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Want to get to know God, trying church, but feeling very stuck, please help

(53 Posts)
zulubump Tue 05-Apr-11 09:33:19

It's hard to get everything relevant down in one post, but here's an attempt. I'm from a non-religious background but have been going to a local church for about two years and taking my dcs (age 3 and 1 years). I'm in a happy marriage and am a SAHM and generally content with my lot in lie, but have been searching for something for a while now to make my life more "meaningful". Church and the idea of God/Jesus get close at times, but I'm really unsure about the Christian faith and find the Bible to often be incomprehensible or unhelpful and upsetting. I've done an Alpha course, but did find it hard to be open and honest about all my doubts.

I go through phases of really enjoying church and feeling like God is there with me in life. But now and again I'll attend a Sunday service that covers aspects of Christianity that I'm really uncomfortable with and I feel it all falling away from me. I feel like I'm not allowed to be close to God because I don't/can't believe certain things (eg Hell, or a chapter from James on how the tongue is full of poison!!, original sin etc). I feel like I don't know this God and I loose all that good feeling..

That's how I'm feeling at the moment after this Sunday. Am feeling tearful and snappy with the DCs and like God has abandoned me because I don't know where to turn to sort out these feelings. I've prayed and asked for help but feel like there is no one there listening. Can anyone understand how I feel and offer any advice or encouragement?

madhairday Tue 05-Apr-11 10:41:53

Hi zulubump

I think that even the most committed and mature in years of Christians struggle with certain aspects, and that there are simply not nice neat answers out there to all of it, in a way, if there was it would be all too easy and not involve faith, I suppose. I totally relate to your feeling of 'no one listening', this is a well charted experience going right back to some of the OT authors, for example the Psalmists cry out to God saying 'where are you, have you forgottten me?' etc. It is OK to do that, good in fact. It doesn't mean you'll suddenly have an answer.

I've come to believe that God is in the mess with me, and that's how I get round all the stuff that's hard to understand. God sent Jesus to get down and dirty, didn't stay away sitting on the cloud looking down dissaprovingly, but in the greatest act of love there ever was did something about it.

I'm sorry that you feel confused and church doesn't seem to be helping, church is a very human institution and mostly gets it wrong, really grin Do you feel as if you can talk to church leaders/lay people about your feelings, say if it has been a service where you are struggling or disagree, could you vocalise that and talk it out? Does your church have a home group/cell group structure - these are often the best kinds of places to engage with this stuff.

I'd recommend you read some of Rob Bell's stuff - you may be pleasantly surprised at his take on stuff and how liberating he finds this faith to be. He's a bit controversial in some more fundie christian circles, but if they want to close their minds that is up to them.

This isn't really helpful is it - more a stream of consciousness! I guess what I'm saying is it's ok to shout at God - where are you etc - and Ok to question - healthy in fact. It's just a case of finding people to grapple this stuff with. If you want to do it here there are a load of us who would be more than happy to grapple it with you

I believe God is good, God is just, is love and is far beyond understanding, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't use every ounce of our reason to think things through. Faith can go alongside.

AMumInScotland Tue 05-Apr-11 13:09:45

If you feel like the leaders of your church won't allow you to have doubts, or disagree with their views, then you may need to consider looking for another church! They ought to welcome your views and try to explain theirs, not make you feel that you aren't allowed to believe certain things.

I'm a Christian but I do not believe in Hell - I do not believe that God would punish people without end for their imperfections. The threat of Hell may be useful to encourage people to think about changing their life, but the reality of it would serve no purpose, and I simply do not believe in it.

Ditto original sin - I don't think I'm a sinner because of what Adam and Eve did, in fact I don't believe in Adam and Eve at all.

But my own denomination don't have a problem with any of that - it sounds like you're attending a church which is much more fixed in its views, and much more dogmatic about what you have to believe. That could be just your one church, or it could be the whole denomination. I certainly think you should look more widely - if this is the only church you've been to, then you may not realise how varied they are.

I don't mean that you can just pick and choose what to believe at random, but the basic beliefes are those in the Nicene creed - the rest of it is up for debate.

zulubump Tue 05-Apr-11 13:23:33

Hi madhairday, really a big thanks for your reply. It's so nice to have someone take the time to respond. I know no one can answer all my questions in completeness. It's, as you said, finding people to grapple this stuff with. And that's what I think I'm lacking. As I said I did the Alpha course and I've sometimes gone to see the prayer ministry after a service. I've just never found it that helpful. I haven't found anyone that I feel really comfortable talking to. And I think I do worry a lot about offending people. I often feel quite angry about things (eg why has God given us this useless Bible that I can't make head nor tail of!) and I worry how people would react if I let my real feelings out.

