Faith After Doubt, a Personal Story

A reader writes:

Good day Brian,

I know you may not get a chance to read this. But in case you do or have a moment where you need to hear a story about how your work is helping people, hopefully this can serve that purpose.
I wanted to thank you for your most recent book Faith After Doubt. It has helped me work through my bewilderment as a recovering conservative evangelical.
Ironically, this is all happening during one of the most difficult times for me and my family. [He explains deep grief that struck his family, including the death of his mother.]
I started your book in early January during a bit of a lull in this crisis during a wilderness trip with a good friend. I was thinking a lot about doubt, and simplicity, and deconstruction. And grief…. I was trying to make sense of the fact that the simplicity and even complexity of my evangelical roots had barely anything REAL to comfort me right now. At its core that is. People who are within the camp, so to speak, set aside the core message of the “gospel centered” conservative message to comfort through empathy and care. But what the hell could substitutionary atonement have to do with the bewilderment of me and my family’s current suffering? And when I peeked back into the evangelical sphere from time to time on twitter or blogs etc, all I saw was fear and hypocrisy and petty, bitter fights and “battles for the faith”. How could I possibly come to find true affinity with a group that believes a sociological theory (CRT) is the greatest existential threat to their existence? Not rampant incidences of sexual abuse in the church and failure to care for victims. Not white supremacy and christian nationalism. Not a complete disregard for marginalized people. Not hatred and rejection of LBTQA+ people. Not building a church culture of consumption with no regard for the future of the planet or the species. CRT. Liberals. Thats the problem….
I sat in the silence of [the wilderness] looking out into the beauty and frozen wilderness, and thought, “this moment is teaching me how to grieve and to suffer more than any sermon or pastoral counseling I ever received. Why is that?”
Your book stepped into the void of that questioning to give me hope and a feeling of community with others who are asking these questions of faith and trying to make sense of our lives. My deconstruction started 5 years ago with both anger at the tradition I grew up in as well as a hopefulness of, “there MUST be more than this!”. Yet as the feelings of anger and frustration grew, the wonder of what might be AFTER this waned. It left me in full on stage 3 perplexity. I have been there for a little over 2 years now. But as suffering and grief grew, so grew my craving of the wonder and awe of what COULD be in the ability to find harmony in my faith. I needed help charting these waters. It was scary. Knowing others were trying to do this too and that what I was feeling was felt by so many others was more helpful and hope inspiring than I can even express in words. For that, I thank you, sincerely. You have helped me move forward and “make the road by walking” through grief and doubt.
It’s so strange. I feel a tension as I try to find God in this place of suffering. I kind of wish I could go back to the simplicity of “God is sovereign” or “God took my mom because in his divine providence, this is for all of our good”. Maybe that would make this easier. And yet, now here in the dust and ashes of grief, like Job, simple answers do not work. They actually feel repulsive in a way. At the same time, just tearing down the structures of fundamentalism as a response to suffering feels wrong too. I need a hope, a promise to hold onto. Where does that come from? Faith expressing itself as love. Seeing this in the very heart of God even when I cannot wrap my mind around the mystery of his ways is about all I can do. Seeing it in the hopefulness of others like yourself or other guides like Father Rohr, Diana Butler Bass, and many others who refuse to work to lead and inspire others. Inspiring us to walk forward in fearless expectant hope of what we cannot totally predict or control but what is a loving more beautiful future.
Anyway, I have probably written too long an email. But I felt a need to say thank you since your book and your perseverant ministry has helped me more than I can express. Regrettably, I remember reading Generous Orthodoxy and Secret Message of Jesus 10-12 years ago to understand how to craft argumentative apologetics against the progressives seeking to distort the gospel. I remember mocking a friend who was a part of your church as a theological lightweight if he went to a church like yours. I have many regrets from that time as a young stupid youth pastor. But I am grateful for the patience of others and of God who let my world crumble in the best way possible. And I am thankful you pushed forward in faith and did not cave when cruelty came for you and those you were close to. My respect and gratitude for how you continued forward, even without judgement or noticeable hate or resentment of those who rejected you is a great inspiration to me. For that I am eternally grateful. May you be encouraged that even some who at one point spoke ill of you, at some point began looking to you as a sage and a guide.
Thank you for persevering with this wandering email if you have read it! No expectations on a response, just a hope that it might bring you joy at some point. Take care and be well daily walking out faith expressing itself as love.
Thanks for these kind words. My prayers are with you and your family in this time of grief.
For all who are exploring new territory in their faith and who are experiencing criticism, rejection, or even persecution, I want to pass on to you this reader’s encouragement to me: May you be encouraged that even some who at one point spoke ill of you, at some point began looking to you as a sage and a guide. 
If you’re interested in Faith After Doubt, you can order it here.