For Intellectual Christians who Struggle with Accepting the Grace and Love of God

I see you. I understand your plight and I know that the struggle is, like, so real. It’s a challenge sometimes to accept that a holy, righteous God could love you in spite of all of your wrongdoings and mishaps. I, too, have wrestled with countless questions and doubts concerning the certainty of my salvation and faith, whether or not God really is who He reveals Himself to be in the ancient Script, and most recently, how to love God with my heart. That last one has kept me up for most nights than I care to admit.

The ancient Script instructs us in Luke chapter 10 and verse 27 to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” Perhaps it is the result of being naturally inquisitive or having the privilege of attending a Christian university for a short time after high school, where I was introduced to Christian apologetics, church history, and Biblical hermeneutics. Maybe it’s a combination of those and other factors that make the “love… with all your heart” part of that commandment difficult at times. Or it could be something else entirely. I think being inquisitive is both a blessing and a curse. I had a tendency to approach God like, “I need to know everything about you before I give you my heart.” I always imagine Him chuckling in response and saying something like “You can’t know everything about Me, but I know everything about you, so give Me your heart. I’ll keep it safe.” It wasn’t always like this though. Loving God with my heart was easier, once upon a time.

My upbringing was like that of a typical fundamental Christian environment, only with a single parent who also happened to be a workaholic and dedicated to church ministry. I say that not to condemn, but to state the facts. My childhood faith was molded from all the great essentials: church attendance every time the doors opened, Veggie Tales (Barbara Manatee was my jam!), Gospel music, and Bible studies in my mother’s bedroom that usually, if memory serves me correctly, started and ended with prayer.

I miss those days. They hinged on blind faith with the assurance that anything I wanted to know about God could be found in the Bible. It was never explicitly stated, but I inherently knew that I wasn’t allowed to ask questions regarding the nature of God or the Bible’s inerrancy, lest I wanted to be accused by the church elders for my lack of faith.

These days, my childhood faith isn’t sufficient for the arguments, circumstances, and plethora of ideologies I face in adulthood. People who mean well misquote Scripture to blend in with their own agendas, God remains a mystery, and I struggle to let go of my sin and vices. I self-flagellate to the point of self-hatred, with my theological fear in the forefront of my mind, and rely on my intellect more often than I should to save me because it’s easier for me to deal with facts than emotions.

As it currently stands, my biggest theological fear is John 5:39-40 which states, “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” Looking back on things now, I realize that that particular fear did not enter my heart and mind until after I returned home from my Christian university. When you have homework assignments like “Read all of Galatians 3 and find 40 instances of the word “faith” as it pertains to the original Greek according to Strong’s Concordance,” the temptation to view the Bible not as the word of God, but as a mere textbook that you hope has the right answers within its pages is suddenly real and strong. You may even start viewing God not as “Lord” or even “friend” but as something to be figured out, some puzzle that needs to be solved. When you’ve been accustomed to doing things a certain way (like using Scripture as a legitimate source for academic papers!) it is hard to reposition yourself to change.

Prime example: the first Sunday morning I attended my now-former home church, it was like culture shock. I was torn between what I had learned and what I had been taught to do prior to college. I started to shun all emotionalism as the intellectual side increased. Back then, I was an intellectual snob (my parents can attest to this). I wasn’t trying to be—I just wanted to share what I had learned and maybe find some like-minded people to converse and grow with—but I came across as a conceited know-it-all. Over the years, I would hope that by connecting with various brothers and sisters in the faith, I’ve become less prideful and pretentious, and instead, grown in humility and grace.

If any of this sounds familiar, know that you are not alone in your struggle with merging both your heart and mind to God. There seems to be a great divide between the heart and mind, at least in our Western culture. My advice is to you and myself is this: Give yourself grace and be patient. This process is a marathon, not a sprint. I find that being still, in both mind and body, helps me focus on God as God and helps me connect with him as a daughter, not just an intellectual being. Be still and know that He is God. He awaits you.

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