What Happens to a Marriage if One of You Has a Crisis of Faith?

by | Sep 30, 2019 | Faith, Uncategorized | 78 comments

Can Your Marriage Survive a Crisis of Faith?
Merchandise is Here!

Does Jesus have to be the centre of your marriage for your marriage to survive? Could that teaching even be dangerous?

After I wrote a post recently about how non-Christians can have good marriages, someone who has been following this blog sent me an email about how a crisis of faith has actually made her marriage to her husband stronger. I’m going to post that email in a minute, but I want to tell you a bit about a journey that Keith and I went through, and are still going through, to explain what she’s talking about.

I’ve been a Christian all my life; Keith became a Christian when he was 18.

We met in university, and he was totally on fire for God. God was definitely the centre of our marriage when we wed. But God in a very distinct way: God with all the trappings of the evangelical church.

The first big shift came when our son was born with a terminal illness.

We had people say to us, “Just have faith and God will work a miracle,” which is a terrible thing to say to parents in our situation, because it implies that if your child dies it’s because you didn’t have enough faith. We prayed and prayed, and Christopher did not get healed. I held on, but Keith went through a dry spell when he couldn’t figure out the purpose of prayer.

With that as the background, a few years later he went through a full-blown crisis of faith.

The crisis was two-pronged: One, when he became a Christian, Keith tried to give up his belief in evolution, because he thought he had to. But when it came down to it, he believed the science showed that the earth was very, very old. He believed that God could use evolution and then intervene, setting humanity apart. But he was told that to believe this would mean he didn’t believe in Jesus. Our church even had a Sunday School class called: “Do You Choose God or Do You Choose Evolution?”

So he read all the books on creation science he could get his hands on, to convince him, and it made it worse. The books were dishonest. They were quoting scientific studies to show what those studies didn’t show; or they were using studies that were debunked. It made him think: “Why are Christians being so intellectually dishonest?”

At the same time, I had been leading a praise team at church, and I caused a crisis because, my first day up, between two songs I said, “As you sing this next song, take the burdens of the week, and set them before the cross. Let them go, and just look at Jesus.” And then, another time, I said a two sentence prayer. So the deacon’s board decided to debate, for a whole year, whether I was allowed to do that because I was a woman.

My husband was on the deacon’s board, and he was put in the position of having to defend his wife. Keith said he felt it was like taking a tour of a sausage factory: He saw how decisions were actually made in church, and it thoroughly depressed him.

On two fronts he felt that Christians had bad motives, and he couldn’t reconcile this with the Jesus he was supposed to be following.

A Man Having a Crisis of Faith: Can Your Marriage Survive?

For quite a while, he didn’t talk to me about it.

He was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. He tried to broach the subject once, but I balked. I was scared out of my mind. I was honestly sure that my husband was going to stop believing in God, and then what was I going to do?

We ended up leaving that church, and have since landed at a good one. Keith spent a few months memorizing the Sermon on the Mount (the whole thing) so that he could get back to the words of Jesus. But for quite a while  that side of our relationship was virtually cut off from each other, because Keith felt like he couldn’t tell me his doubts. If he did, I couldn’t emotionally handle it.

Keith and I going through the crisis of faith

What helped us was not our spiritual life together but instead the principles about stopping the drift and engaging with each other’s emotions that I talk about in this free 5 week email course. It took me a while to be objective enough about this that I could be a safe place for Keith, but I did get there once I let myself just listen:

Recently it became my turn to have a crisis of faith.

 Everything–Christopher’s death and the meaning of prayer; the dishonesty of many evangelical institutions; everything–it all came crashing down on me, culminating this year.

This may sound silly, but I never actually read many Christian marriage books until this year (I only made an exception when I read one to give an endorsement). I started writing in 2003, and my biggest concern was that I’d plagiarize someone, so I wanted to keep my thoughts my own. But I assumed that other authors were like me, wanting to help people create healthy, intimate marriage relationships.

When I read Love & Respect, it was as if someone shot a cannon right through my worldview. If a woman lived out Emerson Eggerichs’ full instructions, she would not be emotionally healthy. It would be a toxic relationship, especially in the area of sex. How could Christians be spreading this kind of stuff? How could people not see how damaging it is? I’m still reeling, especially combined with how the Southern Baptist Church is handling its sexual abuse scandal.

Anyway, I’ve been grieving, heavily, all year. I’m spending this year only reading the gospels, and nothing else. I want to see Jesus’ words with new eyes. I want to get back to the heart of Jesus, which was the same journey my husband took several years ago.

And that’s the same journey that my reader has taken: A crisis of faith has deepened her walk with Jesus, but labeled her a troublemaker.

For some background, she came from a church with all the markings that I described in this post on legalistic churches. And she’s been following what I’ve been writing about submission and about the toxic teaching that’s often given to women, as I explain in this post on the ultimate flaw in the Love & Respect book–which is the same flaw that many churches have when it comes to women. We tell women that they should worry about making their husbands happy rather than making Jesus happy.

Here’s her story:


When I first realized my faith was shifting, I felt like I could not share it with my husband because I was truly afraid he would no longer love me and reject me. I thought changing my beliefs would destroy my marriage, so I stuffed it down for as long as I could. Until I couldn’t anymore. Thankfully I found blogs like yours and others that are asking some hard questions about the teachings we’ve been handed, so I gradually began to gather the strength to speak up no matter the cost.

I wish I could say that I was pleasantly surprised to find that it didn’t destroy my marriage, but the truth is that is almost did.

My husband felt totally betrayed by my changing beliefs. Eventually the word “divorce” came up for the first time in our marriage. But it actually turned out that my husband was afraid that I was going to leave him (whereas I thought he might leave me); he feared that my faith-deconstruction was going to lead me to eventually deconstruct our marriage. And that because I feel that this bad theology is toxic, he assumed that meant that I believe that he is toxic too. (I don’t.) In short, we both believed that we ARE what we believe, that our faith is the whole of our identity.

But that just isn’t true. My faith has changed but I am more myself than ever before. A marriage built on beliefs that can shift is a fragile one. 

We finally had an excellent conversation recently that majorly repaired our relationship, in which I explained that I am committed to him despite any number of changing beliefs, and that I believe we were lied to when we were taught that we will automatically be distant and disconnected just because we have drastically different belief systems. I explained that I fully believe it is possible to be close and connected no matter how different we are, as long as we choose “togetherness.”

We promise to be together. Period. No matter what changes. We promise to find a way to be together. In short, commitment. Marriage needs to be built on commitment and mutual respect despite differences. That you can still have unity without uniformity; in fact, that is kind of the entire point of the gospel, is it not? To bring unity without uniformity? And perhaps it is the churches that insist on uniformity that have strayed the furthest from the gospel, to the point where I love Jesus more than ever yet am told I am not a Christian because I will not conform to one denomination’s precise doctrines.

Anyway, that’s my current soapbox.

We supposedly have an “unequally yoked” marriage now because our beliefs are very different, and yet I feel like our marriage is in many ways healthier than it was before.

It’s still super messy, don’t get me wrong. But I think we both feel safer and more loved and secure now that our marriage is NOT based on shared belief but on actual commitment to each other.

And we are now free to quit being the “thought police” and squeezing each other into these tiny preconceived boxes but we can be fully ourselves, because we know that we are loved and accepted anyway. Despite any shifting sands.

Staying Close Despite a Crisis of Faith

So… we’ve made progress. SOOO much progress. We are trying a new church that I know can’t be a long term home for me personally, but it feels like a good stepping stone for now.

