Pursuit In The Midst of Doubt
Erich Schurga couldn’t believe it the first time one of his fellow Starting Point group members asked the exact question he’d been thinking, but was hesitant to ask.
Growing up in a rule-based, Catholic home, Erich thought his questions showed a lack of faith. But in Summit’s Starting Point group he and his wife, Jackie, were encouraged to explore their faith in a conversational environment where no questions were off limits. And when Erich realized that many of the other people in their discussion group also came from similar backgrounds, it put him at ease right away.
Over the course of the eight-weeks, Erich would run into questions as he went through the workbook at home, or as he drove to meet with the group, which always seemed to be answered in the video or brought up for discussion by someone else in the group. The first time it happened it felt like a coincidence, but as it happened again and again, Erich began to see that it was God pursuing him. He says, “Driving to group I would think, ‘I want Jesus to talk to me.’ And there were a lot of times where other participants would bring something up and it was like they were a vessel. Jesus was using them to talk to me directly. To get answers to the exact questions I needed answered.”
Looking back, Erich can see that God’s pursuit started five years ago, when he met Jackie. She was a co-worker at the time whom he could ask questions about faith without worrying she would be offended or share them with others. He says, “I was taking a break from my walk with Christ. After meeting her and talking more about religion I was so curious and asked her all these questions. There was no question I could ask that seemed stupid to her, and she had great answers. I feel like God used [her] as a conduit.”
Jackie signed up for the Starting Point group mostly to keep her husband company. She had been a Christian since high school and was confident the material would be a review. She says, “I went in with the attitude of ‘I could help teach this.’ But God used the group to show me that I didn’t know everything I thought I did. This is like a ‘Christianity 101’ class and I didn’t understand it all, even though I’ve been a Christian for more than 15 years. I came out seeing new ways God can speak to me, and understanding Jesus on a deeper level.”
One lesson that stood out to both Erich and Jackie was about the impact Jesus’ crucifixion had on early believers. In that week’s teaching video, author and pastor Andy Stanley explained that many of those that had followed Jesus during his ministry lost faith when he died and then believed again after Jesus’ resurrection. That made sense to Erich, who could identify with those that had doubts and wrestled with hard questions about Jesus. Jackie says, “Erich relates to doubters, and seeing the doubters in the Bible helps us know Christianity isn’t about blind-following. Even the people standing next to Jesus doubted him. I’m thankful that at Summit people are open-minded and you can feel free to express doubt and share questions.”
After learning about the early Christians doubting Jesus, Erich was able to share with the group that he didn’t really feel that Jesus died for him. It just wasn’t something he understood or related to personally. That’s when a fellow group member said something that helped change Erich’s perspective. Erich says, “One of the group members mentioned they pictured it like it was their father on the cross. It was a different way of looking at it, the human element, and it got me closer in my understanding. Sometimes you read through Scripture and it’s very confusing, I needed something more basic. This was simple and it clicked. I had an emotional reaction to it.”
Understanding the personal love Jesus has for him deepened Erich’s relationship with his savior and changed his prayer life. He says, “I definitely know Jesus better as a result of this group. For the first time I can see Jesus as a real person, and it changed my heart. Because of that, prayer is more like a conversation and talking to him. I find myself praying more—on the way to work, when I’m taking a walk, when my thoughts are spinning out.”
One of the things that Jackie told Erich early on in their friendship was that God seeks us. It’s a principle that she has seen play out for her husband, and herself, in the past two months. She says, “It doesn’t matter if you’re not all in, or if you have a lot of doubts. It just matters that you have the door open to listen and look for him. In this group, we saw people become vulnerable, let their walls down, and God jumped right in. He was right there waiting all along.”
Erich didn’t understand the idea of God’s pursuit at first, but this Easter, he’s seen it all pieced together. He says, “You don’t need to do anything—he seeks you. That’s what I’ve gotten out of this process. It’s something I had been told before, but I see it now. I feel such a connection to Jesus, I feel the trust. I don’t care about the doubts or unanswered questions I had. I’ve let them go, given them to God.”
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Melissa Stillman is one of our most longstanding volunteer writers. She is very kind and a talented writer who has been serving on the Summit Magazine team for several years.