“Without somehow destroying me in the process, how could God reveal himself in a way that would leave no room for doubt? If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for me.” -Frederick Buechner
I’ve never had a moment in my life when I didn’t have doubts about God. I’m not sure if that’s a normal thing, but I just know that growing up, I was always looking for the simple man behind the curtain pretending to be a great and powerful God. These feelings were separate from my other ideas that if there was a God, He would never love me. But, none the less they caused me trouble.
I remember trying to ask my youth pastor about doubts and claiming I was, “asking for a friend”, because no one could know that the pastor’s daughter wasn’t too sold on this whole ‘God’ idea. I was given books, argument that tried to capture the proof of God, and stories about how this guy who was once a drug addict found God and now couldn’t get enough of experiencing Him. Which was great for the crack-head, but it wasn’t happening for me. I was the 13 year old girl who tried to pray every night, tried to do all of the good christian things, and never once heard God’s voice or experienced him. So that left me with a lot of sleepless nights and “trying to have more faith” so that maybe one day this whole God thing would click.
Sophomore year of college I began to get to the end of my wits. There were a few questions that hit my faith pretty hard, but there were two that completely killed all my simple evangelical answer:
- If I was born in the Middle East and raised to believe in Islam, would I have ever found my way to believing Christianity?
- If God is an all powerful “father” (or mother, because God has no gender) and we are His children, how does He watch the children of He world starve, be raped, abused and suffer because of where they were born and not use that power to stop it?
Now, I know many of you have formulated answers in your head for these questions and are ready to set me straight- but just hear me out for a moment.
Imagine that you’re a father or mother, maybe some of you are, but imagine your child is starving. They’ve been raped or beaten. You have, at the tip of your fingers, the ability to stop it all right then and there, would do it?
Because my answer will always be, “hell yes”. So that’s where I don’t understand, If there is a God, how can he watch those things happen to his children and not stop it, just for the sake of being just? and fair?
Yes, i know i’m committing a very big evangelical sin by questioning the authority of God. I actually do that a lot. But I didn’t and still do not understand or have answers to these questions; how a person can be judged for believing the religion they were raised in? or how God, the compassionate, can watch people suffer that He loves?
These were the questions that shook my faith and caused me to resent Christianity. Even as i’m writing this I’m wondering “why the heck do I believe in this God?!”. But even then, I still do.
Love is the thing that keeps pulling me back in. I’ve seen it amongst believes. I’ve been told they’re inspired by a man named Jesus, who I once thought I understood. And I know what some people who do not believe in God will say, that love can be found outside the church and God, and I agree. I’m not one of those Christian’s who believes in total depravity. But I do know it’s not our human nature to be selfless or to love our enemies. That the world teaches us to work for things that promise to make us ‘good enough’, but Jesus preached that God wanted to obliterate the need to be good and offer us grace. It is the times when I’ve witnessed Jesus’ followers be compelled to do acts of love because of the characteristics they believe Jesus and God inspired. When I’ve seen the teaching of Jesus played out, I know that it could literally change the world. The Jesus who taught us to love our enemies. That the God i’m questioning about saving those from harm is the exact same one that compels me to lay down everything in my life and take care of them.
One of my favorite, current day philosophers, is Peter Rollins. He talks a lot about our human nature and how we are drawn to this idea of certainty and wholeness that people believe religion can offer them. Rollin’s believes that Christianity does not make us whole. It obliterates the need to be whole. That the very thing that makes us human is our doubts, questions and feelings of disconnect in this world. As we know, the world tries to offer us things like money, fame and love to fill that void. But we as Christians have pursued our own idol through our faith by making God the substance that removes this disconnect. But He is not.
God is what makes us okay to be broken. God is what makes our life worth something WITH the void. Rollins says that our question no longer have to be, ‘Is there life after death?’ but rather, ‘Is life possible before death?’. He says that when we stop pursuing wholeness and rather just simply be, in our disconnect, we actually feel whole. I have found this to be completely true. The moments where I have given into the darkness, the uncertainty, the brokenness, I actually find life and peace.
As I am writing this blog post, I recently had a discussion with a fellow believer about my doubt filled faith. I am a very open person when it comes to the questions I have and how some days I wake up and just simply do not want to believe in God anymore. This can be hard for other Christians to take in because we are in different places; I no longer search for certainty. But some times I do question if it is wrong of me to doubt and feel disconnect.
An article written by Jonathan Weyer, addresses whether the Bible condemns doubt or not. (Follow the link for the entire article, he makes some really great points.) “Eloi, Eloi, lema, sabachthani.” Translated to, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”, this is the moment on the cross where Jesus was consumed by sin and felt the disconnect it creates as a human. He doubts himself and questions the void just like we do. So it is my sincerest belief that God does not fear our doubts or our questions. He allowed his son to experience those very things so that He could offer us grace and mercy. So through my doubts, I remember that Jesus once had them as well, and yet continued to show the most sacrificial love the world has ever seen. Just like through my doubts, God’s biggest concern is not whether I believe in an eternal hell, a literal flood or believe something is a sin that other Christians do. His biggest concern is whether I am still giving of myself and loving other’s just like His son was doing through his doubt on the cross.
As for my two major questions that have shaken my faith, I take a page from Rob Bell. Rob Bell tells his listeners to take all of their doubts and questions about God and to put them in a box, and write the word God over it. To keep them there, knowing that you may never get an answer, but to have faith that He is enough. That He is what makes us able to live lives worth meaning, even through our nothingness.
So for those like me that struggle with doubt on sometimes a daily basis, I want to leave you with this quote;
“We are nearly always longing for an easy religion, easy to understand and easy to follow; a religion with no mystery, no insoluble problems,no snags; a religion that would allow us to escape from our miserable human condition; a religion in which contact with God spares us all strife, all uncertainty,all suffering and all doubt; in short, a religion without a cross”
― Paul Tournier
Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Certainty is.