I can tell you from my other online groups that this is one of the most common questions asked by those experiencing a faith shift; will my marriage survive?

For those who married because of their similar (usually fundamentalist) beliefs, regrettably the answer is often no.

I think it’s “two become one” teaching gone wrong. People grow and change, and so do our faith and beliefs. This is not only inevitable but healthy. No two people are going to have identical (uniform) beliefs on every issue all the time. Our marriages ought to be built on a foundation that cannot be shaken by our evolving faith. Can we build relationships that hold plenty of space for two very different people with two very different belief systems to enjoy each other together in one marriage?

I believe we can. It’s as simple (though not easy) as committing to be together and refusing to let our differences cause distance.

And I think that’s beautiful.


I think she’s right. The Holy Spirit works in all of us at different times, and my fear was actually stopping Keith from a faith journey he was supposed to be on (one that I would later join him on). It didn’t lead us away from Jesus; it brought us closer to Jesus, but further from our church, and that’s okay. But as my reader realized, if we’re told that a certain set of church’s doctrines determine the health of your relationship, that can be awfully dangerous shifting sand.

It goes the other way, too. I have known two women who divorced their husbands because their husbands weren’t strong Christians, and thus they felt their marriages were invalid, since they weren’t equally yoked.

Your marriage is about the two of you committing to one another, not about the two of you staying a particular denomination. Do that, and leave room for God to work, without feeling that you have to control each other.

And that, in the end, really can be beautiful.

Have you ever gone through a faith shift like this, where one of you felt like you had to leave a church? What happened? Let’s talk in the comments!

Have you ever gone through a faith shift like this, where one of you felt like you had to leave a church? What happened? Let’s talk in the comments!

Like this post? You should also check out:

10 Signs You’re in a Legalistic Church

Are You Following a Legalistic View of Marriage?

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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78 Comments

  1. K K

    I appreciate this so much! Since the time we were engaged and through our marriage my husband and I have both gone through struggles with faith and various doctrines. I never thought our current situation would happen though. My husband was studying Bible in college when we married. It raised a lot of questions that he wasn’t equipped to handle. Guilt from the way he was raised surfaced too. Now a few years into marriage he is no longer a believer. It makes things very complicated, but we love each other and are committed to each other. People change. Commitment doesn’t have to. I think the hardest part is that we have young kids and we want to raise them differently.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s really, really tough. I’m so sorry! I know it’s hard. I was always afraid that Keith would abandon God, but he really didn’t. He actually grew much richer in his faith. I think part of the problem is that people who grow up in very conservative/fundamentalist views of looking at Christianity feel that if they start to question those views, they have to leave the faith altogether. They don’t realize there are actually lots of different ways of knowing Jesus, many of which are actually more consistent with the Bible and with the gospel. But they don’t see that, and they were always told that fundamentalism is the only way, so they end up ditching faith altogether when they ditch fundamentalism.

      If your husband is ever willing to talk about it, I’d encourage him to read N.T. Wright or some other writers like him. He may rediscover Jesus. But don’t just push it on him; pray for the right time. And I am sorry.

      Reply
  2. Aaron G

    Wow, that could be my wife and I in a nutshell. My wife went through a crisis of faith and we are now just getting out of it. But now we are considered trouble makers because we refuse to see the Christian faith the same way everyone else seems to.
    I tried to listen to my wife and be supportive but I’ll admit sometimes it was hard. But God brought us through and now both of our faiths are stronger for it.
    Thank you so much for you ministry.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Aaron, I’m glad you’re on the other side! Believe me, I’ve been called a troublemaker lots of times (several times a day, in fact). But I do think many churches have gotten away from the words of Jesus. They’ve actually become Pharisaical without realizing it. I know I was for many years. I think if we all keep our focus on Jesus we’ll all be fine, but too often the focus goes elsewhere.

      Reply
      • Rachael

        My marriage is in a place where I’ve discovered my husband’s verbal abuse of me stemmed from the very fact he never had a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, and he was faking one to impress me. It has been heartbreaking. But it’s pushed me into a deeper relationship with Papa God. I’m working on ending our marriage because our kids and I do not need to deal with the constant stress and fear. And I’m okay with being a single mom for the rest of my life.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, Rachael, I’m so sorry. How heartbreaking! I’m glad you’re seeing the truth and that you want to protect your kids. I pray that you have really good counsellors and friends who understand who can support you through this! God was with my mom and me during all those years, and He still is.

          Reply
    • Praying4BetterDays

      Aaron everybody who calls themselves a Christian…isn’t always a Christian. One of the best ways to abuse power & excuse it is to claim to be Christian. It’s merely an ill fitting self-applied label to convince others to let them do what they want. Some people think they are christians just because they go to church…eventhough they live like devils.

      Actions speak louder than words. If they say their a christian but not living like one…don’t believe them. Don’t give them that power to abuse. These are are the people that act as self-appointed gate keepers to Heaven but they’re actually trying to push you to serve THEM. If a fake christian sees you as a trouble maker…it’s because you’re messing up their good thing. They want you to fall in line, deny what you see as wrong & remain obedient to them. They’re not serving the Lord.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Very true!

        Reply
  3. Amanda

    YES. Just over a year ago my husband and I left his childhood church. They preached the same thing you mentioned above with believing for miracles, which devastated both of us when my aunt, three of his grandparents AND the church’s own pastor died (within a span of 4 years) despite being heavily prayed over.

    We started going to a new church but a few months ago my husband told me he doesn’t want to go to church at all right now. He still believes in God but is really confused about the rest. He’s had some bad experiences with hypocrites in the church as well.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been soaking up everything you’ve been saying about Love and Respect, because the this new church promotes it heavily. I also observed that there’s no women in leadership. They are able to say a few sentences in front of the church but only when next to their husbands. I decided to go on the church hunt again because those things together make me sick to my stomach. I’d rather leave now than be fully immersed in the church and then have to leave. Leaving the last one hurt bad enough.

    I’m going through a smaller crisis myself. Very much like Keith, I often wonder what the reason for prayer is. I think I’m slowly learning but it’s been a long process. My husband doesn’t seem to be interested in getting through his crisis, he’s just staying put in his confusion.

    As for our marriage though, it’s the same. We’ve always had rocky moments mixed with good ones. I can’t say our faith crises have made it better or worse- it’s left us neutral. We seem to have turned a slight corner but I think it’s because we’re finally learning to communicate a bit better and didn’t have much to do with our faith. I still have hope that we can both rebuild our relationships with Jesus, but I’m not placing any timelines or expectations on us. I know for sure my husband will probably take years. But he’s still very much committed to me, so I think we will pull through.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s wonderful, Amanda, that you guys are still so close in the middle of all of this!

      And, yes, that church you’re in right now does sound very toxic, and you likely should leave. If you do, make sure that you tell them why–and you bring all of this to their attention. We need to start speaking up so that churches realize they will lose if they promote this kind of teaching.

      Don’t be afraid to try a smaller church, either. I find that many churches in the United States especially are so large, and some of the best church experiences I’ve had have been when churches are around 200-300, rather than a few thousand. I hope you land somewhere, but I understand your husband wanting to take a break. I don’t think that’s helpful when you have kids, because they need to have Christian friends, but I get it. I’ve said a prayer for you both!

