“I don’t think I can go to church with you,” I remember my friend telling me as we were walking back from school. “I’m not holy enough.”
“I can’t really trust that God wants me to pursue a career in this,” one of the girls I was mentoring confessed. “I wish He’d just give me the answer on what to do with my life.”
How can I be joyful when so many things are still wrong? I thought to myself in the midst of one of the most painful seasons of my life. Even if I’m feeling better now, the minute this moment ends it’s back to the same old sadness that’s been haunting me every waking hour.
It’s so common to the human condition that it can go unnoticed: The need for control, clarity and completion before we do just about anything. How often do we find ourselves hesitating with thoughts of “I’m not qualified”, “I’m not sure” and “I’m not ready” when facing decisions of faith?
It’s so much easier to make the logical, most lucrative life choice, to follow one’s heart and let one’s circumstances determine your worldview and future.
Perhaps what makes it even harder is that this innate way of thinking runs counter to the call of Christianity, which is really the call of the person Jesus Christ – to lay down your life and follow Him. To choose Him (Joshua 24:14-15), His ways (Isaiah 55:8-9) and the joy He promises (Psalm 16:11).
“And he (Jesus) said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” (Luke 9:23)
That’s denying and dying to yourself every day: Denying yourself of the original ideas you had for your life, many of the worldly perspectives you’ve been taught all your life, and daily putting both your dreams and sinful inclinations on the cross to die so that we might live with the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-8).
What an incredibly tall order, way more than just attending church every weekend. It’s so much easier to make the logical, most lucrative life choice, to follow one’s heart and let one’s circumstances determine your worldview and future. We can be “more Christian” when we’re older and more stable – right?
But what if I exchanged a few of your reasons for holding faith at arm’s length with 3 simple truths that might give you the courage to bet even more of your life on the Person who died to give you exceedingly abundantly more (Ephesians 3:20, John 10:10) – right now?
3 COMMON REASONS FOR COLD FEET
1. I’m not holy
The call to follow Jesus is the call to be transformed into holiness. What this means is you don’t have to be “already holy” or “holy enough” to be allowed into God’s family!
It’s not expected of us before we can accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, but we must expect it to happen to us when we say yes to Him and yes to growing into His likeness (Romans 8:29, 1 Peter 1:16).
The call to follow Jesus is the call to be transformed into holiness.
When Jesus called His first disciples at the start of His ministry at the age of 30, He didn’t pick them from the top Jewish scholars or even the best citizens of the land. Nobody knows why He assembled a motley crew of fishermen, a tax collector and even a member of a political sect.
In fact, when Simon Peter first encountered Jesus on a fishing trip that ended with a miraculous catch, he responded the way many of us have – he told Jesus outright that he was not even fit to be in His presence (Luke 5:8).
But what Jesus said to him next takes a weight off our shoulders, especially if we’ve been feeling unworthy to even step into church. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus kindly replies. And then He issues the open call: “Come follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
2. I’m not happy
I’ve felt this acutely in the prolonged wilderness seasons – when my entire lens of how I viewed myself, my future and my faith in God was marred by unspeakable disappointment after disappointment. Trust me, it was not the best state to have faith in anything at all.
These were the times when reading the Bible tasted “like cardboard”, in the words of Vaneetha Rendall Risner, one of my favourite authors on the theology of suffering. Godly encouragement like “joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5) or “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) sounded more like meaningless platitudes.
But this was precisely the season where I learnt the value and power of sustaining grace. Because grief had infiltrated so much of my conscious existence, it stained even the moments where I’d be enjoying myself with friends or having a good laugh at a joke – and this drove me really close to despair. If God loved me as much as He claims to, wouldn’t He remove all this pain from me? Is He even there?
But Vaneetha puts it beautifully in The Scars That Have Shaped Me: “You never hear anyone in the Bible complaining about the parting of the Red Sea. Everyone loves the grace that delivers us. But the Israelites, like us, were dissatisfied with daily manna. We all complain about the grace that merely sustains us.
“In waiting for the huge, monumental deliverance – the kind where I can put my issue to bed and never have to pray about it again – I’ve overlooked the grace that keeps drawing me to Him.
“The answers of ‘wait’ or ‘no’ have done a far deeper work in my soul. They have kept me connected to the giver and not His gifts. They have forced me to seek Him. And in seeking Him, I have found a supernatural joy beyond all comparison. Not based on my deliverance. Simply based on His tender presence.”
3. I’m not 100% sure
When my brother reads a book, he likes to first flip right to the end to see how it turns out. “I can’t read it peacefully if I don’t know how it ends!” He once defended.
Isn’t that all of us at so many points of our lives? There is an incredible urge to know the future because we think it’ll bring us a peace of mind in the present, to minimise or completely eradicate pain from decisions or otherwise unpleasant surprises.
It may not take us to the extremes of consulting horoscopes or fortune tellers, but we find ways to hedge our bets – or flip to the end of the book. Maybe go with the fail-safe option. Have a Plan B, C, D and so forth. Or let the analysis paralysis set in and refuse to move, change or grow.
If we need God to tell us all the answers before we can believe Him or live for Him, we’ve missed the entire point of faith.
Here’s where the problem lies: The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty.
If we need God to tell us all the answers before we can believe Him or live for Him, we’ve missed the entire point of faith, which is necessary to please Him (Hebrews 11:6) and to embrace the salvation of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Here are 3 instances that show that we don’t need all the answers:
- Parents withholding certain information from children
- Tests and exams not coming with answer sheets
- Reading books without knowing the plot and ending
In fact, these 3 examples also give us good reasons why God cannot just give us all the answers.
Children cannot be told everything and anything because they may not have the maturity to process certain things yet. We will not grow in knowledge and intellectual capability if we were simply told answers. There is really no fun in knowing how things will turn out right from the start – we’ll simply live in fear of the upcoming bad and enjoy little of the no-longer-surprising good.
Whether you’re making a first-time decision of faith to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour or walking out the journey of faith you’ve stepped into, one thing’s for sure: The choice to follow Jesus and not our feelings or fears is an everyday thing.
We choose our Christianity every single day.
There will be days when faith is at the wheel, taking you far out into the unknown with God, the way Peter walked on water with Jesus (Matthew 14:28-29). But there will also be days you won’t feel remotely capable of Christian-ing. Like Peter, the winds and waves of life are all you see, and soon you’re sinking fast (Matthew 14:30).
But even in those moments, I hope we all can respond as Peter did in his desperation: “Lord, save me!” Blinded and terrified, he still cried out to God.
And this is a promise for the ages – immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.