low. And as my excerpt in the blog stated, God and I were buddies during my time here in China immediately before the dark night. I was leaning on him for everything and felt incredible peace even when things were tough. In addition, God performed miracles in the realm of my finances. So, I was extremely close to him and in a matter of months I was questioning my beliefs as a whole…putting it simply.

      I have many frustrations with Christianity today (that may have been initiated by my undergraduate work being completed at a charismatic university). I know, I know – we’re not supposed to look at humans but at Christ; the church is not what God had intended – we have messed it up; sin has tainted everything on this earth and nothing will be as it should until the New Heaven and New Earth. I know these are the answers. Honestly, I’m tired of pat answers.

    • KBB

      Part 2:

      I’m tired of missionaries or missionary organizations talking about how many churches they’ve started or how many people were saved at a revival meeting. What happened to those people after the meetings?? Are we just in it for a head count? To see how many people we can convert and save? It makes my stomach hurt. That leads me to one of my big questions/hang-ups/whatever you want to call it: What does it say about my faith that I don’t feel compelled to convert people? To be absolutely honest, I know what the Bible says – that there is only one way to God: Jesus Christ – but I can’t confidently say that someone who believes differently than me is wrong and I’m right and he/she is going to hell. I should be able to say that because I’m a Christian. Gracious – I’m a “missionary.”
      On the missionary track: Deep in the pit of my stomach there is something that has existed since I was a little girl…it is the belief that everyone deserves to know what it is to be loved. It’s why I went into the medical field. It’s why I am in China now. I’m not here because I want to convert people. I don’t have a burning desire to go out and “spread the good news.” I have never had that burning desire. I suppose this thought of mine was part of the snowball that rolled me into the dark night.

    • KBB

      Part 3:

      I want to overcome this dark night of the soul. I hope that I come out of this believing firmly in God. He has been such a strength to me. At the same time, I cannot deny the fear that exists. What if I come out of this not believing? It would shake everything that I am.

      I am embarking on an intellectual journey to discover who Jesus Christ really was and the historical proof of it. Yes, I will incorporate the Bible in my research – of course. But I will not rely solely on it. I need to know more. I have to know more. I realize that not all of my questions will be answered. Where would faith be in that? But I need to know more than I know now. If you have any recommendations regarding literature please, feel free. I’m not looking to read spiritual fluff nor do I want to read something by an angry atheist who thinks I’m insane for believing in God and Jesus Christ the Savior.

      I hope I made sense and shed some light into my crisis of faith. By no means is this the extent of it.

    • jim

      Where you are journeying , alot of people have been, don’t despair because many a Christian is and has been where you tread. My father-in-law is a wonderful man of the faith, loving, kind to those he meets, church goer, now in his eighties(87).

      Love spreads from him and I wish I could be like him in so many ways. Yet, I have never known him to witness personally about Jesus Christ, nor did he ever really seem on fire to save the lost.
      Simply put he lived his life as an example of God’s love every single day in his own humble way… Old fashioned, yes, rather uneducated, yes, but he had a wisdom and peaceful presence that seemed so opposite the charasmatic christian of today. Always in the background, building the church fire in the old stove , first to meet you at the door to shake your hand, and always seeing the better side of people. When he spoke you listened with open ears.

      Our witness is not always by word of mouth, but often greater by the deed we do……..I sense this in you!! you are being used by God and he loves you deeply. Christianity is not a pattern , but evidences itself through the spirit with love. If you have love one for another, this is the great commandment.

      God Bless you , as you serve him! He shapes each of us for different purposes.

    • DB

      I have to say again how encouraging it is to me that you all would take the time to share your thoughts and journeys. Thank you.

    • Amigo

      Thanks KBB,
      That’s a well thought out response. If you are interested in studying “the historical Jesus,” then I’d begin with reading an introduction. Take something like “Jesus: A Short Life” by John Dickson, who is a historian at Macquarrie University in Australia. Here’s the link. It’s a good introduction. Three other books that are interesting would be, “Jesus: The Evidence” by James Dunn, “Jesus Outside of the New Testament” by Robert Van Voorst and “The Historical Jesus” by Gary Habermas. Each gets at the basic issues and “evidence.” Another old, but good book on New Testament issues is F.F. Bruce’s “The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?” I’m confident that after reading some of these that you will see why I ended up at a moderate/conservative position despite viewing it from an atheist perspective at the time.