      Reply
  4. Rafsk

    Wow…. this is good. I grew up plain (think Amish, only with cars). Went far left when I was a teen, got pregnant and hung out with the wrong crowd, eventually married a guy who had been married many times before me. Long story short, he was in and out of jail and I found an independent agent fundamental baptist church that literally saved me. I got saved. And a few years later met my husband. We have been married 14years now. We moved out of state after we married and went to a FBC for years, but starting about 7 years ago we started questioning so many things. We have visited many churches, but after 7 years, still have not found a church to call home. We also live in the middle of nowhere, so have to drive quite a distance to get to churches. And yes, we are very well aware that there are no perfect churches! It saddens me that out kids aren’t growing up in a good church Youth group,but at the same time, I’m just so over the politics of church and the hypocrisy of it all. I still believe in the fundamental independent baptist “Faith” on issues like salvation, baptism, ect. And we are still pretty conservative on our values and morals. But I want a church that allows you to be free at the same time. No saying that woman cant wear pants, or that if you’re not in church every time the doors are open your adinner, etc. And after 7 years of looking, we are starting to believe it doesnt exist. The good thing on all of this is that our marriage is strong. We dont have outside friends, so we are each others best friend. So, if any of your readers have a similar story, but have found a new church, I’d love to hear what church they go to now!

    Reply
    • Eps

      I think what you are looking for, I call theologically conservative and socially liberal. And I find even churches within the same denomination can vary dramatically on the social scale while remaining fairly similar on the theological scale.

      I’m Seventh Day Adventist and even within my own home church we have both… But depending on the church you go to, you still might get either end of the social scale.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  5. Erin

    Actually going through this right now. I was raised fundamentalist, but within the past year, my family went through a very difficult event that made me realize how wrong fundamentalist culture and teaching are in a lot of ways. Suddenly I realized I was a legalist, trying to earn my own sanctification, and that I had worked so hard to please my parents that I didn’t really know who I was. It hit me: I’m still a Christian, but I don’t believe half of this stuff any more.

    I started wearing pants. This may not seem like such a big deal, but I had never in my life put on a pair of jeans. I wondered whether I could wear jeans and still be saved! I told my husband I wanted a break from church; I cannot stand to be part of an Independent Fundamental Baptist church anymore.

    He’s worried and scared. He’s afraid I’m becoming hopelessly liberal. I’m trying not to push it, not to wear pants too often, to be understanding and submissive, but I just can’t do fundamentalism ever again.

    Sheila, I’m sorry you’re having a crisis of your own right now. I know how scary it can be. The Lord will get us through this eventually.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks for your sympathy, Erin! And I totally understand wanting a break from that church. Just rest assured that there are really, really good churches out there that still very much follow Jesus, but they’re not into rules. They’re into really living out the faith for the things that matter–love, justice, bringing God’s kingdom to earth. Those churches exist, and I think if more people who were doubting started going to them, they’d grow a lot!

      Reply
  6. Nathan

    A crisis of faith can be hard. My wife and I have never had one, but sometimes we have doubts as to whether God exists or not. Our pastor says that doubts are natural and human, and that even he has doubts from time to time.

    But other things…
    Sheila, did I read that right? The church board debated and argued a A YEAR whether or not you, as a woman, were allowed to pray out loud? There aren’t enough “wows” to cover that one!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You read that right, Nathan. And the funny thing was that that was at the same time as I was speaking at national conventions for different denominations. So I was allowed to give a keynote address to a denomination, but I wasn’t allowed to pray from the front of the church, even if that prayer was a sentence long (to be fair, they never made me stop. They just debated it, and asked the pastor to debrief with me every week to make sure I didn’t step out of line. I told the pastor that I WOULD NOT debrief with him if he was not similarly debriefing with other praise team leaders, and he let it go. Actually, I think Keith told our pastor that, come to think of it.)

      Reply
      • S.E.B.

        Thanks for posting this, Sheila! I’ve really been struggling lately with the question, “Can a Christian church (or alternatively, ‘good Christianity’) be emotionally healthy?” As I am seeing the truly negative affect that ‘Christianity’ (not Christ) has on the world, I realize that the church is preaching and pushing lifestyles that are truly emotionally unhealthy. A lot of this began when I was working for a foster family agency and we were told to be super cautious taking on Christian families, because those that “wanted” foster children so badly would reject those same children if they came out as gay. I did research on the subject and found that children who come out as gay have higher suicide rates, and if their family rejects them for being gay then the rate multiplied by 9 TIMES. So many Christians feel like they have no choice but to reject their gay children in the name of “Christianity,” but if that rejection is a death sentence for their child, how can that truly be reflective of my very loving God? Since I saw that, I’ve seen how very many emotionally unhealthy things the church pushes, including limiting gender roles, patriarchy, politics, and even unhealthy ideals in the way that they push their leaders to serve (we just left a church for that one.) Can a Christian church ever actually be emotionally healthy? I am on a God-given journey to restore my own emotional health, but attending church is becoming more and more difficult as it proves to be detrimental to emotional health as a whole.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Short answer? Absolutely! The church can be healthy. I think, though, that healthy can be difficult to find, simply because we have added a lot of Pharisaical rules to so many things. But I firmly believe that when you are in a true body of believers, it really can be emotionally healthy. I just think that there’s been so much bad teaching lately that, like the yeast Jesus speaks of, it’s worked its way through the whole batch of dough. It’s really difficult. But I do believe that emotional health is possible. I have that in my small groups, and among the people who meet together for accountability and prayer, and even in the larger church that we’re attending now. But it took a long time to find it!

          Reply
  7. Nathan

    I’ve been avoiding this topic on this site, since I can argue about it elsewhere, but I’ll just say a few things.

    You can be a Christian and still believe in evolution and a very old Universe. The study of how and when we got here is fascinating, but it doesn’t affect our walk with Christ. I went to a Catholic High School, and our biology teacher said that the only things we really need to believe is that God ultimately created the Universe, and that our souls are direct creations and gifts from Him.

    We have animal and biological instincts, but that doesn’t mean that we have to give into them. Even though we are animals (because we certainly aren’t plants), we are in fact set apart and can rise above those things.

    Whether you believe in Young Earth Creationism, old Universe evolution, or something in between, you can still be a Christian and love God and Jesus.

    And yes, Sheila. Even though you’re “ONLY” a woman, you’re allowed to pray out loud in church while leading a group!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely!

      Reply
  8. Nathan

    > > Suddenly I realized I was a legalist, trying to earn my own sanctification, and that I had worked so hard to please my parents that I didn’t really know who I was

    Erin, I’m so sorry that you went through this (others, too). It seems like legalist teaching hasn’t fully left us yet. But I’m glad that you’ve moved beyond that.

    This actually came up at my church this week. Our pastor was talking about rules based salvation versus faith based salvation. He said that if really was all about the rules, Jesus would have spent his entire time PRAISING the Pharisees for their attention to every minute detail.

    Reply
  9. MrShorty

    Both you and Keith’s stories felt familiar to me. I, grew up in a strongly creationist church, then went off to university (a religious university, fortunately) to study biology. I was a find example of a creationist until the obligatory class in evolution, and then the professor brought out his collection of hominid skulls and talked us through hominid evolution. My creationist faith was shattered. Fortunately, it was a religious university where the professors went to some length to explain that one can be both a Christian and an evolutionist, which allowed me to find that path rather than lose my faith completely. I have since come to really despise the Christian rhetoric that paints evolutionism and Christianity as if they are completely incompatible, in part because that kind of dichotomous thinking is what creates these kinds of faith crises.

