From the time I was a young girl, my faith was something I took seriously. I loved learning about this incredible God of the Bible that loved me in my sin, so much so He sent His own son to take my place in death. I loved reading that He is alive and that He works everything for my good and His glory. And I loved the realization that the pages of Scripture I read were God-breathed and alive, applicable to my day-to-day life. I believed all of it.
Or so I thought.
Then freshman year of college happened. And along with the regular ups and downs that come with freshman year, it was the most stressful year my family had ever experienced.
To make matters worse, I felt responsible for everyone in the situation. Looking back, it’s obvious that it wasn’t my responsibility to make sure everyone smiled through such a season- emotions should have been expected. But in my anxious, 18-year-old mind if someone in the family wasn’t cheerful, I was to blame.
But when the blame on myself became too much, I began putting it on someone else. The only person that I could think was responsible- God Himself.
Sure, I knew “God loves me” and “He works everything for my good and His glory”. I made sure I kept telling my teammates in Bible study those “truths”. I posted Facebook status after Facebook status full of Bible verses so I could try to convince myself that I still believed…or at least others.
But although the head knowledge existed, my heart was in a whole other arena. Tough seasons reveal what we really believe, and my tough season was revealing that everything I thought defined me wasn’t real to me at all.
I didn’t know what to do about it. Every day was more hopeless than the day before. I was losing my faith and in doing so, my identity.
Jump ahead eight years and the good news I know now is that even when I try letting go of God, He never lets go of me. Although it took years to get through my season of doubting, my faith is stronger after walking through the fire.
Of course, there isn’t just one “fire” we have to walk through in life. Unfortunately, life on this earth is fire after fire after fire.
Brandon and I entered a new fire just a few months ago. And again, I’ve found that what I thought was heart knowledge about God and his role in my life is actually only head knowledge. I don’t doubt God is good anymore, but this season has proved that my heart doubts that He treasures me and I am secure in Him. And Brandon’s heart struggles doubting he is significant to God and approved by Him (thank you counseling). Which is why Brandon and I both find ourselves in a season where we are “putting ourselves first” (read my last post on that here). And by that I mean, not trying to work hard to earn our security or significance in Christ, but getting our hearts to believe that we are already secure and significant to Him. But we are learning that getting that head knowledge to sink to our hearts doesn’t happen by osmosis- sometimes it takes intentional work.
So what do we do when our head and heart think differently? Here’s what we are learning:
Admit there is a gap between our heads and hearts.
When I began doubting God during my freshman year of college, I refused to acknowledge it for as many months as I could. I would walk into Bible study with a smile on my face and my “head knowledge” ready to give the right “church” answers. My heart doubted everything about my faith, but I stayed in denial.
The problem is, pretending to believe doesn’t do anything but let the reality of doubt grow deeper and stronger. I so badly wish I could go back to freshman year, walk into Bible study, and be honest with others and myself about my struggles. That would have given the church an opportunity to actually BE the church to me and walk with me through a tough season. Instead I picked myself up by my bootstraps in order to save face and walked through that tough season alone.
Friend, if your heart is struggling to believe the God of the Bible is true in any way, can I encourage you to admit that to yourself? And then…to someone else? It’s hard, it’s awkward, but it’s the first step to freedom.
Ask God to teach us the truth.
While it’s true that it’s important for us to be intentional as we try to digest and believe truth, it can’t happen on our own effort. For anyone to truly know God and the truths of His word, God Himself has to work supernaturally in our hearts. Want to hear the great news? HE WANTS TO DO THAT IN US. God desires for us to know Him and truly believe His Word. We just have to ask.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is when a father brings his sick son to Jesus and asks Him to drive out the evil spirit possessing him. The father asks Jesus to heal him by beginning the sentence, “if you can”. When Jesus responds that everything is possible in Him the father exclaims, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Amen. That is a prayer I believe God is honored in. Most mornings lately this is my version of that prayer:
“Lord, I believe in you. I believe you are good. I believe that I am secure in you – that I am hidden in you and no real harm can come to me with you as my rock and my salvation. I believe that you see me and you love me – that I am treasured in your sight. Help my unbelief. Help that head knowledge become heart knowledge- so that my actions reflect those truths and not the lies the enemy throws at me.”
Ask the Father to help you believe today. He desires that for you.
Intentionally Seek out Truth.
Here is where the work comes in. I’m learning that I have to put a much greater effort into internalizing truth than I want to sometimes. That means, reading scripture that tells me those truths. Memorizing scripture. Talking those truths to myself throughout the day. I’ll be honest- it’s not always something I desire to do. But it is something I need.
Brandon and I have realized we have spent most of our lives listening to ourselves rather than talking to ourselves. We are in the habit of letting our feelings dictate our thoughts instead of letting thoughts (based on truth) dictate our feelings. In a fallen world, that will always lead to destruction. Emotions are good and God-given – but they do not always point to truth. When truth is our foundation, we make our feelings submit to reality. The great thing is, when emotions are put in the right place, I’m learning they are beginning to follow suit with truth.
My heart is finally grasping that I am actually secure in God. And I am beginning to feel confidence I never before had. But I didn’t begin with that confidence. It began with me telling myself I am secure in Him while everything in me is screaming, “No you’re not, Jordan! You’re in danger. Run the other way. Don’t trust anyone.” Now my heart is beginning to whisper, “Yes, you are secure in Him, Jordan. Trust Him. Be bold. You don’t have to protect yourself. You are free to move towards people and love them, not fear them.” It takes work, but as I begin to reap the benefits of that work I can confidently tell you with a smile that it’s worth it.
I could keep going, but blogs are supposed to be like 600 words to keep your attention and I’m more than double that already. So if you’re still with me, thanks for sticking around. Let me conclude by sharing these words:
“Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, ‘Prove you are a good person.’ Another voice says, ‘You’d better be ashamed of yourself.’ There also is a voice that says ‘Nobody really cares about you,’ and one that says, ‘Be sure to become successful, popular, and powerful.’ But underneath all these often very noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, “You are my Beloved, my favor rests on you.’ That’s the voice we need most of all to hear. To hear that voice, however, requires special effort; it requires solitude, silence, and a strong determination to listen. That’s what prayer is. It is listening to the voice that calls us ‘my Beloved’.” -Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith
Friend, can we stop listening to the screams together? Let’s put forth the effort it takes to hear the whisper of our Father. It’s all we need.
Question: What does this look like for you? Does your heart struggle to believe truth? How do you position yourself to hear the whisper of the Lord?
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