HEAVY SPIRITUAL BURDEN
For several weeks now, I have been experiencing a heavy spiritual burden that has had me vacillating between disbelief, and the hope that the pieces of my faith will eventually fall back into place.
From the buoyancy of this ambivalence comes the need to understand the roots of faith itself. What do I believe, and why do I believe it? These are the questions my storm has brought to me, and the lingering silence has been haunting me. What could cause a believer to doubt and question their faith in this way? If you find it in yourself to follow my pattern of thought and self-examination, we will search for the clarity of truth underneath this lull of uncertain theism.
LOGIC’S INCOMPREHENSION OF FAITH
In hindsight, I realized a while ago that for the majority of the past 8 years, I’d been trying to understand Jesus through the conduit of logic. It’s no surprise then, looking back over how my faith came to be, that if I am to find logic as one of the pillars of how I came to grasp what faith is to me, then my foundations have indeed been fallible. Faith is unlike logic in that it commences in the spirit. One must acknowledge the spirit if they are to understand how logic and faith do not coincide.
THE REASONING OF AN ATHEIST
An atheist commenting on one of my previous articles turned into an e-mail discussion between the two of us, which eventually culminated in his inquiring for “good reasoning” in order to believe in God and Jesus. In light of arguing God’s existence over the constituents of logic and reasoning, the reason for belief in God comes down to purpose. When I disbelieved in both God and Jesus back 10 years ago, I was certain I was without a purpose, which is why I wanted to end my life. The atheist I confabulated with expressed himself with austere logic, preventing him from viewing Jesus as any more than a fantasy conjured in the imaginative minds of ancient authors from millenniums past. I find that the schism between the likes of faith and logic is how they ground themselves on clashing conduits of reasoning. Let me explain.
LOGIC VS. FAITH
Logic functions through the reasoning of strict principles of validity. The “strictness” of logic can be viewed as its limitation in the conversation of faith, and here’s why: Faith is more open-ended, allowing more unlimited space for belief in the spirit to be actualized through the empiricism of relationship. If we are to enter spiritual conversation, ratiocination alone cannot enter and close the door— faith must also be included. Without both, the purpose of the conversation would be driven only to reason with the notion of belief without its actualization, defying it without deduction.
“THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL”
I’ve considered the possibility that I’m experiencing what is known as the “Dark Night of the Soul,” (St. John of the Cross, 1542-1591) and it’s quite possible this is far from over. This spiritual stint is as unpredictable as it is unmeasurable, since the purification of the soul is commensurate with the measure of space made available by the grace of God.
Such a stint of spiritual warfare is familiar to me after spending years devoting my spirit (though I didn’t believe in the spirit at the time) to doubt and rage, becoming uncomfortably close to loneliness and bitterness. Familiarity with these led me to expect them to be my rock and comforters, rather than Jesus. Therefore, the darkness in correspondence with “The Dark Night of the Soul” is merely different in the way this recent darkness is instigated by God, with the intention of making my faith stronger; whereas the darkness from years ago was initiated by traumatic circumstances.
Becoming overly familiar with misery, suffering, and pain through trauma could convolute a person’s discernment of the reason for their belief, misdirecting their clarity to the darkest, most empty recesses of the human psyche— namely, the anti-faith of nihilism—that everything exists without meaning or purpose.
THE ANTI-THEISM OF NIHILISM
Every person believes in something, if nothing less than the something of nothingness. In the conversation of nihilism, one would implement a lifestyle commensurate with the immaterial of its corresponding anti-faith in order for such a belief to ossify into the empirical. In order to accept this type of “freedom” from spirituality, the believer in non-belief would be required to adhere to the inferred reality that purpose itself is subjective, and even redundant.
SEVERING EMOTIONAL BONDS
We can attempt to imagine a life without purpose, but such a life demands the severing of our intrinsic need for relationship; healthy connections to people that harmonize with the feeling of belonging. Purpose demands that a person finds a truth regarding his or her life that connects to a belief, and that bond to their belief is their reason to live. For Christians, we bond with the faith (or belief) in the reality that our relationship to God, through Jesus, is our reason to live. Humans innately desire to feel connected; a sense of belonging with others, as this is the criteria from which we search our lives for a deeper sense of purpose than that of something selfish and empty, like hedonism.
THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF PURPOSELESSNESS
Purposelessness demands the severance of connection, since a person must live under the fallacy that nothing actually matters. However, humans derive a sense of purpose even while being swept up in the monotonous expectancy of routine. In other words, even purposelessness requires that we remain connected to a sense of purpose, in the way we continue living in the predictability of repetition. Basically, a sense of a purposeless life would have us live to do the same thing over and over, albeit maybe lacking enthusiasm.
To be completely void of purpose would enforce a premature nonexistence. Only in never having been born into an earthly body in the first place would we no longer carry a purpose. We would then be void of the spirit sustaining our psychological dichotomy between living with purpose, and living only for the emptiness of monotony—both of which require a connection to purpose through the conduit of belief to remain coherently true.
NIHILISM’S CATCH 22
If we are to accept that we each have a purpose, then we must also accept that the truth of nihilism is that it is a lie attempting to manipulate us into believing that nothing really matters in life. Since that is the fundamental, ideological root of nihilism, which in itself is a belief, then what we can gather is that nihilism is a catch 22. Once we accept this ‘catch’ as a lie, we can simultaneously grasp the truth that we have a purpose. And as for Christ-followers, our purpose is to be in relationship with our Creator, growing into the person He designed us to be.
A DARK BURDEN REVEALED
I am curious to better understand the foundations of the faith I first became involved in, 8 years ago. Either I completely engage with Jesus, or I pull back entirely by refusing Him. If I refused Jesus access to my heart and gave Him a definitive “no” for an answer (which isn’t something I’m prepared to do), I believe I would end up returning to the lonely life of doubt and uncertainty, which, after the despair of my adolescent years, I know would be far more severe. Aware of this, I am not ready to refuse Jesus, but careful to tread the waters slowly, unsure of whether this water is where I belong; not so much because of whether it is preferable or not, but based on whether or not it is the life I feel intrinsically associated with. For example, there are places in this world where each of us feel out of place, out of sync, and disconnected—not only with our environment and the people in it, but also with ourselves. This disconnectedness is our spirit speaking, making known that we don’t belong there and communicating that we find the place where we do. In likeness, I need to comprehend my connectedness with Jesus to move forward with Him.
This is how I know I don’t belong within the ambivalence of refusing Jesus: Even in the hospitable rumination of denying Him, I can sense that He would let me turn to the darkest of anti-faith to allow me to experience the burden I had chosen, in order to reveal why I would ultimately choose to come running back to Him, sincerely desperate for a Savior once more.
THE SOURCE OF THE BATTLE
Sometimes, in the midst of spiritual chaos, there is no happy ending in sight. That is a reality just as there is no war without bloodshed and pain. We began our introspection with the question, “What do I believe, and why?” We know we cannot expect logic to help us determine a direction because the brain alone cannot comprehend the spirit. In the middle of this desert-like darkness, I have few helpful words to write about where to turn to other than towards the hope that a response from Jesus will come. I am not without any personal experiences inviting me to believe Jesus is real in my life, but I am attempting to understand whether my previous experiences conjured a belief I wanted to cling to for the sake of having something to cling to—insinuating there was of a lack of authenticity in my initial surrender to the invitation of Christ from the start—or, whether my beliefs were conjured supernaturally through spiritual transcendence (grace).
A GLIMMER OF HOPE
Despite my storm, I believe faith to be necessary. Without faith, we leave all our questions and curiosities without answers or explanations— without even so much as acknowledgement that our questions and yearning to understand derive from our desire to know and embrace our purpose.
Our bond to purpose is graced to us by our Creator, and it is my awareness of this which gives me the one and only glimmer of hope that there must be a reason I want the belief in Jesus as Lord to feel more authentic in my spirit. It is this desire for authenticity in knowing why I would want Jesus to be my Lord that keeps me from asking Him to leave me in utter darkness. Moving forward, may God open our eyes and help us to see the truth of purpose He has called us to embrace, and be transformed by his grace in the process. I pray this for myself and for you, in the name of Jesus.
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11 thoughts on “Spiritual Peripheries: The War Between Nihilism and Faith”
Excellent article. I’ve gone through quite a few of these faith storms myself…Remember, the more powerful Satan perceives you to be, the more he will attack you with these ideas. Over time, the trick I use is to write down the thought or idea that is making me question my beliefs, then see what God’s word says about it. This seems obvious and not terribly effective, being that you may be also questioning the validity of God’s word, but somehow, it usually calms my fears. God often reminds me during these times of the past, miracles I’ve seen and God’s hand in situations that there can’t be any other explanation for.