    Then I recall the time when our church started a study of Genesis, and my poor wife for the first time really started seeing the misogyny in the way the ancients treated women. She worked through it, but I was so afraid of what might happen to us if she lost her faith that I could not help her. Looking back, I really wish I had been less fearful and more faithful so that we could have worked through that together. In the end she ended up in a more feminist place (but finding ways to make feminism compatible with Christianity — again, something we tend to put at odds with each other in conservative Churches). I later followed, as I became more sensitive to ways that we mistreat women based too much on the ancient culture that the Bible was written under. But it sometimes feels like we are outsiders because of that feminism. Some of our daughters have completely left Christianity over these kinds of feminist issues, because the conservative Church seems unable to find a dialog around feminism that doesn’t alienate feminists.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Sounds like you’ve been on such a similar journey! I’m like you. Looking back I wish I had been less fearful, too, because I could have supported Keith more. Our marriage didn’t suffer because we pulled close in other ways, but I think it could have been much richer if I hadn’t been afraid to enter into his questioning earlier.

      Reply
    • Becky

      Regarding this statement: “because the conservative Church seems unable to find a dialog around feminism that doesn’t alienate feminists.”

      I think a major component of that issue, in addition to forgetting that the way the patriarchs treated women in the Bible wasn’t being condoned as the way God intended us to be treated, is that, at least here in the States, “feminism” has serious political connotations that more conservative and evangelical churches try to avoid. ESPECIALLY with the way both sides tend to conflate “women’s rights” and supporting abortion on demand. It’s sad, since I think that many Christians would be more open to the positive aspects of supporting more feminist ideas if it wasn’t for that.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I agree. I didn’t like the label “feminist” for years because, coming out of my graduate studies, it was equated with abortion or wanting no differences between the sexes (I do believe we’re different) or else thinking that all men are toxic (I don’t believe that, but there are elements of that, like “all sex is rape.”) If we could get back to the feminism of Susan B. Anthony or my favourite Canadian, Nellie McClung, we’d do so much better, because their feminism was rooted in the intrinsic value, giftedness, and worth of women.

        Reply
  10. Praying4BetterDays

    I’m constantly praying to the Lord for things that HE probably won’t ever deliver…and I have no intention to stop. I pray everyday that the Lord will take away all sickness & disease, that no one will go hungry, I pray that we won’t have storms, fires & floods. I also pray that WE won’t sin, so there would be no murders, rapes, thefts, violence etc. I pray that we won’t anger the Lord, I pray for the days before Adam & Eve were given free will. I pray EVERYDAY that we all will love each other like thy neighbor so we won’t have racism, sexism, greed etc. I’m praying everyday for the life we were supposed to live before we as man messed up. I’m praying against the world everyday…but I’m not giving up.

    Sometimes as human beings we ONLY question God when we’re not happy. But at the same time we don’t give God the praise the other 80-90% of the time when things are good. We ONLY question God & our faith when things go wrong. We also make the huge mistake of trying to play God, giving man credit for what God’s done or blaming God for the free will that humans abuse to hurt us.

    One of the hardest things that man will ever have to deal with is…death. Death is something that we don’t control. God lets some people live to be 110yrs old yet some will die before they leave the womb. Good people can die young & the evilest serial killer can live to be 100. The perfectly healthy can drop dead at 30 while a cancer ridden body can suffer for years. And there’s nothing we can do about it but pray that the Lord helps us to center on HIM. We’re actually only here to serve HIM. I’ve lost many family members of different ages & my only consolation has always been that…they can’t suffer on this world no more. They are safe now. And yes I get tired of telling myself this EVERYDAY that I miss them…but atleast I know they aren’t suffering in the world anymore. And you don’t have to be sick or physically hurting for the world to make you suffer.

    Man’s world where he abuses his free will can make you suffer. Fake Christians can make your life Hell on Earth…if we allow them that power. When we allow fake Christians into our pulpits, deacon boards, mother boards etc…abuse is going to happen. And we have to take responsibility for what & who WE allow to abuse their power. Nobody is born abusing power overnight…somebody has to let them. If they have the free will to choose to do wrong…We have to use our free will to not let them & condemn them.

    Don’t question God for how man abuses his free will but question ourselves for why we allow it.

    But I’ve never lost my faith in the Lord when stuff doesn’t go right for me…but I have questioned my faith in MYSELF…BUT that’s ONLY when things don’t go how I hope. I question myself if I’m Doing something wrong or if I’m Wanting something that the Lord doesn’t have for me.

    I’m by no means an expert on religion or the bible nor can I quote scripture but I do know that in our walk with Jesus, we as human beings have a huge tendency to set ourselves up for disappointment by leaning on our own understanding….understandings that we are often wrong about. Many of us claim to be Christians…but we are not, we don’t live true Christian lives. Humans have made the word Christian a title to be misused & abused.

    We’re human. We’re not perfect. And most of all We’re not the Creator. The Lord never said he’s going to give us everything we want. We can’t bargain with the Creator.

    Reply
    • Susanna Musser

      “Nobody is born abusing power overnight; somebody has to let them.”

      I’m so struck by the truth of this statement and will be pondering this for a while.

      Reply
  11. Nathan

    MrShorty, it must be difficult for your wife to learn about how horribly women have been treated historically, but hopefully she can use that to grow. Here’s hoping for the best for both of you!

    > > the Christian rhetoric that paints evolution and Christianity as if they are completely incompatible

    My guess is that this occurs because of the idea that we humans are “set apart”. If we are in fact descended from other animals, then we’re just animals ourselves, and we can’t be fashioned in the image of God.

    I think we can be both. Yes, we are indeed created in the image of God, but we’re also animals with baser animal instincts. That doesn’t mean that we’re doomed to give into them, though. We can rise above them and conquer them, although certain temptations may always be with us.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yep. I also think that the whole point of the creation story is to say that we are different from animals. And it says that God breathed into Adam. I figure that God took an animal, and then gave him a soul. God intervened and created us as set apart. It does make sense, I think, and doesn’t diminish our importance in creation. We are the image bearers, and God put that in us.

      Reply
    • MrShorty

      Thanks, Nathan, for the hope. I think we have (separately) grown together — though in some ways we have grown away from our conservative roots, which sometimes creates conflict with our conservative Church.

      I don’t want to sidetrack the discussion too far down the creationism-evolutionism rabbit hole. There are a lot of possible explanations and the discussion around reconciling the science and the theology can be very interesting. The important thing that I often see as it applies to the current topic is that we as Christians sometimes seem to do better at creating artificial divisions within the body of Christ. I sometimes fear that we lose members of the body of Christ when we declare some things (like evolutionism) as absolutely opposed to the Christian theology and ethic, when in fact, they are not.

      Reply
  12. Eli

    Thank you so much for this post, Sheila. I’m not married, but am having some of the same faith crises that you are.

    Why is a theology so damaging for women so prevalent among evangelicals? And why do we evangelicals cover up sexual abuse as much as “the world” does? What does this say about how the Holy Spirit is or is not at work among believers?

    This past Saturday, a seminary prof gave a pre-ballet lecture on the Christlike, sacrificial love & forgiveness of the ballet’s main character, Giselle, in the face of betrayal. He was so moved & teary-eyed.

    However, I sat there, thinking about how common it is for evangelicals to associate the suffering Christ with the woman’s “role” and the exalted Christ as the man’s “role.” I’ve learned this only recently (and am actually relieved that I’m not married).

    These gender assumptions are so damaging and dangerous. At their best, they *only* lead to quenching the Spirit. At their worse, these assumptions can lead to abuse and abuse coverups.

    Women and men are not supposed to pick & choose which parts of Christlikeness we are to imitate!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I posted something on Twitter last week that went a little bit viral:

      Church: Can we please stop saying “men should act like X” and “women should act like Y”?

