THINGS TO KNOW WHEN SOMEONE YOU CARE ABOUT IS GOING THROUGH A FAITH CRISIS

I don't love the term "faith crisis."

I prefer to think of it as a faith transition; one that begins with questions and then shifts, and, as it continues to shift and transform, it brings the person going through it toward a different state of understanding and, sometimes, beliefs.

Whatever you might call it, and whatever it represents to you, the chances are, you might know someone experiencing such an ordeal. It might be confusing, and even difficult to watch, especially if it's someone you care about.

Here are some things to know about what they're going through.



IT'S A PROCESS 

It might have started months, even years, before you came to be aware. There might be months, or years, left. Even then, it's hard to put a definitive end on such a thing. I've read in a few places that it's a process that lasts, on average, ten years. It's a cycle of obsessively seeking answers to questions, only to come up with more questions in doing so.

It takes time and sometimes necessitates breaks from thinking about it. You shouldn't expect it to be wrapped up quickly, and no one wants it to be wrapped up more than the person going through it.


THEIR FAITH IS NOT COMPLETELY GONE

It's changing- evolving- but it hasn't disappeared together, despite what it might look like to you. The fact that they're going through this is testament to that. Convictions they once held close are fraught with doubt, and they might find that they no longer support, or even believe in, ideas and concepts that once seemed unshakeable. For many, this is a time to reevaluate what and who their faith is in, and, strange as it might seem, an opportunity to deepen that faith.

Incidentally, this is not the result of a lack of faith. Or prayer. It's just not.


IT'S NOT SOMETHING FOR YOU TO FIX

Your friend or loved one doesn't expect you to fix this for them because it's not something that can be fixed. There are no easy solutions or answers, rather, there's a lot of emotions to go through and many difficult questions to ask. If they are confiding in you, there's a good chance they value your ability to listen, and a non-judgemental, listening ear is probably just what they need. Your own testimony and personal faith are not enough to sustain them.


IT LIKELY GOES DEEPER THAN YOU MIGHT REALIZE

You might assume to know the root of their crisis, but these things are often multi-faceted. A concern with one area can easily give way to concerns with another. One can quickly find themselves immersed and completely overwhelmed, when, to someone on the outside, it appears to just be a surface level issue. Sorting through it all is complicated and can feel like they're untangling what they do believe from a web of what they no longer find to be true.


IT IS DIFFICULT

This should go without saying, but just in case, it's not an easy thing to experience. It's mentally exhausting and, because so much of it involves being tied up in one's own thoughts, it's tough to get a break. There's so much doubt and uncertainty involved, as well as varying stages of anger, resentment, and sadness, not unlike the grieving process.

A faith crisis can be all-consuming. It might be all a person wants to talk about because it might be all they can think about, and that can cause the guilt of feeling like a burden. Having a spouse and children to consider can make it more difficult. Marriages and other relationships can easily become strained.

It's stressful, to put it simply, and no one wants to live in a state of constant stress.


THE END RESULT IS NOT PREDICTABLE

Some people end up leaving the church, while some find a way to stay. Others have every hope to stay, but ultimately end up leaving, or at the very least, become inactive. The reality is that a person going through a faith crisis is not going to come out of it the same person they were when they went into it.

Your relationship might change, depending on what it was to begin with. If this is someone you only interacted with at church, it's possible they'll keep you at a distance. If you're close, and can offer continued support and acceptance, you might grow closer. It's not likely, however, that you'll be able to sway them one way or another.


IT'S NOT THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD

It's difficult, draining, and sometimes terrifying. Relationships are tested and some are ultimately lost. It's not enjoyable, and few people, if anyone, would knowingly choose it, but it can be a catalyst for significant positive change. The personal growth that comes from an experience such as this is hard won, but most all of those on the other side of it say it's worth the struggle.

A faith crisis might not be something you experience, and it might be hard to understand. You might be holding tightly to the very beliefs your friend or loved one has come to doubt. Neither is wrong, and both would be right to extend love and mutual respect to the other.

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