This was an interesting read, keep writing. I work out a lot of my spiritual battles with pen and paper! Praying for you..God bless.
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Alecia, your words hit just right, thank you for what you said. While I am questioning/investigating everything regarding my faith at the moment, I will certainly consider your suggestions. I am truly hoping for a miracle/answer that I cannot explain any other way besides God through Jesus.
Like you, writing tends to help me in the way of gathering my thoughts in a more formulaic fashion so I can see more clearly any loopholes or misunderstandings I need to address. Thank you for your prayers! I know I need plenty of those on top of my own. I’m grateful for your response, Alecia!
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Of course! 🙂
Thought-provoking as usual! I pray that, as you said, your faith is strengthened through this dark season!
I also wanted to let you know you’re nominated for a blogging award. Congratulations! The details, if you want to participate, are in this link: http://firstandsecondblog.com/read/
Grateful for you and your love for our Savior!
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Bethany, I am always touched to read from you, thank you for your kind words! I also appreciate what you wrote about my faith; I sense God has been working in me and I and attempting to write again to connect more dots for the readers.
I’m so humbled you nominated me, Bethany. That was so thoughtful and I’m moved that you would consider me. 🙂 God bless you!!
Lance, bob here, your atheist friend from this past summer – I haven’t visited your blog since we ended our email dialogue back in early June. I am glad I clicked on it, as it is still in my bookmarks. I want you to know that I find your way of expressing yourself to be very moving. Your choice of words (some of which I have to look up unfortunately) reveals your experience and thoughtfulness. I would say that I want to be like you when I grow up…but I think you are about half my age 🙂
Anyway, I still plug along, having very short email dialogues with Christians here and there, and just in case I never told you, in the more than 15 years that I have been having email dialogues with believers, many dozens of interactions, some long, some short, I have never come across a Christian as honest and cordial as you. I am sure they are out there…but I can’t find them 😦
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Bob, it is actually quite a blessing to me to read from you. Your words move me more than you likely know. Thank you for writing and commenting here, I do take your words with warm sentiment and feel very humbled by what you had to say. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Bob, it does draw a sincere amount of sympathy from me to know that in so many years, you have not found such qualities in another believer of Christ. Truly, I pray I am not the last you will encounter (even if only through a screen), and that you will be touched by more than just the words of someone such as myself. I would like to share with you, once again, with quite warm intention, that I am praying for you, and that I hope you find what you are seeking.
Your words from our e-mails helped me to better understand my faith through deep, contemplative introspection and intricate questioning. I want to thank you for sharing your brutal honesty regarding un-faith in your e-mails, because, it helped me to question mine more thoroughly. Hopefully, in some way or another, my faith has (or will have, in time) helped you in some way on your end. I pray and hope for this to be the case for you. May God bless you, Bob, because I appreciate you.
This was strange for me to read. You seem to think of spirituality and theism as the same. I am an atheist and a nihilist. Both of which allow me spiritual and emotional freedom. Belief is a choice, as there is no way to prove anything, really. So it’s really a matter of choosing what works best for you. :3
Thanks for sharing your truth with me. For someone to believe in theism, they must believe in the foundation of spirituality, since spirituality and the belief in gods or a God of the universe go hand in hand, considering the God of the universe is not “physical” in the same sense that we are in this realm— but only “spiritual” or “metaphysical.” In his sense, spirituality and theism are related, but not exactly the same, you are correct, and I agree.
While I do believe belief is a choice, I also believe belief is a choice influenced by “the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” (Ephesians 6:12) as well as by the Holy Spirit. That said, belief is influenced and not made solely on our behalf, just like believing chocolate is good is not a choice we make until someone gives us some and says, “Try it, it’s good,” and we try it and it actually IS good. You need to both trust that person and the curiosity to try what they’re offering. Likewise, the spirit moves, and I believe we respond when we can see the spirit wants what is best for us.
You speak of emotional freedom, but freedom from what, exactly? Freedom from one thing is a restriction against another. What are you free from by being an unbeliever?
Thank you for your comment, and I hope to receive another response from you. 🙂
very good submit, i certainly love this web site, carry on it
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Haiyen, thank you so much for your words. I really appreciate this, it comes as very encouraging for me as a writer to know someone takes something away. Have a peaceful and inspired day!