Influence

 the shape of leadership

Surviving Theological Angst

3 practices to guide you through the troubling waters of theological uncertainty

Alicia Britt Chole on May 25, 2016

"I'm preparing my sermon for Sunday. But honestly, I'm not sure what I believe today."

“I’ve been in ministry for years, but I find myself wondering if Jesus really is who I thought He was.”

It happens. We study, think, teach and occasionally pause as some –ism or –ology misses a beat in our souls. Suddenly the familiar feels irregular. And the irregular can feel downright disconcerting.

For me, theological angst is when I sincerely wonder if a belief is worthy of belief. Since Jesus interrupted my atheistic existence, He has walked with me through theological angst of both mild and monstrous proportions. Without question, the process has drawn us closer.

If you are squinting right now trying to figure out what on earth I am talking about, it is OK. Click on something else and go in peace. If, however, the angst feels familiar, below are three practices that guide me through the troubling waters of theological uncertainty.

When the Holy Spirit sometimes counsels me: “Let this question rest. For the moment, no farther.” Then I have a choice to make. Will I self-navigate? Or will I submit to the Spirit’s leadership?

I fast denial. Reality is a friend of intimacy with God. Denial is not. Spiritually, denial is a numbing form of self-protection that hinders real communion with our real God.

If John the Baptist — a “more than a prophet,” “great” (Matthew 11:9, 11) leader — could express theological uncertainty about the very nature of Jesus (Matthew 11:3: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”), our angst is in really good company.

I ask the Holy Spirit to mentor my mind. More than the ability to think, mental strength is the ability to “choose” what to think and when to think.

When the Holy Spirit sometimes counsels me: “Let this question rest. For the moment, no farther.” Then I have a choice to make. Will I self-navigate? Or will I submit to the Spirit’s leadership?

When Jesus said, “follow me” (Matthew 4:19; 16:24), He meant with our minds as well as our feet. He leads. We follow. And His Spirit mentors us all along the way.

I view questions as sacred invitations. My atheist father mentored me in processing cognitive angst. With dancing eyes, Dad daily asked, “What’s the daughter thinking about? Are there any questions in that brain of yours? You’re a good thinker, daughter!”

Growing up, questions were an invitation to spend time with my Dad. He passed in 2001, but my Heavenly Father has carried on the tradition:

 We weaken — not strengthen — our faith when we silence sincere questions. Faith in Christ is not an airy substance that rests on unquestioning souls. Biblical faith is muscular, thickened more through trials than ease. 40 Days of Decrease  (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2016), 22. 

Personally, honest angst has forged stronger love with God. (What a relief.)

  

Dr. Alicia Britt Chole is a speaker, leadership mentor and author. Her newest book, 40 Days of Decrease, guides readers in thinning their heart-clutter to thicken their communion with God. Connect with Alicia @aliciachole or aliciachole.com. This article was originally published in the April/May issue of Influence. For more print content, subscribe here.

RECOMMENDED ARTICLES
Don't miss an issue, subscribe today!

Trending Articles





Advertise   Privacy Policy   Terms   About Us   Submission Guidelines  

Influence Magazine & The Healthy Church Network
© 2017 Assemblies of God