When you come to really believe something, your entire heart buys into that belief. If there are any obstacles to believing something, they need to be impartially looked at, and properly addressed. If the object of your faith is truly trustworthy, and your doubts are removed in a way in which you personally believe, then you enter into a realm of faith where “everything is possible”. Literally, everything is a fluctuating field of quantum possibilities, waiting for you, the observer and the influencer, to enmesh your heart-level beliefs with it. That will invariably produce the intended result.
A subtle yet deadly enemy of faith is mind-level indoctrination. In Western churches, we are often offered a very superficial set of teachings (“doctrines”) to which we are required to intellectually assent. The payoffs of that superficial agreement to a set of metaphysical propositions are: a sense of social belonging with the group, a promise of getting on the good side of God, and avoiding immeasurable pain in the afterlife.
Honestly, that’s a very pale caricature of what real relationship with God, and real faith are like. These are very primitive, stone-age motivators: tribal belonging, avoiding potential wrath from a distant and impersonal monarch archetype, and avoidance of pain and getting pleasure.
If you think about it – being initiated into a mafia-like structure (belonging), buying a medieval Catholic sin indulgence (receiving the approval of the tribal chieftain), spilling the beans while being waterboarded (avoiding pain), and shooting heroin (getting pleasure) all cater to the same motives, except the personal and social consequences are much more negative. But the baseline logic is the same – I am at the center, and all those things cater to my base needs, without really elevating me to any kind of real significance, dignity, and real personhood. Through all that, the image of God in me in not awakened at all. And you heart still doesn’t really BELIEVE. It simply complies.
There’s a promise of inner transformation that’s often preached about, but in my 20+ years of experience observing it in the context of Christianity, it’s largely hit and miss on a massive scale. There are islands of real heart transformation here and there, but by far the most common strategies that I hear consist of simply building thicker walls around the seemingly unbeatable sinful proclivities, combined with dangling a juicier afterlife carrot (or wielding a thicker afterlife stick). None of this can influence heart-level beliefs to any real degree, and therefore not much of it has anything to do with building faith. You can not build personal trust in that way, that’s not how our inner persons are designed. It violates the most basic faith mechanisms.
Heart-level faith can be cultivated, but it takes intentional relationship-building by spending increasingly intimate quality time with God – and with each other. All we need to be is real, compassionate, authentic human beings willing to receive God’s messages and act on them. You can’t just tell your heart to believe – it has to enter into the realm of faith through communing with trustworthy persons, God being the most important of them all. And then you will be able to hear what they have said and what they are saying, and it won’t be that hard to simply trust who you know to be trustworthy.
Simple stuff, is it not? A lot of this seems so light and easily-flowing, it can easily be mistaken for being not serious or not committed. (And that’s where it’s easy to make a mistake of selecting a more severe-sounding impersonal system of mandatory joyless self-sacrifice, and trade the “easy yoke” of Jesus for an ill-fitting, heavy yoke of religion.) Au contraire – this path leads to a place for commitment, and for traveling a less popular road with God hand in hand. That’s like marriage – without commitment it simply won’t work. But the way to get to marriage is through love, not through threats or compulsion or through “thou shalt nots”. You can’t get somewhere the wrong way, and expect it to work the right way.
For the few among us, traveling on this path eventually leads to choosing a way that’s akin to climbing Mount Everest in severe, deadly conditions. Think apostle Paul. But that path is only for the willing, for the true pioneers willing to climb the highest of summits. It’s not a requirement for getting a relationship with God. On the contrary – having a real, vibrant, enduring relationship with God is what even makes this possible. This path is for the very few who are so in love with God and so infatuated with pioneering the new Kingdom of God frontiers to offer their life to burn bright for God, and even lay it down on the altar of service.
You get to choose how high you want to fly with God. But you don’t get to choose how to get there. If you don’t come in through the doorway of unconditional love and acceptance from God toward you before you set your foot on the path – you might as well retrace your steps and pick the right door. The entry point always determines the ultimate destination. It pays off to pick the right door before trying to going through it.