There are a couple of mums from church that I see a bit socially at toddler groups or go to one another's houses to let the kids play. I have never spoken to them about any religious stuff. It always feels too heavy to bring up over a cup of tea and kid's toys, but perhaps I should be a bit braver. I think having tried a few things like Alpha and prayer ministry and not got anywhere I have been put off trying to talk to people any more, perhaps to easily. Oh I don't know, it's all just a bit scary and I don't know how to start the conversation off and feel afraid I'll burst into tears. But then if I don't try something I won't get anywhere (barring a bolt from the blue!)

There are house groups too but again it feels a bit scary and I imagine they will be full of committed Christians. I'd like to find some people that are a bit nearer where I'm at. Anyway, ramble ramble, better wash up the lunch dishes...

zulubump Tue 05-Apr-11 13:36:17

AMuminScotland, thanks just read your response too. What denomination are you? I go to a methodist church. It began mainly due to convenience - it's a short walk up the road so it's easy to get to with the kids and they have a great creche and kid's clubs and a nice cafe(!). Now we've got to know a few families there it's a nice familiar place to go to. From attending the alpha course I did find the church leaders said it's OK to doubt and ask questions, I think I've just found it difficult to find the time and place to do that. After sunday service it's usually social chit-chat and I usually have to rush off with the DCs to give them lunch. On the Alpha course there weren't other people like me asking fundamental questions and I started to feel a bit out on a limb.

I'm encouraged to hear you don't believe in Hell or original sin, but still count yourself as a Christian. Our church minister generally gives services that I find uplifting and encouraging. But we have a lay-preacher who I can't stand. He gave a service on original sin that upset me a lot (at the time I was pregnant with DS and a couple of days away from being induced - it was v bad timing). And this week we had a guest speaker who was quite inspirational in some ways (his work with the poor and disadvantaged), but said we shouldn't try to water down what's in scripture and slagged off universalism. I didn't know what it was at the time, but apparently it's not believing in Hell. And said a few other fundamentalist things that upset me.

YorkshireCrockpot Tue 05-Apr-11 13:43:41

Can't help too much but I feel like you there are aspects of Christianity that I don't believe/ agree with but I do believe the 'core' of it. I am actually embarking on confirmation classes to discuss 'stuff' which start tonight- excited and nervous all at the same time. It's going to be led by our curate (cool young woman who seems quite open to all discussion) who's promised no naff videos!
If you want to discuss things then why not start on here? What do you want to talk about?

AMumInScotland Tue 05-Apr-11 13:44:15

I'm in the Scottish Episcopal Church, which is part of the Anglican Communion, so quite like CofE. Could you maybe arrange to go visit your minister if you generally find him/her ok, and explain about the things which are causing you problems? You may find he agrees that the lay-preacher and the visitor are "more strict" than average, so not to worry too much about their take on things. And ask if there are any groups for people who are still "exploring" their faith - it can be tricky to join groups where you think everyone else knows more about it, as you then can't disagree so easily, but if there is a group with more beginners in it, you can maybe explore these issues in a safer environment.

Universalism generally means believing everyone will go to heaven, which is not exactly the same as not beleving in hell - I think some will go on to heaven, or a new creation, or something, and others will just stay dead, so I don't think that everyone will get the same reward when the time comes, just that the options are reward or zero, not reward or flames & pitchforks.

YorkshireCrockpot Tue 05-Apr-11 13:47:30

By the way I attend a good old fashioned C of E church- bells and smells and everything!

madhairday Tue 05-Apr-11 13:48:52

You definitely need to read Rob Bell's latest book, in fact I have blogged on it today if you are interested here - it's about Hell and whether it is real, what it means etc, it's fascinating. I'm always pondering on it, but am with AMIS that I don't believe it means torture for eternity. The God I know aint like that Thankfully, we can be christians and have differing views on the things that don't matter all that much, the central tenets (as AMIS said in the creed) are what matters.

I wonder if it would be worth you giving a house group a go. You may find it is full of people just like you, wanting to wrestle with stuff. Hoepfully it won't be full of know-it-alls who reckon they have it sorted. Who has?

You just sound like a lovely person who is wanting to think things through, finds some of the bible difficult (no one doesn't, I don't think) and needs an outlet to chat about it. I really hope you can find one. Start conversations with others from church - you never know. And if you come against a brick wall, please look elsewhere.

