It’s a scary place, trapped in the purgatory between fear and faltering, when your faith is shaken and questions seem at once to be the only safe space and the result for one whose belief just isn’t quite strong enough.
But perhaps questions aren’t anathema to faith. Perhaps the searching — if one is willing to endure it with patience and humility — is an opportunity for enriched belief and deeper understanding.
Lisa Gungor, half of the popular Christian worship duo behind songs like “Beautiful Things” and “Dry Bones,” said during a recent interview with Relevant that she’s “trying to live in the way of love and the way of Jesus the best I know how.”
But that hasn’t always been the case.
Both Lisa and her husband, Michael, were raised in Christian homes, steeped in the faith traditions that punctuate most religious experiences in America. Their relationship with one another — “We sang worship songs to each other,” Lisa recalled — was rooted deeply in Christianity.
“It was all Christian romance,” she explained. “So it was a huge shock when he said that to me. We were traveling the world and singing songs about God, and he didn’t believe any of it.”
Not long before, Lisa remembered, she and Michael were in Denver “having some kind of theological debate” when her husband unloaded about his own struggle with unbelief. Ultimately, she said, he told her, “I don’t believe in God anymore.”
That rattled her.
Lisa said she “loved the story of Jesus growing up,” referencing her own spiritual encounters in her “very wild charismatic church,” one she said felt in a way “revolutionary.” But she always had questions — questions she felt were unsafe to ask. Michael’s experience was similar.
The shaky ground between fear and faltering created a “tension in our faith,” she said, and when she was finally able to ask those burning questions, her faith crumbled, so much so that she and Michael were “kicked out of the church for some of the beliefs that we had.”
As a result, both Lisa and Michael entered into an incredible season of doubt, unsure not only of what they believed but of who God was. Michael, for one year, identified as an atheist.
“I remember just freezing in my body,” Lisa told BuzzFeed News of her husband’s newfound rejection of God. “Because I was OK with the questions. But I wasn’t OK with that.”
All this happened as the couple was still touring, leading thousands of people in worship, and Lisa was pregnant with their second child — a child they prayed for yet at the same time felt guilty taking to God because of the intense pain and suffering around the world. Their prayer, Lisa said, felt frivolous.
But Michael had rejected God entirely. Lisa said his atheism gave him a sense of “freedom,” though she was weighted down by intense anxiety.
“I’m just struggling hard to still belong and be OK,” she recalled.
Then their daughter Lucy was born. She was diagnosed with Down syndrome. For one day, Lisa said, she identified as an atheist.
Now, though, she’s not sure how to define her faith. It’s not clear if the Gungors’ questions pushed them toward deeper faith, though for a season, it certainly led them away from God. Lisa doesn’t ascribe any sort of faith title to her beliefs anymore.
“I think labels and definitions can be good and helpful sometimes,” she explained. “But if there’s anything I’ve learned about having a child labeled as ‘Down syndrome,’ it’s that labels are reductive.”
Lisa told BuzzFeed News she and her husband “don’t want what we used to have” because they “live in a different headspace now.” It should be noted, of course, that the couple announced a few years ago they no longer interpret the Bible’s stories literally.
“There’s no you and I, there’s no winners and losers,” she said. “Part of my dream is that people wouldn’t be so scared and afraid. I know a lot of people are still in this very conservative fundamental bubble and they can be so afraid to break out of that fear of what will happen to their lives. And this happens in any religion.”
Questions are certainly OK; they are part of the faith experience. But questions — when asked in humility, with patience, and with the understanding that answers might not always arrive plainly and quickly — shouldn’t drive one away from faith in Christ.
When faith is faltering, don’t live in fear. Follow after Scripture and seek the Lord.