      How about just saying, “we should all act like Christ”?

      Just sayin’.

      Reply
    • Susanna Musser

      One of my current theories as to why evangelicals attempt to cover up their sin is that we cared cared about our image way too much for way too long. We care more about our image than we do about our reality. And woe betide the one who speaks up outside the church to reveal the reality inside the church.

      Reply
      • Susanna Musser

        That should read, “…we have cared about our image…”

        Reply
  13. Phil

    I think we all go through a spiritual crisis at least once in our life. I am walking proof that a marriage can survive while you are in spiritual crisis. I spent most of my life in a spiritual crisis and my wife married me thinking I was spiritually right because on the surface I was doing the right things. Eventually I was headed for divorce. By the grace of God she waited for me. It took the steadiness of her spiritual being and my willingness to change for the better, to save US. Today we are on a spiritual journey together. We choose Jesus. I definitely believe that you can go through a spiritual crisis and come out on the other side stronger in your marriage. There is more than one way to get to the answer – Jesus. Isn’t one of the whole points in going to church is to get right with God anyway? We go to church not only to worship but to learn and grow. Of course we are sinners and we can be on a spiritual journey if we choose even if we question our faith. If we choose as God would want us to do in his will as what was shared in the email; our setting (ie church or marriage for example) will provide the right path. Meaning even if you are in the wrong church maybe the answer is find a new one! Maybe you are in the right church and they help lead your journey….which one would hope is ideal but as we see may not always be the case. i think this offers good balance to the previous post on the topic of marriages with out Jesus.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly, Phil! The point really is Jesus, not church. Find Jesus, wherever He may be.

      Reply
  14. Nathan

    Eli, I’m praying for strength for you to get through your crises.

    > > Why is a theology so damaging for women so prevalent among evangelicals?
    My best guess is tradition. It’s been going on since the church was founded, and just continues to this day. Mainly through a misinterpretation of bible verses like “wives submit to your husbands” and “women be silent in church, but also the story of the fall from grace in Eden. Supposedly, Eve ate the fruit first, then tempted Adam to do it. Therefore, all women are forever tainted and cursed from “original sin”. Hopefully, we can overcome this.

    > > why do we evangelicals cover up sexual abuse as much as “the world” does?
    This one I can’t answer except to say that Christians are often no better than anybody else.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Nathan! I think the covering up of sexual abuse is also far more common in organizations with power dynamics. Because those in power are often committed to perpetuating the organization so they can stay in power, at the same time as those in power tend to discount the stories of those not in power, the coverup seems almost logical. Combine that with power dynamics that often attract abusers in the first place, and you get the perfect storm.

      Until churches stop being about hierarchy, this will continue to happen. We have forgotten that Jesus said that church was not supposed to be about power, and we have made it such, and that’s a shame.

      Reply
    • Robin

      Quick jump in on “Eve “tempting” Adam”…reading Genesis3:6 “…She also gave some to her husband, *who was with her*, and he ate it…” He was just as at fault. The serpent may have begun addressing Eve, but clearly, at the time she ate the fruit, Adam was right there. That implies to me that Adam heard the same arguements and rode the same wave of temptation with about the same level of resistance, which is to say, none. So, no there’s no vile, evil temptress / innocent male dichotomy. Unless someone else puts it there. Another example of incomplete teaching at its nicest, or patriarchal lies determined to keep women down at its worst.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        We’re actually going to take a look at some children’s Bibles soon and see how they portray it. Almost all of them have Eve alone. It’s so awful.

        Reply
  15. Elsie

    Sheila, thank you for being so candid about these tough issues! You have been such an encouragement to me and my marriage, especially in the ways that you’ve advocated for women. I’ve literally cried through some of your posts because it’s so rare to find someone in marriage ministry that supports equality for women and doesn’t have a toxic view of submission and idolatry of traditional gender roles. I don’t know if you follow the CBE blogs, but I’ve found them to be encouraging and informative.

    I had a faith crisis in college (evolution was the issue that started it for me too) but developed a much stronger faith, although I watched many friends leave Christianity. I got married two years ago. I’m white and my husband is Asian American. We attend an Asian American church and I’ve been wrestling a lot lately because the church doesn’t promote ministry leadership in the women of the church. Women are not able to become pastors or elders. Other leadership positions are open to them but nearly all are filled by men and most women don’t seem to feel called or confident to be involved in church ministries, except for children’s ministry. I feel deeply grieved when I hear sermons exhorting men to develop leadership skills and contribute to the church with no expectation that women should contribute as well.

    My struggle is that we want to have children soon and I don’t know if I want to raise my kids in a church that doesn’t encourage women to be involved in Gods work. But the problem is that my husband wouldn’t be very comfortable in a church without many Asian Americans (which I understand and support) but Asian American churches tend to be very conservative regarding women’s roles. So I’m not sure what the future holds for our church life but I’ve been praying a lot and talking with my husband. I also recently joined our church leadership board (as one of 3 women out of 12 spots) and I’m hoping I can maybe influence some changes but I’m probably being too idealistic to think I can really change anything. But will at least try and see what happens.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s tough, Elsie! I can tell you that for years when the kids were young we were in churches that did not support women in any way, but we told the kids that was wrong, and they saw that and believed it. The big thing is that we always told the kids that it was okay if they disagreed with the church. And then we always had family friends from outside the church who believed differently, so they knew that it wasn’t just us. I can understand your husband wanting to feel at home in church. Are there any multicultural churches where you are with a lot of Asians? I know in Toronto there certainly are, but Toronto’s really blessed with that and I’m not sure if that’s typical elsewhere. One thing I’ve been so surprised at when traveling the United States (I’m not sure if that’s where you are; this is just a general observation) is how racially segregated many churches are. That doesn’t seem to be the case for the Toronto area where I am. It seems odd.

      Reply
    • Arwen

      Elsie, I don’t know where you live but if you live in states that have a lot of diversity you can find multicultural churches like Sheila pointed out. Places like CA where i live i attend a Church that is multicultural. The previous Church i used to attend our pastor was Japanese, and the Church was really, really diverse, even though it only had 200 members. If this is a hill worth dying on for you then perhaps consider moving locations. And it doesn’t always have to be state wide it can also be moving to a bigger city. I understand it’s easier said than done and we will never find a perfect Church that aligns with our beliefs 100%.

      Some cultures are just hard i know honey because i come from a very misogynistic culture too. It’s a whole mess!

      Reply
  16. Nathan

    Way up above, Sheila writes
    > > we have added a lot of Pharisaical rules to so many things.

    That’s very true. Others have observed that it’s easier to follow a bunch of little detailed rules and claim to be a Christian rather than really trying to live a Godly life.

    And like my pastor said, if this was what Jesus wanted, he would have praised the Pharisees all day and all night.

    Reply
  17. Nathan

    I’m sorry to hear that, Elsie. Even my church, which does pretty good on some things (like the real meaning of “wives submit”) has no women in leadership positions other than children’s ministries and special needs.

    One small exception is that once per year, on mothers day, the wife of one of our pastors gives the talk. I like this, and would like to see it more, since men and women tell stories from a different perspective, and it’s good to hear things both ways.

