Wrestling in the Dark: What Every Wanderer Needs To Know

It was in the early days of writing for (in)courage that I first met Robin Dance, a southern belle of grace and a gift to me. I am deeply, deeply grateful for her…her courage, her vulnerability, her transparency, and her wisdom. The world needs her words – I have so many times – and you’ll be changed by the vulnerable stories she shares in her much anticipated book, For All Who Wander. If you’re trying to know how to best navigate your one life, know that, in it, you’ll be holding life-giving, life-changing knowledge because she’s chasing the One who gives life and changes lives. There have been moments Robin’s friendship has healed me, and her love, care, and wise prayers have meant the world to me. I love her beautiful heart and wish she lived around the corner, and if you haven’t yet met, it is my absolute joy to introduce her to you as we welcome her to the farm’s front porch today…

guest post by Robin Dance

When you’re wandering in a spiritual desert or wrestling with your faith, one thing is certain: you feel so alone.

What I didn’t believe when I was in the thick of it, and what you need to know if you’re finding yourself in this place, is that you aren’t actually alone.

Feelings are deceptive, and I promise, there are others struggling just like you. Most important, God is with you. If you’re having trouble believing that right now, I’ll believe extra for you because I remember what it was like when I didn’t.

Regardless of the battle you’re facing, isn’t it always helpful to hear the experience of another?

To help you feel a little less crazy, a little less lonely, and maybe a little more hopeful that God understands and that He’s not threatened or offended by your questions?

Incredibly, moments of doubt or confusion can be evidence of God at work in you, not His abandoning you.

Isn’t that a revolutionary, almost scandalous thought?

This flips struggling with unbelief on its head and disarms the strength of an enemy who is always and only against us.

Parsing out the tensions of our faith is part of the growth process. In his book, Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith, Barnabas Piper says doubt isn’t really the enemy of faith, it’s a catalyst for it. When reading about his experience with that famous phrase in Mark 9, “I believe, help my unbelief,” I felt a little less alone and like someone understood.

Maybe this internal battle, this wandering, this ruthless and unending tension was normal after all.

The mere act of someone else understanding makes a difference.

My own wrestling match with unbelief seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere.

The difficulties of moving to a new place and starting over, of feeling marginalized and dismissed, of my age and measure of success, of church frustration and disappointment, even the monster of myself, were all dubious “evidences” against the idea that God was really there for me, or even there at all.

Bringing our darkness into the light diffuses its strength.

It may not resolve our doubts and questions to admit them out loud, but somehow it minimizes their power over us or makes them less frightening. Sensing this, I finally mustered the courage to admit my doubts to my husband, explaining that I wasn’t sure if I believed some things I had long-professed—and maybe I never had.

His response wasn’t emotional or condemning—he simply pointed out I didn’t seem to be seeking God for answers in the midst of all my questions. And he was right.

Numbed to my plight, my flesh had been winning its battle with the Spirit as my old self kept trying to come back to life. Simultaneously, Satan was doing everything in his power to defeat me.

My husband’s insights were trustworthy, and I decided to make an effort to “do.” Skeptical, I was hoping if my behavior changed, maybe my feelings — and my faith — would follow.

In a small act of obedience, I began praying, though even throughout years of wandering spiritually, I had never stopped praying altogether. But these prayers were different.

Though mechanical, they were gut-level honest. Praying out loud, feeling every bit a fool, I told God I didn’t know if I believed He was real. If He was real, I needed Him to convince me.

I was no longer willing to profess something I didn’t believe.

I could no longer accept the prescribed faith of my youth, my church, our culture or anyone around me. If I was going to continue in this thing called faith, God was going to have to make Himself known or I was done.

And then something began happening I didn’t expect, something for which I was too short-sided to ask: God began transforming me, literally changing the way I was thinking.

Slowly, my thought patterns started shifting.

To me, there is no greater evidence of God at work in this world than a changed mind that leads to a changed lifeand my life was changing from the inside out.

In an incredible demonstration of His kindness, patience, and faithfulness, God began revealing Himself to me, His love changing how I viewed others and how I saw myself in relation to them.

Sometimes He showed up in what I call God-winks, the sort of things some people chalk up to coincidence but instead tell me He really knows me and genuinely cares for me.

Sometimes I’d stumble across a verse that spoke directly to my circumstances. His presence was palpable in our new church home.

I’ve never heard God speak audibly, but when I was dangerously teetering toward unbelief, He gave me a vivid image of His faithfulness, a vision that remains fresh years later: nearing the end of my spiritual rope and close to opening my hand to let go, God reached out, gripped my wrist, and held tight.

A veil was lifted and I could finally see:

God’s faithfulness has nothing to do with mine.

 

For all who wander – there’s wild hope in this wonder.

Robin Dance is a former marketing and PR professional who now encourages others in life and faith as a writer, speaker, and small group leader. She has been a regular contributor to (in)courage, DaySpring’s online community for women, since its inception and advocated for children in poverty as a trip blogger in Kolkata for Compassion International. For nearly 15 years, Robin has encouraged and inspired readers as a warm and inviting storyteller on her blog, Instagram, and as a featured writer for a dozen or so book collaborations.

For All Who Wander is her first solo project, an “uplifting memoir,” according to Publisher’s Weekly, that “offers hope for Christians who have wrestled with doubts about their faith.”

Inviting you to find hope and healing in your own story with the pages of hers, Robin will help you to abandon the guilt and shame attached to your questions or doubts, grasp a broader understanding of God’s unrelenting faithfulness, reframe your view of difficulties and disappointments as you understand their redemptive and transformative value, and trust that God is working in your wandering to restore and strengthen your faith.

For every ragamuffin Wanderer who cries out “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” this book is a must-read.

[ Our humble thanks to B&H Publishing for their partnership in today’s devotion ]