Middlemarchlover Tue 05-Apr-11 18:14:52

I see Christianity as a life-long journey; you might not know the answers now, or even have a faith, but if you continue to engage with its possibilities by going along to church, reading the Bible, and building relationships with other Christians- then that's where faith in God comes in. Some people are changed overnight and can accept everything written in the Bible, and some people struggle all their lives. I'm definitely part of the latter grin

I try to keep in mind that the books of the Bible was written by those as human as you or I, and was put together several centuries after the life of Jesus. Although I respect all it has to say, it is the accounts of Jesus' life and teachings that I always turn to when times are hard.

Good luck!! As madhairday said, I hope you find someone at your church open and willing to talk these things through with you, if not I'm sure you will somewhere else

newlark Tue 05-Apr-11 18:53:58

I had a bit of a battle with questions like you but came to realise that I don't need to understand everything - just have a "mustard seed" of faith and trust in God - like Middlemarchlover it is very much a journey and like any journey I sometimes feel I have taken the slow road or scenic route but hope I am heading in the right direction.

I recall once hearing hell described as being separated from God for eternity (heaven being with God for eternity). I go to quite an evangelical church and there are some interpretations I'm not sure about but I try to remember that there are a wide range of views on some things within the Christian church and try not to get too bogged down in what are not core beliefs.

Being part of a bible study group has really helped me (a bit like a daytime home group I guess - we are all mums with youngish children) - we do find that we chat about some of these things whereas I wouldn't with other friends even if I know they are Christians.

zulubump Tue 05-Apr-11 20:22:51

Thanks so much to everyone who has taken the time to respond. It has definitely lifted me out of my dark mood (topped off with a glass of wine now!). I will try the Rob Bell book - funnily enough I think it's the book that our guest speaker this Sunday was describing with horror! Sounds more up my street though.

Yorkshire Crockpot - good luck with your classes, it sounds good. I think I don't really know what the core of Christianity is. The Nicene creed I think someone mentioned? Can I find that somewhere in the Bible or read about it elsewhere? A Bible study group might help me. I am pretty unfamiliar with it and find it hard to sit down and read. But then it's hard to question things when I am so ignorant!

madhairday Tue 05-Apr-11 20:26:54

nicene creed
Basically the early church council of Nicea met in the 4th century I think it was and came up with these central tenets of Christian faith. It's generally universally agreed that this is the important stuff, and the other stuff round the edges is the stuff people are allowed to disagree about grin

lol at your guest speaker dissing Rob Bell. There's a lot of that around. Rob Bell totally loves Jesus. Good enough for me

DandyDan Tue 05-Apr-11 20:48:48

I think there are already lots of helpful suggestions there - not just practical ones but ones about how belief and faith works its way out in life for most people. Some of them are complicated - what do I believe about hell? What did Jesus mean when he was talking about hell (which only happens once, I think)? Why does St Paul say this? etc etc. I have found that bible study books are helpful with this sort of thing - they give some of the historical background but also explain some of the theology that the person writing was trying to put across. A good place to begin is with something like Bishop Tom Wright's books on the Gospels (he publishes as NT Wright as well, so might be found under that name): I have read his Lent book on Luke and this year on Matthew and these deal with some but not all of each of those gospels - but he does have books that do the whole gospel called Mark for Everyone/Luke for Everyone etc. He is one of the foremost biblical scholars of our time but also one of the best communicators in the business and is easy to read in this form.

Another source of information can be websites

www.rejesus.co.uk/ is a good basic site about Christianity
Even just looking up things like the Nicene Creed on wikipedia can help explain things that don't make themselves clear - and usually there are more helpful links there. I do that all the time.

Good luck and don't worry too much. Lovely that you have your glass of wine too smile - I'm off that for Lent (apart from Sundays of course) so will sit and envy you.

Middlemarchlover Tue 05-Apr-11 22:53:11

ReJesus is a great site, I often use the 'Post a Prayer' facility if I don't have time to pray properly but just want to give God a name/situation.

Bible Gateway I also get Bible Gateway's verse of the day in my emails, as do my friends in my cell group- it gives us a talking point and means we see something from the Word each day, even when we don't have chance to study it properly. HTH

LadyFannyofBumStreet Wed 06-Apr-11 02:20:44

"The Kingdom of God is within you" as Yeshua (Jesus) said. By that He meant you have to look inside yourself to find God because you won't find God anywhere else.

The Bible is incomprehensible for many reasons, but for now, the one that is most pertient to this discussion is that the sacred text within was never meant to be read literally, but symbolically.

For example, there are two different versions of how human beings were created. Ask a Christian and they won't have a logical explanation because they are caught in the trap of reading it literally without understanding the hidden spiritual meaning (this isn't a critiscim). The truthful explanation is that the first version speaks about the creation of the physical body while the second one speaks of the creation of the spiritual body also known as the Soul.

