SHELTERED AND SHAKEY: IS MY FAITH MANUFACTURED?
‘Immediately the father of the child cried out and said,
“I believe; help my unbelief!”’
I was born in a Christian home, attended a Christian school, and went to church every Sunday. I vaguely remember accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior when I was five years old, and I prayed every night. I tried my best to obey my parents and be kind to others. Stories of Jesus and various characters of the Bible were absorbed at a young age, and praise and worship songs played constantly in our car.
As a child I was taught that Jesus is loving and forgiving. He died for our sins and saved us from going to hell, and if we accept Him, we would go to heaven. The eternity of fire and hardship haunted me, and I feared death. I remembered praying fervently for God to come and live in my heart so I could go with Him when I eventually crumbled into dust.
Though I believed in Jesus, I was indifferent. He was my Savior but not my Lord. I held on to Him because He was my ticket to heaven, the way to paradise. Daily, I would petition Him with prayers of protection and provision and ask for forgiveness for the sins I keep repeating, but I wouldn’t spend time with Him or read His boring word. Praise songs were fun to dance to, and encouraging Bible verses were occasionally helpful. I lived like a Christian and acted like one, yet God was an ancient creature, a distant deity whom I only approached when things weren’t in my control. I acknowledged His great power and sovereignty over all things, but I would immediately have a back-up plan just in case God doesn’t pull through for me and my purposes. I declared that I trusted Him, but doubt was always present at the back of my mind.
After some time, I got bored. I knew the Bible stories by heart and thought the preacher’s messages repetitive. I slept in the pews during church. I was bored, my faith lukewarm. But I was still scared of death, still unsure of where I would go, and every Sunday I would mumble the sinner’s prayer along with those who want to get saved. If that could guarantee me a sure place in heaven, I was willing to do it. I was content to stay like this, comfortable in a sheltered world with shaky faith, but Jesus loves us too much to meet us and let us stay the same.
I couldn’t bring myself to ask anyone about my doubt regarding life in heaven after death because I worried what people would think, so I kept quiet and prayed in confused silence. But God wasn’t. He kept speaking to me in various ways – through my mom, the pastor in the pulpit, a random verse. He was trying to reach me, to teach me that He is the one who gives us faith to believe in Him. We cannot manufacture enough faith in Him that will wash away our fears and ease our doubts. It is amazing to realize that we need His help even in just trusting in Him.
My dying faith has caught fire, and it was because Jesus chose to intervene. The fear and doubt that occupied my heart fueled my questions and hunger for God, and though I didn’t know that at the time, He used the same uncertainty and fright to draw me closer to Him. I look back and realize that I had been living in religion, playing “god” in some situations, and taking God’s word for granted. Being a Christian is never boring, and it only becomes so when you’ve moved Christ aside.
Now, as I continue to seek and follow Jesus, I find certainty in Him. My identity is secure in His love and the Bible is so much more interesting now that He has given me a desire to know Him better. I look forward to heaven not because it will keep me from forever fire, but because I will finally get to meet my Lord and Savior.
Jireh is an ordinary student whose passion is to bring the hope that comes from Jesus to people through her art and writing. She currently studies in the University of the Philippines Diliman.