I had a short conversation with a new friend a couple of days ago who expressed to me that while he liked several aspects of my faith, there were just a couple of teachings he couldn’t accept. After we spoke, I realized that he and I aren’t so different, because I too know of Christian doctrines I’m not yet willing to accept. They’re not the same doubts he has, but they are doubts for sure. In fact, as far as I can tell, this is a universally common part of Christian discipleship: we like much of what the Savior teaches, but we need increased faith if we, like Peter, are going to follow Him out onto the water and believe ALL of it.
Following Christ is scary!
In many ways, I feel like the rich young man, who when the Master said “keep the commandments” responded “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” Jesus said to him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
(Side note: This has been happening to me a lot lately — when I read the scriptures, I identify more with the villain than with the hero. Is that normal?)
Before sharing what I think should be done about this, I want to pause and acknowledge the validity of these fears. When Peter was trying to walk out on the water to meet Jesus, I can totally see why he was scared! It was late at night. They were far from the shore. I’m not sure Peter even knew how to swim. And he wasn’t completely sure it was Jesus who invited him out. And when the wind started to pick up too, it all became too much for Peter, and he began to sink.
What I’m trying to say is: if you feel fear in your heart about the idea of more fully accepting Christ in your life, you are not alone. You might worry what others will say. You might worry about what pleasures you’ll have to give up. You might worry about how much work it will take. You might worry that it all turns out to be a lie and you have wasted your life. You might worry that you will fail. These are NORMAL FEARS, and they wouldn’t be called fears if they weren’t scary. And the truth is: they may never fully go away, at least not in this lifetime, but it has been my experience that in time they can and do fade. I love the words of Jeffrey R. Holland who said “Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe.”
What I DO believe
So yes, I have fears. I have doubts. There are teachings of Jesus I am definitely not ready to accept and may not be ready to accept for a long time. But I’m okay with that, primarily because the sweetness and the peace that comes to me because of what I DO believe has been so strong for me that it justifies enduring some discomfort while my fears get sorted out.
In that spirit, I want to share with you a few things things I DO know for certain:
1. There is a God, and He loves us. I feel Him in the beauty of nature, in the power of a storm, and in the tenderness of a baby’s face. I have never seen Him with my eyes, but on sacred occasions I have certainly felt his presence, and I would bet my life that he’s there for us.
2. Jesus Christ showed us the perfect way to live. That way includes putting God’s will before our own, seeing the value in every soul, returning love for hate, and serving others. He is THE model to follow, and the only perfect being to ever walk the earth.
3. Relationships can stay with us beyond the grave. Again, I have not witnessed this with my own eyes, but I do feel from the depth of my soul that we will be with those we love again after we die.
4. One of the reasons we’re here is to build character. Life is full of challenges, some of them small, and others unfathomably painful. My heart aches when I or those I love are called to endure challenges, but I do believe that in the end “all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (DC 122:7)
These are beautiful beliefs, and they have brought significant peace and guidance to me in my journey. I have other beliefs too, and I’m adding to them every day. If this pattern keeps up, and I believe it will, I can see how it just might be possible — with eternity on our side — to someday receive the peace and rest Jesus has promised us.
With much love,