Faith encompasses your core values and beliefs that have shaped your life and who you are. This is why a faith crisis can feel so threatening—it’s also an identity crisis. A crisis of faith might cause you to question whether you want to remain affiliated with your religion. It might cheapen the value of spiritual experiences you’ve had in the past. It might also make you ask yourself if spirituality itself is something you want in your life. Navigating the forest of a faith crisis can feel impossible, even hopeless, but you can survive it. In fact, you may even find yourself thankful for it.
What is Faith?
Before we dive into how to deal with a faith crisis, let’s review what faith itself means. Faith is foundational to who you are. It’s related to your perception of the world and how you find meaning in life. Faith isn’t necessarily synonymous with religion—religion is a way people practice and build faith. In a previous article about faith, I wrote:
“Faith is a web of experiences, ideas, and personal truths making up what you want to believe—not something you have or possess, but something you feel and express…For me, faith looks a lot like trusting something. It's a quiet confidence that penetrates day-to-day stresses. Sometimes, I feel a lot of confidence in myself: in my inherent goodness and worthiness. Other times, I trust that other people are kind and trying their best. And sometimes, I feel positive about a God who is aware of me and who will nurture the world. The end goal of my faith is to connect deeper to my truest self and to have a more beautiful life that way.”
Your faith is a big part of your identity. This is particularly true for people who grew up in a certain religious framework. The religion you practice and its beliefs influence who you become. As you experience more and more of life, your attitude towards those beliefs—towards your faith—will evolve.
Ideally, what you go through in life will always help your faith grow in a very clear-cut way. Unfortunately, that’s not always how it goes. You might fall into a rut and get spiritually stuck. Or you might walk straight into a faith crisis.
Embrace Your Crisis of Faith
A crisis of faith is when doubts about your spiritual beliefs threaten to destroy your perception of reality. It’s hard for faith to exist without at least a level of doubt, or at least a level of uncertainty. So there’s a degree of doubt that’s normal to have as a spiritual person. But when doubts cause a crack in your foundation of faith, they transform into a faith crisis.
What you believe in terms of spirituality shapes how you see the world, so when you start to question those beliefs, it can be terrifying. It’s scary, it’s unfamiliar, and it often makes you feel guilty for even having those doubts. But who said faith was supposed to be a predictable experience? Faith looks different for everyone, so are you really doing something wrong if some doubts wriggle their way into your spiritual self?
In fact, a faith crisis might not be quite as awful as you think it is. Austin Fischer, who wrote a book about the purpose of doubt, said: “A crisis of faith is often an expression of faith instead of a failure of faith…crises of faith should be expected and embraced instead of resisted because they’re an invitation to a deeper, truer faith.” It’s hard to imagine what this would look like in practice. Embracing your faith crisis? That sounds impossible. Read on to see how you can embrace your crisis of faith.
The First Step to Embracing a Faith Crisis
When you’re in a faith crisis, the first thing you need to do is figure out why it’s so important for you to get through it. Because it is worth it! You just need to have a clear sense of why it is worth it for you. Your pastor, your parents, your friends—everyone will have a different opinion. But they’re not you. So when you find yourself in a crisis of faith, take a step back and think about it for a moment.
Here are some questions to get you thinking. Take a moment to write your thoughts in your journal or your phone if that’s helpful for you.
● What good things has my faith brought me in the past?
● What good things do I want for my future? Does my faith contribute to these things?
● What would change in my life if I chose to step away from my faith? Am I willing to live with that change?
● What do I want to gain from this crisis of faith?
Answering these questions can help you put things into perspective and give you clear motivation. A faith crisis can feel big and serious in the moment (and it is), but you can feel grounded by remembering the good that your faith has brought into your life.
Faith Crisis In the Context of Religion
When your crisis of faith involves a specific religion, things get more difficult. Maybe this religion has played a huge role in your life, and having all these doubts about it makes you feel torn. It may seem like the only two options are to deny your doubts and stay or to fold to your doubts and leave. However, there is a gray area in between, where you can live. One of our previous articles has said:
“Typically, when you identify with a religious sect, you resonate with its belief system. But you don’t necessarily have to agree with everything to benefit from practicing the religion. You can embrace the good that comes from that particular religion and give yourself space to work through the stuff that doesn’t sit well with you. Perhaps you value the community aspect or appreciate the routine that religion brings to your life. Because religion is so much about ritual, you can still appreciate the significance of the practice without fully embracing the tenets. You can also integrate multiple religions into your personal faith landscape, building your own frame of spirituality.”
Religion helps many people feel closer to God and to others, and it often helps them set goals to be better people. Whatever you choose to do regarding religion, you don’t need to abandon your spirituality. Leaving behind your spirituality would be leaving behind the most authentic part of yourself. You are a spiritual being, and you will be happier when you’re connected to your spiritual center. If you haven’t already, start a spiritual wellness practice to spend time with your soul on a regular basis.
Find Your Spiritual Beliefs Through a Crisis of Faith
Spiritual doubts can be scary. Especially if they’re changing your worldview. There are ways to work through your doubts, but you first need to stop denying they’re there. Giving your doubts space to breathe and exist makes room for faith to open up and grow. Take your questions to your higher power. Whatever you’re feeling—angry, confused, hopeless—you don’t need to hide it from God, who knows you better than anyone else. And keep searching until you find an answer.
Don’t get caught up in finding the right answer—think instead about finding your right answer, or your truth. What works for you spiritually might not work for someone else. Through seeking answers to your questions, you can solidify your personal spiritual beliefs. In the Skylight app, mindfulness teacher Thomas McConkie shares how to discover your spiritual beliefs:
“There's a metaphor I like, of singing in tune. Not all of us are musical, but imagine you’re musical if you're not, and you just hear when something's on the right pitch. Like everything about it is just harmonious. I believe humans have a really deep intuition of what they love and that really good things happen when we allow ourselves to love what we love. And when we love what we love, life becomes simple. It becomes more effortless, even in the midst of great effort. And, you know, we find ourselves not believing at the level of mind so much as like belief expressed. Every movement, everything we love, and everything we give and offer is our deepest belief. And it comes from just, you know, trusting your nose.”
Your intuition is pretty powerful once you know how to tune into it. It’s an untapped power that can help you overcome your doubts and embrace your faith crisis. If you need inspiration, check out these four ways to improve your intuition or four ways to overcome doubts.
Don’t Lose Sight of Yourself
A crisis of faith is overwhelming, for sure, but if you stay connected to yourself, you’ll be okay, no matter what. You are the most important element in this journey! Don’t forget that. It’s easy to get lost in the craziness that is a crisis of faith, so make sure to remember yourself and what you truly want.
Be patient with your higher power and with yourself. It can take a little while for these things to work themselves out. If you embrace your faith crisis, you’ll come out of it more spiritually strong than ever.