1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

*Note that he created an adrogynous and perfect soul i.e male and female. This concept is illustrated quite well in the infamous Baphomet (ignore the Goat head; that's an entirely different story) as well as Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa,

2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

My advice; Don't be discouraged, there are many paths to the same journey, so keep looking and I am sure you'll find a denomination you are comfortable with. Try and find a Gnostic Christian because they still follow the original Christian teachings, and you might find them more accepting and welcoming of a questioning mind. smile

WisteriaWoman Sun 10-Apr-11 07:41:01

On a similar thread recently - somebody recommended The Godseeker's Guide by Rabbi Lionel Blue. On that recommendation I bought it when I saw it in Oxfam a couple of weeks ago and have found it really interesting. It is written for anyone (of any faith or none) who is looking for something spiritual in their life. A lot of it is autobiographical and Lionel Blue describes his own personal journey and some of the things you can do. As always with LB he writes with great humour and wit.
Worth getting out from the library - if you still have one!

zulubump Sun 10-Apr-11 21:39:20

Thanks! I think I will treat myself to some of these books for Easter!

blackeyedsusan Mon 11-Apr-11 09:06:13

Hello zulu.
what version of the Bible aer you reading? some are easier to understand than others. the King James/ authorised version is quite incomprehensible... Have you tried either the new international version or new american standard version... and there are more too.

this following Jesus thing is not easy. most of us who try make a mess of it one time or another. most of us have doubts and questions. I do know that if you aer serious about finding God, you can ask him to help. ask him to find people to talk to about it. ask him to show you what is right. you don't need fancy words to speak to him..

tuffie Wed 13-Apr-11 21:36:23

Hi Zulubump. Just picked up this thread. I hope you have been re assured that a lot of us struggle with the same things as you.As you say, some days God seems to be so distant. But ultimately we all have faith, and that is what makes our lives complete. I also found many versions of the bible completely incomprehensible. Then I bought the Life Application Study Bible ( New International Version ) and have never looked back ! It gives an easy to understand explanation of each verse, and how we can apply it to our lives today. Highly recommended. Don't give up !

WillowFae Sun 17-Apr-11 21:15:38

https://www.wordlive.org/ is a great place for daily readings and discussions. I get it emailed to me every day

Ama123 Mon 18-Apr-11 20:00:26

Hi Zulubump,

I am new to Mumsnet and your thread was the first one I've read. I decided to sign up and post this as I can really identify with what you were saying. Although I've been brought up going to church and knowing about God/Bible stories, it was around 6 months ago when, for no real reason, I started to really question my beliefs and what will happen to me when I die. I am also happily married with two little girls (aged 3 & 1) and very contented/grateful for what I have in life.

I am happy to say that after thinking really hard about what it is I actually do believe and why, I am a Christian. That is not to say that I automatically find everything in the Bible easy to understand and accept. I would agree that getting to know God is a journey with some ups and downs.

My husband and I have started going to Bible studies at our church..they are ok, sometimes I get quite a bit out of them but other times I wish they made more of an effort to reach out and address feelings of doubt, scepticisim, etc.

My main reason for signing up here was to recommend a book by Tim Keller which has really helped me. It is called 'The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism'. It is an easy to read book in which pastor Tim Keller addresses the most common issues/doubts people have regarding the Christian faith. You can find it on amazon for around a fiver and is well worth the money!

www.redeemer.com has excellent resources and easy to listen to, relevant sermons to download which have been so helpful to me in times when I'm feeling anxious about faith.

I could also recommend Mere Christianity by C.S.Lewis (author of Narnia books) as he writes of why he became a Christian after being an atheist.

Hope this is of some help. Wish you all the very best

tuffie Tue 19-Apr-11 19:55:07

Thank you Ama, I too will buy that book. I am always on the lookout for material to re inforce my faith. I need them more than ever now as my previously agnostic husband has recently decided to embrace full on atheism. So we have some interesting discussions! I find myself having to defend my beliefs on a regular basis. That is why I value forums like these.

Ama123 Tue 19-Apr-11 22:21:14

You're welcome Tuffie, I hope the books are a good help to you. I'm sure it can be hard having to defend your beliefs regularly but I hope & pray you don't let this wear you down and that maybe your husband may eventually change his mind. Take care x

Noop Tue 19-Apr-11 22:31:36

I read the new living translation, I find it much easier to understand than the niv. And I mostly stick to the new testament and psalms just now cos I feel a bit wobbly in my faith. Maybe you should try a life application bible?

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