When I Don’t Believe in Jesus (Sometimes Believing Enough Is More Than Enough)

I don’t believe in Jesus all the time.

You might. This has not been my experience.

If feels good to say it. To be honest. But I’m troubled by my immediate impression of owing a debt to the religious community—that somehow I owe them faithfulness and mustn’t say things that could negatively stir them up.

But I am only a man. And I have doubts.

I don’t wake in the morning, stretch my arms over my head and say, “Good morning, Lord,” as the sun pours softly through the windows. I suppose I don’t know God like he knows me.

I’m a pastor and have been for twenty-three years. I don’t wear a tie and blazer. I don’t have slick hair and preacher moves.

You might think I’d have this faith thing down—that I would “get it” more than most. But maybe I’m a pastor because I don’t get it. Maybe I needed to be this close to God because I couldn’t do life any other way.

The job description of a pastor would most likely be, “Man who has faith,” the way an auto-mechanic’s would be, “Man who fixes cars”.

But I’m not here to fix your faith. Or give you mine. Best to get your own…trust me.

I’m here to be honest. That much I can do.

So here is the truth.

I’m a broken down man.

Am I good? Do I love people, my kids, my wife? Yes. I’m not always the best dad, husband, or man. But God, I’m trying. And I will keep trying, because I know how it goes when I don’t.

Somewhere along the way, I fell into alcoholism. It was a way to ease the pain I held in my chest for decades. But then I fought to get free. And I did get free, even though I still have a broken-brain—a brain that is at times, obnoxiously co-dependent. In weaker moments, it thinks I’m the center of the universe. And it loves to accuse others for being the cause of my bad behavior.

But I also have shining moments as a pastor. And in those moments…

I think about you.

In those moments…

I LOVE you.

This is the one thing I don’t question about my vocation—about being a pastor. I have a lot of love in my heart for those I don’t know. And I’m grateful for that love, because it balances the unfaith part—tells it to kiss off—thumbs its little love-nose at Unwavering Belief and Certainty…two ingredients people like me are expected have in their recipe for Faith.

Faith.

What does this even mean?

Honestly, I’m not sure I could call myself a man of faith if I believed in God one hundred percent. And besides, wouldn’t that make me a man of certainty?

The point is…

Sometimes believing in God enough…is more than enough. And I believe enough.Tweet This

Enough for whom?

Enough for me.

Enough to know that I care about you. Love you. Want you to do well in life—to overcome.

Enough to believe that Something Greater is out there—that it sees you at work, or in your car. That it believes in you—loves you.Tweet This

I was wrung out at church yesterday—out of the blue. It snuck up on me.

A woman mentioned that it was her first time coming to our church. And then while I was leading worship, I saw her out there, sitting by herself.

In my experience, when people show up alone to an unfamiliar church, it’s because they are hurting. Typically, they aren’t nearly as worried about sitting by themselves as they are with finding relief.

My heart was moved with compassion. I whispered a prayer for her.

And then, as we were singing the words…

A miracle can happen now
For the spirit of the Lord is here
The evidence is all around
For the spirit of the Lord is here.

…the dam broke.

I tried to stop it. I even took a couple of deep breaths, attempting to get control of myself. But I was overwhelmed.

I stood on the platform thinking about all of the broken people in the world—perhaps this woman was one of them—and I bawled my eyes out. I heaved. It’s what my wife Heather calls, “Literal boo-hooing.”

The other singers and musicians continued leading worship, while I was having the most real moment of faith, belief—and even certainty—that I’ve had in a long time.

Faith…that God can do miracles in our lives.

Belief…that there is evidence of his love all around us.

Certainty…that the spirit of the Lord was there, among us. With that woman. With me. With all of us. That he LOVES us. Terribly and beautifully.

After much sobbing, I pulled it together until we sang the words…

You lift our weary head
You make us strong instead
You took these rags and made us beautiful

Then I was at it again—believing, crying, faithing.

And yes, literal boo-hooing.

When I arrived home from church, I saw that a friend had tagged me in a photo on Facebook. It was a picture of me coming unglued during worship—covering my face—doing what I could to hold it together.

Matt Losing It In Worship

At first I thought…

What a mess. That’s embarrassing. How ridiculous.

But no, it wasn’t. It was honest. It was exactly what was going on in this sometimes unbelieving heart of mine.

Because I have moments of doubt. But then somehow I believe…just enough. And in this pocketful of faith, I sing at the top of my lungs and bawl my eyes out. Because where there is a lack of faith, there is still love. And where certainty isn’t present, sometimes God is.Tweet This

To my unbelieving brothers and sisters—not unbelieving in life, or love, or goodness…but unbelieving in God:

When I shed tears for you, I’m shedding them for myself as well, because I know we’re not so different. It’s not like I have it together, and think you don’t. I actually think that I don’t have it together, but that we can. And I believe our only chance for this to happen, for us to overcome, is through the transformative power of Jesus.

And if you don’t believe in Jesus, yet still have overcome something devastating in your life, I believe that he is the one behind itthe one behind the grace you found to move forward in life.

To me—the one I believe in sometimes—believes in us ALL the time.Tweet This

 


Matt Bays is the author of: FINDING GOD IN THE RUINS. (Click book title to order.) Or WATCH THE BOOK TRAILER.

Book Cover (3D)

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