    Reply
  18. Ashley

    I feel like I’m going through some sort of crisis too. Not exactly a crisis of my faith, but maybe a crisis of some of the traditions around faith. I think some of it is because of things you have pointed out and how I find it all to be so consistent with what I have observed as well. As well as favoritism, cliques, double-standards, and politics that shouldn’t be in the church. I like what you said about just reading the Gospels for a while. I think I would add in the Psalms too, for myself. There is so much rawness there that I resonate with.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Ah, yes, the Psalms are wonderful! For people who think you shouldn’t get mad at God–just read the Psalms for a while, and don’t overspiritualize them. They’re real.

      Reply
    • Arwen

      Yessssss Ashley, exactly. Jesus tells us to be separate from the world while American Christianity tells us get as close to the world as possible. No wonder we’re in so much mess. Do you know who Jackie Hill Perry is? She was invited to Sweden a while back and she made an interesting observation that she posted on her Instagram. Here is what she wrote:

      “What Sweden has become is what America will at some point be. I say that because Sweden is one of the most secular countries in the world. God is not the norm. Christianity is not the assumed religion from birth for many. Individualism, in all of its forms, is a prized possession. But it’s amazing to see that even when a society tries to push God out of the conscience and practice of it’s citizens, it doesn’t work. It can’t. God is still here. I have always believed that the secularization of a nation isn’t a bad thing in the grand scheme of things. If anything, the gospel will shine and the costly submission to Christ will create an environment where Christians are actually Christians. Nominalistic faith won’t be as common in such a society. I know many would like to preserve the values that they believe America was built on, but what if God is after something so much more? What if God is allowing the culture to shift in such a way that it makes His people more uncomfortable so that they become more fruitful? What if persecution is what America really needs? What if God is allowing us to not get away with the label of an exile because He wants us to live it? What if America’s attempt at blurring the lines between right and wrong are actually God’s way of separating the wheat from the tares? The Christians in Sweden (and other nations as well) have a lot to teach the American church about how to be faithful in a society that thinks faithfulness is foolish. My time here has further proven that the light shines best when it’s placed in the dark.”

      Reply
      • Ashley

        No, Arwen, I’ll have to do some reading about that. 🙂

        Reply
  19. Hannah

    Such a good post. That’s been me and my marriage over the last few years, with me having the crisis of faith. It’s not really over, if I ‘m honest. The first few years I was struggling, my husband reacted out of fear too. I’d bring up a question or something I’d read, and he panicked a bit, usually followed by an attempt to explain it all away (or making me defend my “new viewpoint,” when really it was something I’d just encountered and wasn’t sure what I thought). I understood the reaction, but it didn’t make it any easier to handle, because I too was scared. He’s much, much better now, although I’ve also learned there are some things I just can’t bring up.

    Now we’ve settled into a truce where we more or less have two different churches that suit us each of us, and we try to keep our theological discussions on paths that won’t leave anyone crying or upset. I don’t love it, but I also don’t think it’s forever–we’ll keep growing and changing just like we have been.

    For anyone going through a similar situation, I really, really have to advise that if you’re NOT the partner having the crisis, your job is to be supportive. Period. It isn’t to convince them, or explain things away, or trot out old apologetics cliches. Remember that it’s far scarier for them than for you, because watching your faith and whole life’s foundation crumble under you is utterly terrifying. And please, for the love of all that is holy, do NOT go, “Oh, I’ve totally been there. I wondered if God existed for a while, but then I read an apologetics book and I’m all good now.” If you haven’t gone through this experience, it’s not something you can understand. The sooner you recognize that, the better support you can provide.

    And be thoughtful and protect your spouse (or child/friend/etc) from your church, friends, and families. Some people (like mine) are wonderful and will walk with you through things. But I’ve heard far too many stories from others where they lost not only their specific type of faith but also their church and all their friends because they were seen as dangerous and someone to be avoided. Some even lose their families. If you’re in that type of situation, recognize that the pressure on the one in crisis is magnified tenfold–we know what’s at stake, trust me–and try to shield them from as much of the not-so-friendly fire as you can.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      This is such good advice, Hannah. I wish I had been mature enough to practice it with Keith all those years ago. He was very, very good at acting this way with our girls, which, I think, is one of the reasons they’ve both owned their faith so strongly.

      Reply
      • Hannah

        Aw, thank you. That means a lot coming from you!

        And I’m sure you already know this but… don’t beat yourself up over not handling things as well as you’d have liked to. It’s a really hard thing to do well and so many churches and parents don’t prepare us well at ALL to cope with the inevitable questioning. I really think I’ve only escaped as well as I have because my parents were very good about telling me that my beliefs would change over time and that that was okay and even desirable.

        I’m afraid many others aren’t so fortunate. I hang out in mostly deconstruction/ex-evangelical spheres online and the stories are truly heart-breaking. I hope that voices like yours will help smooth over others’ processes.

        Reply
  20. Nathan

    Very true, Hannah. Support your partner in crisis or doubts. Don’t try to argue a case. Just be there for them and love them.

    And Sheila, your comment on power dynamics is very good. Sadly, in many large organizations, be it church, business, government, etc. the motive too often is “protect the bureaucracy” at all costs, even at the expense of people.

    Reply
  21. Arwen

    This is really, really good. I have also been called a trouble maker throughout my entire life because i question EVERYTHING that doesn’t align with the Bible. It’s interesting for your husband evolution made him have a crisis of faith while evolution for me strengthen my faith, as i don’t believe in at all!

    But i have had to leave churches for their blatant racism, for not being conservative/republican, for not voting for Trump, for questioning capitalism, for questioning tithing, for not seeing alcohol as a sin (drunkenness yes), for not believing that people are disabled for lack of faith, for questioning mental illness, for questioning governments & police, for questioning the military, for questioning homeschooling, for questioning adoption/foster care, for doctrinal differences, etc. As you can see i have a lot of controversial beliefs and none of them are questioning the Bible. ALL of them are questioning man made yolks and burdens.

    Me being an inquisitive person has contributed a lot into why i’m still single. Last year a guy dumped me because i didn’t vote for Trump & for challenging his view on the military. I have discovered that men who share my inquisitive nature tend to be secular men, only problem is that they hate the God i worship. When American/Western Christians are scared when their viewpoints that society and the Evangelical community has imposed on them is being questioned then perhaps it’s not God they follow but traditions.

    None of these things really make me have a crisis of faith because my faith is really built on solid ground, i have 100% assurance of Christ and the the Bible. What it does is make me have a crisis of faith in the BODY OF BELIEVERS. It makes me question and distrust a lot of believers because of the horrible experiences i have had with them. I never question Jesus, the Bible, but i always, always question humans.

    I’ll end with what you said Sheila, “We have added a lot of Pharisaical rules to so many things.” Yup. And those traditions, rules, yolks and burdens is what gives me a crisis in FOLLOWERS of Christ. But i still LOVE the body no matter what. It’s been my burden but it’s also been my refuge. 🙂

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s lovely, Arwen. Yes, you can be a Christian and have all kinds of different views on all of these things.

      I really appreciate this sentiment: “None of these things really make me have a crisis of faith because my faith is really built on solid ground, i have 100% assurance of Christ and the the Bible. What it does is make me have a crisis of faith in the BODY OF BELIEVERS.”

      Exactly. What I want people to know, though, is that not all churches are the same. When you grow up very conservative/fundamentalist, you’re taught that every other church isn’t a “real” church, so when you have these crises that pertain to a body of believers, you think you have nowhere to go. But we’ve landed in a great church. There are those out there which are not Pharisaical; you just have to find them. And I’ve seen some very healthy home church movements start, too (with accountability), and I think that will spread.