      After you get a good footing in the issues, you can jump into the more scholarly stuff. Start reading N.T. Wright’s three volumes on the historical Jesus (warning: each volume is about 800 pages). They are “The New Testament and the People of God,” “Jesus and the Victory of God,” and finally “The Resurrection of the Son of God.” I’d also suggest you read “Lord Jesus Christ” by Larry Hurtado to get an introduction into early Christian beliefs. I’d also recommend anything by Richard Bauckham, Martin Hengel, E. Earle Ellis, D.A. Carson and Michael Bird that you can get your hands on.

      Now, you might not take this seriously, but it’s critically important. In your quest for truth, read books not blogs. It’s very easy to Google something and read every opinion possible on the topics, but rarely are these opinions well educated, nor are their arguments and criticisms often well thought out. Even this site, which has a ton of good information on it, doesn’t live up to the intellectual rigor put into the books mentioned above.

      Finally, don’t fear that you will come out on the other side not believing! There is a reason that the word “remember” appears nearly 150 times in the Hebrew Bible. We are supposed to remember (and savor) those moments when God’s presence is clear. You’ve experienced that already, so remember what God has done. We are supposed to remember the accomplished work of Christ on our behalf (no matter how intellectually or emotionally hard it might be at the time to do so). He has redeemed you from the pit already, and will not let you fall back in.

      Continue to honestly, openly and passionately open your heart to God and ask Him to guide your study. As I said above, my head came before my heart, but it was the daily repetition of continuing to open myself up to God despite the doubts and pain that God used to (re)bring me to faith.

    • mbaker


      We can only encourage you strictly by our own testimonies or beliefs, which is something I want to reiterate the difference upon here. While we can all encourage and identify with you, in the end it is up to you whether you believe or not. Your salvation depends upon that alone, and that is what you have to decide upon. We cannot save you, only the Lord can. He does not hold other Christians, right or wrong, responsible for that.

      That, and that alone, should be the influence upon your final decision, not what anyone else thinks. I hope you will take that into consideration and remember it is not ultimately the decision based upon whether other Christians have hurt or helped you, but that your salvation is dependent solely upon God will ultimately question you on what you have you have or haven’t chosen to believe, based upon what his Son did upon the cross. That’s what it ultimately boils downs to, not what others have done, or not, to influence you.

      Please do not ever forget that.

    • Jess P


      You said “What does it say about my faith that I don’t feel compelled to convert people?”

      I feel the same way, and I even just had a small falling out with a friend of mine because he basically told me that my unwillingness to do street evangelism may be because of a hard heart and implied that I don’t really care about people or love Jesus. It makes me mad even now as I type it.

      I have never felt compelled to convert people and have never led anyone in a “sinner’s prayer” despite about 10 years of ministry. But I know where I fit: leading people in worship, being creative, and teaching. My bad experiences with evangelism stem from people trying to manipulate me into thinking that if I’m not leading someone in a prayer of repentance, my work is somehow incomplete or lacking. That is not the case.

      You said “Deep in the pit of my stomach there is something that has existed since I was a little girl…it is the belief that everyone deserves to know what it is to be loved.” That is the call of God on your life. Don’t ever question the pit of your stomach. That’s where the seeds of the Gospel sprout. It will give you the stamina to go to hard places and do difficult things with joy and peace.

      There are practical difficulties. I came to a breaking point where I had to leave ministry to go to school, because following creative endeavors was not something I could do with good conscience in an organization who’s purpose was mainly training and evangelization.

      On the missionary campus where I lived in Colorado, I was known as the guy who was trying to get into North Korea. I never made it, but I did get to the boarder. : ) The South Korean families would invite me over for Bolgolgi and Kim Chi all the time. So good. Anyways, I was praying hard that God would just tell me clearly what to do, so I could just do it. I was so frustrated and I was crying. God spoke quietly to my heart and asked “Well, what do YOU want to do?” Immediately I thought about doing music and design. Before I could correct myself God spoke softly “Then do it.” Something in me broke and I wept.

      Shortly afterwards I applied at a recording conservatory and was accepted. I remember I was playing bass for a extended prayer and worship session, part of a day of fasting. People had been sharing about stuff that God had been speaking to them. I felt compelled and I got up in front of all these missionaries and told them about my frustrations, my prayer time, and how I got accepted to the conservatory.

      I finished by saying “I am not called to go to North Korea.” They applauded. It was bizarre. Normally people got up to speak of their commitment to missions, and here I was saying how God had not called me. Strange, yet wonderful. A friend of mine came up after me and confessed he wasn’t called to Tibet, a place he had been dedicated to for years. Now he runs a successful student ministry in Thailand with his wife and small children.


    • Jess P


      Anyway, I had to find a place that fit what God was calling me to do. So I went to school and started working on short films as an audio guy and now I am producing commercials and recording bands on the side. It is wonderfully fulfilling work that directly serves people and let’s me create.

