Laurie Nichols on Ministering to Christians Who Wrestle With Their Faith

Laurie Nichols is Director of Communications and Marketing for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, creator of the Our Gospel Story curriculum, and co-host of the new podcast, Living in the Land of Oz. She formerly served as Managing Editor for Evangelical Missions Quarterly. Laurie is involved in anti-exploitation efforts when she is not spending time with her husband and two kids.

Just yesterday one of my friends shared a sign that her local YMCA posted which stated this:

We welcome all sizes, all colors, all genders, all beliefs, all religions, all types, all people, EVERYONE. Welcome to the YMCA. You are safe here.

The Young Men’s Christian Association was founded in London in 1844 in response to poor social conditions arising in urban centers at the end of the Industrial Revolution. These young men met for prayer and Bible study.

Fast forward to today and what you have in the YMCA serves as something of a model for us as followers of Christ. Over the past few weeks we have read as well-known Christian leaders have publicly share their struggles in the Christian faith. Although painful to read for a multitude of reasons which cover both their own struggles as well as the church’s witness and actions in our world today, we need to be clear on one thing, and that is this:

What these men are saying in public, thousands, perhaps millions, are wrestling with in private.

Faith is, as Scripture says, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Not a month passes when I don’t wish I could tangibly see Jesus—to sit side-by-side with him and have him wrap his arms around me, to hear his response to my concerns of our day—the railing injustices, the out-of-bounds verbal comments, the hopes that die daily in the hearts of so many because of life circumstances. And I weep.

We are living in a time when our faith is tested frequently. It is no longer possible (if it ever was) to gather in a holy huddle, fingers in ears, humming “La, la, la.” Doing so is anathema as a world around us cries out for justice and peace and kindness and love—something the church, when at its best, can offer in overflowing measure.

To top it off, being Christian isn’t what you’d call ‘popular’ today, depending upon where you live. When once it was considered culturally appropriate to call yourself a Christian, today more than in past decades we must ask ourselves, “Is this really something I believe?” because it will inevitably have ramifications—maybe not today, but one day.

We will be asked the hard questions of racial and gender equality. We will be asked the challenging questions of bigotry and seeking forgiveness.

So the reality, made even more prominent by these popular Christian leaders’ public professions, is before us: many, too many, are questioning what it really means to be a Christian today.

Far from being bad, this is actually an opportunity for all of us to consider what it means to question what we believe and how we live.

Let me share just a few thoughts on where we go from here.

First, we rediscover the lost art of lament.

Lament is the foremost course of action when we read of people struggling with faith. Lament is the pathway to understanding and rediscovering God, who welcomes us all, whether we come in a flurry of laughter or a veil of tears. (Now might be a good time to listen to Amy Grant’s Better Than a Hallelujah.)

Lament is the deep cry in our souls that all is not right and that our deepest questions are borne out of the conviction that things ought not be as they are.

As many around us struggle to understand the relevance of the Christian faith today, we must sit with them (metaphorically and physically) and weep. True empathy never emerges in a vacuum; it only comes into fruition when we have sought to truly understand what another is going through.

May the heart-cry of the church be that no one ever wrestles with issues of faith alone. Instead, face buried, we seek to understand how God can answer even the hardest question.

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Source: Christianity Today