I realize that I’ve never shared my brush with apostasy my junior year. I’ve only ever alluded to it and sometimes, I almost forget that it ever happened.
It happened so insidiously. After I got saved my freshman year in college, I struggled a lot that summer with legalism. Why was I reading my Bible every day? And why did it start feeling like a chore? I was trying to do the word for word exegesis like I was taught to do but it felt so dry and difficult.
My dad had also fallen away from the faith a few years prior but was getting more vocal about my involvement at church. He had squandered away his time while a high school student by completely neglecting school for church. He was afraid that Lighthouse would do that to me as he perceived it to be fundamentalist and too extreme. I had a lot of heated discussion with him about it but ultimately, I wasn’t even a year old in Christian age and I already struggled with being patient with my parents.
The summer after my freshman year was a time of introspection, but the grudging type. I had finally gotten Christianity right after all those years of trying to figure it out in junior high and high school so why bother touching it now? I knew that I was to work out my salvation with fear and trembling, also craving the pure milk of the Word so that I could grow in respect to my salvation through it. But goodness, I’m saved. Isn’t that enough?
Sophomore year was a continued struggle. I was getting more involved at Lighthouse and was regularly attending CCM. I was still wrestling with legalism. Little be known to me that small seeds of doubt had been planted in my heart over the summer. I secretly feared that what happened to my dad would happen to me. After all, our minds worked frightfully similarly. Why wouldn’t it happen to me?
One day, I walked into the kitchen to look for a snack. I opened the cupboard door and as I did, a thought ran through my mind: “Moon, you know that if you were to die today, you’d go to hell, right?” It was as random as it was disturbing. I was just trying to look for something to snack on… where did that thought come from? I thought nothing of it and after failing to find a snack, I returned to my room to study.
Little moments like this started to accumulate and I began to wonder if I were just in a spiritual slump or if I was doing something wrong. Why doubt something so basic and elementary? I had shared my testimony in front of the church that year and had gotten baptized. What was there to doubt?
Eventually my junior year during small group, I finally confessed this doubt that was growing in my heart. It was embarrassing, to say the least. I seemed to be doing fine. I was on the new visitor’s team and greeted people at the door every Sunday morning. I had had two years to figure this out. Why was I having difficulty with something as simple as faith?
In a stroke of God’s providence, I learned of another sister struggling with the same thing as me. We discussed our struggles together and even tried to memorize Scripture together. Knowing that I wasn’t the only one shaken up was immensely helpful, as terrible as our situations were.
I tried to read my Bible in search of something. I met weekly with my discipler who would just try to encourage me, probably unsure of how to handle the situation herself.
Spring quarter, I was so close to walking away. I was so sick and tired of feeling so miserable every day. Everyone who knew of my struggle approached me cautiously and I always felt tense, wondering if I was in for yet another interrogation or brain picking. All I wanted at this point was to be left alone and to be able to find something that could jolt me out of this slump. I prayed short, desperate prayers: “God, if you’re there, let me know.”; “God, I don’t know what to do.”; “God, I feel so miserable.” I wasn’t even sure if there was someone on the other end of that prayer listening.
I wanted to give a timeline for how long I could tolerate this for. Maybe up until senior year? The end of college? Regardless, I didn’t know how much longer I could stay in this limbo for. It was a strange kind of purgatory– being in one world but packing up and preparing to leave for another. Sure, I knew that there would be a lot of judgment and troublesome meet ups with people were I to leave but at this point, I didn’t care. I just wanted to get out of this hazy zone.
I’ll admit, when I applied to study abroad, it wasn’t purely out of the best intentions. I think I just wanted to leave everything behind and live somewhere else for a while. I entertained thoughts of living as an unbeliever in Tokyo, since, after all, studying abroad is about new experiences, right? I thought about just cutting loose and reinventing myself and comparing how my time as a Christian vs living as a non-Christian was like.
By God’s grace, I somehow wound up at a small church in Kichijouji. A good, solid, Bible-preaching church with welcoming and loving members. I also had the privilege of being one of the first attenders of an on-campus Friday night worship night. On top of that, there were a few believers in my program– I attended worship night with one of them every week (lol they also recruited him to lead praise while we were there).
As I met believers from all around the world and witnessed Christians worshiping in a largely pagan nation, united in the same gospel, I couldn’t help but realize that God is so much bigger than I had ever imagined. People from different continents all meeting in a small room at ICU, singing praise and sharing testimonies– this wasn’t just some psychologically rewarding system to participate in.
God was so faithful in keeping and protecting me during my time there. I wound up at that church because I happened to meet a Japanese PK on the train and she referred me to that church. That particular believer friend of mine got me involved with the worship night. Even down to meeting a Christian ramen shop owner who was trying to evangelize to my friends and asked if he could sing some hymns for us on his guitar– I never thought I’d have a conversation about Jesus in Japanese with a Japanese stranger!
I came back from Tokyo with a struggling, but renewed faith. I was excited to be back at Lighthouse. There was always a nagging sense of guilt for feeling all the doubt that I did but Romans 8:1 kept me grounded the whole time. I would often think back to my testimony and be reminded that no, I did not seek God but he sought me. I believed out of faith and not just because “it made sense” to be Christian.
Since then, life hasn’t gotten any easier haha. In fact, life has gotten much harder and the resilience of my faith has been tested. It’s often hit me where it hurts most but when I look back at my life as a Christian so far, and even before that, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with God’s staggering record of faithfulness.
Sometimes it’s still hard. I feel like once you wrestle with doubt seriously, the thoughts will never go away. I’m ok with that, though. It does make for a noisy brain but it also strengthens my assurance in Christ all the more. It makes the gospel that much more precious and dear to me.
I can’t say that this won’t happen again. I want to, because it was so miserable. But whatever happens, I know that truth will win out. It always does. After all, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
Please feel free to ask me questions about this period in my life. I think that I’ve definitely had some experiences in my Christian life that are off the beaten path but if it’s to minister to others and ultimately, to glorify God, then it makes it all worth it. Thanks for reading. :)