A couple of months ago I ran into a dear friend of mine. After exchanging pleasantries and walking along campus, she turned to me and said, “Does it feel that everyone you know is falling away from the church?” Relieved that someone could understand how I feel, I looked at her and sighed. It seems like more and more of my friends are losing their faith in God and leaving the church.
She and I have a close friend who recently told us that she’s now an agnostic. Or maybe she’s an atheist. I’m not too sure at this point and she’s not too sure either. For her there is a war waging inside her heart as she tries to reconcile what she believes. For her it was a difficult decision to concede that she does not know whether or not God exists — and it breaks both her heart and mine. I can’t really understand it. And her family can’t really understand it either. She has given up not only her beliefs, but the support of her family and her culture all at once.
I will be honest that hearing that my dear friend doubts God’s existence gave me pause to reflect on what I know and what I believe. I looked out the vast window in the law library, tears streaming silently down my face as I thought of how devastated I was for my friend, how alone she must feel.
And then I thought of how good God has been to me. And I could not deny His existence. I have had too many experiences in my life and have felt of His specific and dear love for me too many times to deny that there is a Heavenly Father who not only exists, but who also knows me personally and has a plan for me.
I know that I am becoming a minority on the international and national stages. Religion has fallen out of favor in our society. In many circles, it has become a four-letter word to say you even believe in God, and where saying you go to church is almost laughable. And this in a country that was founded on principles of religious devotion. I’ve lived in a country where atheism is the norm rather than the exception, and America is not far behind in the trend.
But I believe in God, and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m proud to be a woman of faith in a world that I can see is becoming so cynical and prejudiced about religion.
Our generation receives a lot of criticism that we are lazy and entitled, but I don’t know of a group that has had to work harder collectively than ours to hold firm to what we believe.
So what is to be done in a world that is systematically removing God from its corners? How should we respond when faced with friends, family and strangers alike when they choose to turn from God? Well, first do as Mumford and Sons says and “hold on to what you believe.” Faith is a choice, and the choice is ours to make.
I ache to share my beliefs with those I love the most. Of course I would want them to know what I know, not so that I have a corner on the faith market, but because my faith brings me so much peace and joy. Of course I would want that for them.
But when I think of my dear friend who is going through this crisis of faith, I know that the best thing for me to do is to just live my life in the best way possible and show her I love her and want her to be happy.
Maybe she will come back to the church and have a renewed faith in God and Jesus Christ. Maybe she won’t. All I can do is live the faith that I love so dearly and love those around me as best I can, hoping that they will see the joy in my life that results from living the gospel and want the same thing in their lives. But if not, it won’t change the love and respect I have for them. That’s not why we were friends to begin with. And that’s not the reason we’re friends now.
And if you’re struggling with your faith, just hang in there, do the best you can and hold on to the things you do know. Even if it’s not very much. Some things take time to work through.
This has easily been one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through, to see one of my friends struggle with something so difficult. I haven’t really known how to handle it and she hasn’t either. We try to be open, but sometimes it’s hard. And I don’t think we’re alone in this. As a church we need to do better at talking about this and trying to understand one another, especially when we don’t agree. Silence doesn’t solve anything.