For most black women church was an essential part of our childhood. Life just wasn’t life without it. Christianity wasn’t a choice. Your mother or grandmother or aunt weren’t trying to hear that you were looking at other options. Questioning was rebellion and doubt was a dirty word that you wouldn’t dare confess.
Leaving the church is one of the hardest decisions that a black woman can make. ‘Church’ isn’t just a building where you attend a meeting every Sunday. In the context of the black community, it is part of how you define yourself: first as someone’s child, then as a woman and finally as a member of the community. In many ways, losing your faith means leaving behind a belief about who you’ve always thought you were.
Related: How To Be Yourself
It always begins with doubt. You go through experiences that make you question whether God is really there. You wonder whether what you believe is really true. If you’re like me, you deal with those doubts silently because you’re a little bit ashamed of them and you worry that voicing them will lead to rejection. It’s a slow burn. The doubts grow until you decide that you can no longer pretend, so you take the leap because you’re tired of pretending to be a believer when you have no belief left.
I want you to know that you’re not the only one who has struggled with doubt. I think it’s time to bring our doubts into the open, recognise them for what they are and begin to understand them. And hey, I’m not here to judge or disrespect you. I’m here to speak honestly about something that’s important.
Why do we lose our faith in God? We all have different reasons but these are the most common that I’ve seen:
1. Our faith is not personal.
If your family have been churchgoing, Bible-believing, demon slaying Christians for generations, then you are expected to be one too. You follow the rules, not because you love God, but to avoid hell or to spare yourself the wrath of your elders (which in some ways seems worse than the fiery pit). When you don’t have a relationship with God it’s impossible to work out your doubts with him because you think of him as a cosmic Santa in the sky who knows what you’ve been up to and is waiting to throw some lightning down to punish you, not as God the Father.
2. Our pain make us think.
If God is real how could he let this happen to me? Pain might move you closer to God or further away from him, but one thing is for sure: it will make you think. Your dad abandoning you will make you question the truth of God as a loving Father. Molestation and rape will leave you feeling violated and angry. A lover’s betrayal will mean you’ll struggle to trust. Our experiences confirm our doubts: God isn’t real and if he is, he doesn’t care.
3. Our pride won’t let us go deeper.
Spiritual pride is the belief that you have what it takes to run your own life, outside of God. ‘Who runs the world? Girls.’ We can make the money, raise the kids and lead nations. Take it further and we can define our own sense of self worth and meaning. Humility compels us to go deeper and find greater purpose outside of ourselves. Humility forces us to confront our limitations and pursue that greater value until we find him.
Where do we go from here? (Why’s my heart filled with so much fear?)
As I hum the tune to Deborah Cox’s song I’m thinking about the fact that there’s actually no such thing as ‘losing our faith’. What we’re actually doing is placing our faith in something else.
Underlying our doubt is a belief: the belief that God isn’t real. It’s still faith.
Where is your hope? That is the question. It’s the biggest question because the answer determines everything – what you spend our money on, what work you do, who you marry and how we live.
We need to live according to personal convictions. We need to wrestle with our pain. We need to lay down our pride and begin to question and search.
I want to continue this conversation with you. Subscribe by email to get my next post to your inbox. Want to get in touch with me? Email me at realmukoko[at]gmail[dot]com.