      So how does God benefit from my life? I’ve got to assume that it is the joy of a Father for his son, and I think he is content at leaving it at that. It’s a beautiful thing.

      (BTW I still have a desire to do missions work. Maybe soon I will be able to travel overseas and do a documentary or even live overseas and teach art and music to kids. It’d be great. Maybe even in N. Korea.)

      Well, that’s some of my story. That all leads up to my own “dark night of the soul” as my former missionary friends start disavowing Christ and I begin work in a secular/cheesy-Christian culture. A couple authors have kept me sane through my own, although shallow, intellectual exploration of faith. Tim Keller’s “Reason for God” is wonderful. Everything written by C.S. Lewis. N.T. Wright is great. I also enjoy books that deconstruct: “Pagan Christianity” by Frank Viola, George Barna; “How (Not) to Speak of God” by Peter Rollins; And recently I have been developing an odd fondness for Post-Post-Modernist-Atheist-Marxist-Communist Slavoj Zizek, if nothing for his odd fascination with Christianity and Christ. Check him out all over youtube.

    • brian

      I admit to my shame I have struggled with doubt. A true Christian would never doubt, ever or basically that was what I was taught for so many years. I will admit I am stunned seeing someone take an interest in the loss of faith of another person, unless that person is in the public eye or part of the apologetic famous etc. When I struggled with my doubt the only thing I heard was the echo of my own voice. Actually when I was ready to pack it in, it was Atheists that said, dont leave your faith because your hurt, only if it is a conviction. The faith family, was basically go ahead be an apostate, no loss. I do agree it would have been, and still would be no loss but that is a different post.

    • Lee

      It’s amazing to me how this seems to hit people. Does anyone consider that the enemy is at the core of all this? Especially this missionary. She was walking along with God, who was her buddy, and suddenly she’s plagued by doubts and negative thoughts about the church. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, which includes our faith, our relationship with the church, our relationship with other Christians, our relationship with the Lord, and anything else he can get his hands on. He’s not fussy and he’s willing to take just a little bit at a time, if he can.

      You have to test the spirits. We too quickly assume that every thought that comes into our head is our own. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s the enemy.

      Extremely suspicious to me, is the fact that this happens in times of closeness to God.

    • KBB

      Lee, it’s me – the missionary – talking

      I definitely hear your comments about the enemy and agree that he was involved. My prayer when this all began was “God, please protect my mind and my heart against the enemy.” However, my frustrations about the church did not spring up suddenly. They have existed for quite some time at different levels as have my thoughts on conversion that I wrote about above. What did surprise me was my complete questioning of my faith at such a deep level and the timing of it.

      This may not make sense, but although I have many questions and there is a type of distance from God, I also have a peace and a confidence that I’m handling things correctly now. I truly feel like God has his hand in where I am – adamately researching. He gave me this brain to use it! I’m not cursing God or asking “where are you?” or running in the opposite direction. I’m confidently walking down an intellectual path to find truth. I’m not approaching this in a manner to disprove my faith but instead to hopefully confirm it. I’m no longer pushing things to the side simply because I think I should for the sake of “having faith” or resisting spiritual warfare (which again, I think sw is very real). And, for protection, I have people praying for me in ways that I cannot right now.

      I finally and honestly feel like there is purpose in all of this.

    • Amigo

      What a great response to Lee! There is definitely a purpose in all of this. As evangelicals we seem to have diminished the traditional Christian creed of “faith seeking understanding.” Instead, we have take on “faith in fear of understanding” and when real questions arise we don’t know how to handle them.

      Michael Patton and this website is a perfect example of “faith seeking understanding.” The Christian faith has nothing to fear from honest, deep investigation. I trust God, and pursue the answers to my questions with the confidence that they are out there. In the process, my understanding of God may change, my interpretation of theology may change as well, and surely the way I understand myself will change as the Spirit convicts me and draws me into all truth…but the truth of the gospel will remain true…so do not fear, but instead honestly pursue what God is doing in your life during these times of questions and dryness.

      I will (continue) to pray for you and have confidence that if you look into the rich historical answers to the questions that you are asking (and that I have struggled with), you will find deeply satisfying answers that speak to the heart and the mind.

    • KBB

      Amigo –

      Thank you for your encouraging words, your confidence in this process and your prayer support!!

      Jess P –

      Where, if I may ask, was this missionary campus in Colorado? I’m from Colorado so I’m curious. Also random in relation to your story, I’m living in China directly across the river from NK. Thank you for sharing your struggles and victories regarding this topic!

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