      Reply
      • Arwen

        I completely agree Sheila that when someone has been raised to believe a certain way they can feel like they have no place to go. But here is the thing, do they have a survival instinct, an inquisitive mind and desire to FIND OUT FOR THEMSELVES. We know in life that no one is going to do anything for you, YOU have to go and do it for yourself. Everyone is trying to survive for themselves. I guess i just don’t like pity parties, feeling sorry for myself and placing my fate in the hands of others.

        In today’s society where access to information is at the tip of our fingers i’ll give a side to anyone that sits there like a damsel in distress waiting for the none existing knight in shining armor to rescue them. When i first came to America nobody showed up at my doorsteps and helped me out. I had to ask around, i had to look up information, i had to find ESL classes MYSELF. I didn’t know anything and yet i made the EFFORT to find out.

        In a country with so much privileges i’m dumb founded when people don’t use the resources available. Excuses only hurt the INDIVIDUAL making those excuses while the rest of us have our marching boots on to the nearest information office (like Google). I mean after all guess how i found this blog, Sheila. You didn’t show it to me, i found it on my own. lool!

        And i love home churches (it’s common around the world) and i go to a healthy Church right now. I love it!

        Reply
  22. Jane Eyre

    I come at this from the opposite side: I was an atheist for many years, and had to accept that I cannot turn away from God based on what people do in His name; I have to look at His plan for all of us and ask whether or not that plan is good.

    That does not mean that my post-conversion life is easy… the last few years have been so overwhelmingly challenging that I wonder what God is trying to do. On my better days, I know that He does not want this and everything that hurts is explicitly against His instructions for our lives, but there aren’t necessarily a lot of good days.

    Kudos to you for reading Love and Respect, and my prayers for you after reading it. I have more experience than one ever should have with abusive and controlling people, and the concepts you explain are basically an abuser’s playbook. Perhaps the people promoting it have had the good fortune to not encounter many bad people and are actually unaware of how harmful it all is.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s so interesting about your journey, Jane! I hear you about challenging times. It is hard when we don’t sense God’s specific plan, too.

      I hope what you’re saying about Love & Respect is true. My fear is that it is worse than that–that those promoting it are themselves controlling, and the wives no know different and can’t leave. I’ve been praying for them lately. I hope it’s just ignorance, but given the descriptions of his own marriage, I do worry.

      Reply
  23. Alice

    Thank you. I searched for a long time for an article just like this. Something that affirmed my marriage, despite the faith crisis my husband struggled (struggles) with. Something full of hope, that encourages flexibility, the relinquishing of fear and church doctrine as gospel. This gives me hope. My husband and I are best friends, but when his doubts arose just three months into our marriage, I was crushed, afraid and confused. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with it, and to find peace. I can now see deconstruction as a healthy thing- something led by Jesus and purposeful. It doesn’t mean it isn’t scary though. We don’t have children yet, but are planning to soon, and I know raising and teaching them will be another challenge but we can do it together! We have the Holy Spirit and a close friendship. Seriously, thank you for being vulnerable about this and sharing. This is still a very taboo and judged topic in Church world!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad it helped, Alice! Deconstruction is scary. It all is scary. Perhaps a faith that isn’t a little bit scary isn’t real? Think of how many times God said (and Jesus said), “Don’t be afraid.” God wouldn’t have needed to say it if they weren’t actually petrified!

      Reply
      • Shaylyn

        I am almost crying reading this . It’s been one year since I left a very legalistic church and it’s been the hardest year for my marriage. Mostly because ALL (yes, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews!!) Went to our church that we attended for 21 years. I couldn’t take it anymore. I have 4 daughters and I’m no feminist by any stretch, but as the Pastor/Staff would say “Woman are equal!” They would teach Paul’s words to Corinth completely out of context. And I couldn’t take it anymore. That and im not a type A, perfect house, never cut my hair, woman. And that was the majority. I was never good enough to lead a bible study or even sing in worship because I was a self professed hot mess that loved Jesus more than anything and didnt fake it. They wanted fakers. I love my new church. Surprisingly, my kids love my new church, but yes, I am the trouble maker. Friends and family have pretty much abandoned me for the change. All because I left a church. Not God. A church they made into my God. My husband was never a strong spiritual leader, but because he’s the man and he followed me to the new church, it’s all about me “forcing” him into it. Which, of course, I would never. But, I do pray to the same God and have the holy spirit and I am the spiritual leader in our house, but because that is so taboo in that past church circle I’m just labeled trouble maker. Im so glad to be out of it, but golly, I dont know that my heart could ever handle it again…I would rather just stay and stay silent than be put through the last year again…

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, Shaylyn, from one troublemaker to another, I’m sorry! I’m glad you’re free, though, and you did the right thing for your daughters. It is so hard to leave everything, I know. But when it’s not right, it’s not right. Over time it will get easier. But I’m so sorry!

          Reply
  24. Maria

    One of my aunts is a Catholic married to an agnostic. They have a strong and healthy marriage. Their children are not caught in any tug of war over beliefs. And they both have good relationships with their children.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Is that hard for the Catholic, though, in terms of what she wants for her kids? My biggest priority as a parent was to raise kids who knew God in a very real way, and I think that would be harder if your spouse didn’t believe. If your spouse is open to you teaching that, though, that’s something different! (Like Timothy’s mom and grandma in the Bible who taught him about Jesus despite his Greek father).

      Reply
      • Maria

        He is open to her teaching them about God and fully supports the children being raised Catholic. Even attends Mass with them on occasion, which means a lot to them. I think that he’s uncomfortable in religious settings, but he goes anyway.

        Reply
  25. Nathan

    Wow, Shaylyn! I’m sorry that you went through that, but I hope that you and your family are happy and free of that.

    > > They would teach Paul’s words to Corinth completely out of context.

    Likely the two biggest were “Wives submit to your husbands” and “women be silent in church”. Those two are very often misinterpreted.

    > > loved Jesus more than anything and didnt fake it. They wanted fakers.

    I’ve seen that in other churches (not mine, thankfully). They want people to dress well and loudly proclaim things, but don’t care about our hearts. Oddly, Jesus himself spoke out against this in Matthew 6, saying that if you pray or do good works with fanfare and grandstanding, your only reward will be “atta boys” from other people.

    > > All because I left a church. Not God. A church they made into my God

    That’s also a sad thing. God is bigger than any single church, and too often, even with spirituality, we worship the church and the earthly things about it rather than focusing on God.

    But you did the right thing. So be well and be happy!

    Reply
  26. Nathan

    Sheila wrote (of children’s bibles)
    > > Almost all of them have Eve alone. It’s so awful.

    That’s bad. I know that for a children’s bible, they need to shorthand it a bit, but that’s a GLARING omission.

    A re-reading of Genesis 3 confirms what was said above. Eve at the fruit, then gave some to Adam (who was there the whole time) and he ate it,too. The point obviously is that both disobeyed God willingly.

    Now, I haven’t read that story in a long time, but I have a clear memory of the text that has Eve eating the fruit, then going to Adam and suggesting that he eat it too.

    Maybe I was reading an “edited” children’s bible way back then.

    Reply
  27. R.L.

