I’ve been in a weird spot with my faith lately.
There’s so much negativity going on in the world — people displaced from their homes, families torn apart, and humans committing violence against each other. Like many, I have my own personal difficulties, too — the recent death of my brother and the smaller, daily struggles of tense relationships.
Through all of this, I’ve learned that there are many parts of my childhood faith that simply couldn’t hold up when things got hard. Lately, that has meant I am working through a lot of difficult questions. I’m spending a lot of time trying to figure out how I feel about things that I used to feel so certain about and it’s been a long, emotional road.
During this whole process, there has been a recurring gap in my life that old spiritual practices used to fill. Some days, prayer feels like too much of struggle. Many days, I feel frustrated or confused by scriptures, so I keep my Bible on my shelf. Right now, I feel comfortable with letting spiritual practices fall by the wayside when they don’t feel authentic, but that also leaves my spiritual life feeling empty.
It might be true that I’m wrestling with a lot of questions about my faith, but I still want to stay connected with my spiritual side. I want to keep up spiritual practices that feel true to where I’m at, so I reached out to a few friends who have been in a similar spot and here is what they suggested I try:
Connecting with nature
Sometimes I need to get out of my own head. When a friend suggested that, on days when prayer felt difficult and awkward, I spend time in silence outdoors instead, it felt right.
Taking her advice, I’ve left my earbuds at home more often when I head out on walks. I’ve been paying more attention to the world around me instead of getting lost in my thoughts. I’ve been seeking out places to sit or explore that are beautiful and captivating, and it is so refreshing to my soul. This time in creation doesn’t fix the heartache in the world or my questions about how my faith is relevant when there is so much pain, but it helps me to feel less untethered.
Reading memoirs and literature
When I find myself frustrated or confused by Scripture, and I often do, I’m not sure what to read that will fill me up or offer me comfort. Another friend suggested I stop overthinking it, that I start reaching for any and all books that speak truth and point out beauty in the world.
Specifically, she suggested I pick up a few memoirs and look for ways I connect with their personal journeys, spiritual or otherwise. Following her advice, I’ve recently read “The Glass Castle” and “The Sound of Gravel.” I’ve got several more on my “to read” list.
Memoirs haven’t been the only reading that has felt spiritual lately. Good literature with strong characters and poetry about nature are daily reminders of the good and beautiful things in our world.
Appreciating times of silence
As much as I want to honor my questions and explore my doubts, I also know that I easily get caught up in anxiety over what is going on in my head. I think it is totally possible to give fears or frustrations too much attention, especially when you’re a highly sensitive person.
I’m working on finding that balance by regularly practicing meditation and silence. I’m learning to quiet my thoughts and just be present in the world. For me, this often looks like crawling into my bed at night and giving myself permission to rest my brain, to stop thinking about figuring everything out.
I’ve written before about gratitude and how important going out of my way to be grateful has been during times of pain. Keeping this practice up has been an essential spiritual practice for me and will continue to be a priority in my life.
Times of doubt and questioning aren’t abnormal. I believe that faith evolves during times like these. I also believe that it is important to stay connected to what we know to be true. Gratitude serves as a reminder for me that I am surrounded by goodness everyday and that redemption is happening in the world even when I’m struggling to feel hopeful.
By paying attention to the good things that surround me every day, I’m reminded that, despite the challenges, there is also beauty to be found.
Originally published on September 7, 2018.