    I appreciate this article so much. While our situation is a bit different, we are going through some faith testing, and it has been a struggle to say the least. There are lots of “why” questions right now, and boy, can that test your faith! I appreciate your perspective on the topic of “crisis of faith.” Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  28. katie76

    Keith’s story resonates with me quite a lot because I sort of went through the same thing. Maybe it is common for us that didn’t grow up Chistian but became Christian’s in our teen years. I decided to become a Christian when I was 13. I had no knowledge whatsoever, never stepped foot in a church, never even read the bible! I knew nothing, so I turned to the internet. (I am only 19, maybe Keith read books instead, haha) It turns out that when you google “How to become a Christian” Who is Jesus”Is God real” etc. most results seemed to be from evangelical, sometimes pretty fundamentalist, creationist type websites. I didn’t know anything better so I soaked up everything these websites said. I thought I had to believe everything they said or I wasn’t a true Christian. So, I thought I had to believe the earth was 6000 years old or I wasn’t a Christian. I thought I had to believe Catholics weren’t Christians and that public schools are from the devil. Thought I would sin if I listened to a secular song, I started wearing baggy clothes so I wouldn’t “cause men to stumble”. It was too much. The first church I ever went to was an evangelical church with these characteristics. So, that was my first exposure to Christianity.
    Now a few years later and I am still a Christian but no longer Protestant or evangelical. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I was a little older and had of gotten married when I was still in the other church, to somebody from that church. I don’t know what would have happened, and I’m glad to be single, but I’m thankful for the reminder that marriage should be built on commitment.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Katie, I’m glad you’ve met Jesus. I’m really glad! And I actually think it’s cool that you did so by Googling, even if the other stuff that went with it was so off. But how cool that God can use even that! I hope that you can land in a good church with people who are dedicated to loving and living Jesus out in their daily lives in a healthy way. Believe me, those churches are there! And I’m glad you didn’t marry someone from that circle as well!

      Reply
      • katie76

        Luckily, I’ve found a good church now 🙂 And true, it wasn’t all bad, I probably found this website through google too! I think I’ve been reading it since I was 15. I was probably not the target demographic (lol) but I feel I learnt a lot from here too about Jesus. God can use anything 🙂

        Reply
  29. Logan

    Late to the game on this one…but I just want to post a bit of a caveat on this subject. I am speaking from the perspective of having multiple, deep, and lengthy faith emergencies myself.

    We will, as we are thinking and rationalizing human beings, come across things that challenge our pre-conceived notions…especially those of us that have grown up in legalistic churches. Sometimes these times can help us grow our faith, but oftentimes they do not. There is this trend in churchianity that people “discover God” in whatever weird, mystical, or buffet style they want too and decide they are now “spiritual” not religious. I think a good example of this is “The Shack” which is a deeply troubling book theologically. We cannot just make God to be what we want, or decide we relate to Him best by imaging him to be something more relatable and comfortable to us rather than a Holy, Sovereign, Perfect-in-all-His-Ways, One True God. God has already revealed Himself and His character in the cannon of Scripture. We can accept that or not, but we cannot cherrypick it to make it just as we please.

    The point I am trying to make is this: The Bible has to be our ultimate guide. Not our feelings and emotions. I am myself am old Earth theorist…as the Bible does not spell out for us the age of the Earth. But when the Bible makes things clear, even if we do not like it, we cannot suddenly decide we can just leave it out because it doesn’t fit our idea of things or play games with the text to make it not say what it clearly says…I mean, there are denominations in the US that now believe homosexuality is not a sin. I believe in grace and compassion to all sinners, but I believe sin is abhorrent to God no matter what kind it is.

    With that in mind, I would like to recommend a wonderful book for those who are seeking freedom from the chains of legalism…”The Grace Awakening” by Chuck Swindoll. This is a balanced take on the Gospel that revels in the freedom of Grace but never excuses us to live lives that do not honor God.

    Reply
  30. Karen

    Thank you for writing this. I very much relate to Keith’s struggle, and I appreciate you sharing your own current struggles. I grew up in the Evangelical Free Church of America, and have struggled with what it supposedly means to be an evangelical. Most recently I have felt deep disappointment in how Christians in my tradition sin against each other over the topic of school and the fact that this has gone unaddressed for decades. It’s not enough to teach our kids academic facts about God—we must model His Church and dignify where He has placed each of us to work…the gap we are called to stand in. I have noticed that families are often prepared for where they are placed and given Christians to walk alongside during the journey, yet in church we make it a debate—with winners and losers. I am struggling with where to fellowship so that my children gain a loving perspective on this. It’s very much a life phase as we are new to the school years, but it’s where I’m at now.

    Reply
  31. Anon

    Your testimonies rang true in our lives too.
    I’m currently struggling with my faith. I know He is God And He is there but I don’t believe in the Father heart And love of God.

    How could a perfect God make such a mess of sex?

    He made it to fail for 80% of us and then it takes more than a decade for the next 30 % to learn and for the raining 20 to 30 % there simply will never be any thing good?

    If He loved woman the way he does men He could have designed it to work equally well for both.

    After struggling with it for almost three decades and on the rare occasion now it can feel nice (I have No idea What an orgasm Is. ..) it’s really hard on my faith.

    I’m married to a man who has successfully enjoyed intercourse and orgasms every single day ( Yes you read that right… I’m post menopausal so there’s no stopping) it’s really hard to have sex every day and see some one orgasm and feel disappointment and sadness.

    Sex is the thing that’s broken my faith and prayer life. I spent 27 years praying and begging God to help. I’ve read And tried nearly every self help book out there to no avail. How can God say He cares and then design sex so badly? If I designed a product with that kind of failure rate it would never make it into production!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Anon, I’m so sorry! Very sorry!

      And I assure you–God does love you. He really does. And I think one reason that sex is more difficult for women is because it requires good communication and good relationship for it to work. That’s his intention–that it be a completely mutual thing.

      Honestly, I’m amazed that your husband has been expecting sex everyday without having you feel good. That, to me, is more the issue here. What about something like this:

      “Honey, for 27 years we’ve had sex regularly in our marriage, but it has been entirely for you. And now I’m getting to the point when I’m worried it will never be for me, ever. I can’t do make sex feel good by myself. I need you. So here’s the thing: I’m willing to try sex as often as you want–but it must be about my pleasure, not just yours. In fact, we have to work on mine first. For 27 years we’ve been taking care of you. I really need me to be the focus for the next little while, because I’m supposed to have been reaching orgasm, too. So it’s time!”

      And then I’d just encourage you to read the posts written by an anonymous reader about how, after 27 years of marriage, she finally reached orgasm. That may give you some hope!

      Reply
    • GivingHusband

      It’s mind-blowing to me how many husbands seem to let their wives go without sexual pleasure and release. They need to learn one word – cunnilingus. The same men who love receiving oral sex from their wife are often so hesitant to “go down” on her. I’m sorry that yours seems to be among them. Communication is the key. Firmly tell him what you would like, and ask him to help get you there.

      Reply
  32. The Baby Mama

    Given all that I have been through, and am going through, I have found myself clinging to Jesus, like I am drowning and he is my only way to be saved. I know that this has been carrying on for sometime, but I know that He will turn all things around of His glory and my benefit. But, this journey that I have been on, that has drawn me so closely to Jesus, and still is, my husband is not on that same journey. And to be honest, I am almost glad, because his being distant from where I am, helps me to keep level headed and focused, and not to get so caught up in all of it (in a bad way). Marriage is about commitment – its not about believing the same things, in the same way at the same time. And, as in my case, I am the believer and my husband is not, it is still about Jesus. It always is about Him. And one day, when the time is right, and in God’s hand, my husband will understand – when he is ready, I can sit down with him and tell him all that I have learnt and believe and understand, because of what I have been through. I eagerly await that time, but until then, I am still, more than ever, committed to my marriage, because I believe that is what Jesus expect of me.

    Reply
  33. laycistercians

    Pray is always the best thing to do first when it comes to struggling.

    Reply

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