Two anonymous questions:
– Hi pastor, i’m a 21 year old girl from philippines. i messaged you before about my doubts about God’s existence and my faith in Him. that was almost a year ago. Praise God that I was able to recover my faith and go back to normal living with God and i believe it became even better. but i feel so sad again right now because my doubts came back just a week ago. the desire to know God is still here but questions are bothering me. i still have lots of things to share. please help me. thank you!
– Hi:), i write to you because i think of you as an understanding and matured faith person so i thought maybe i could share with u my problem.. So, i have a big faith crisis now, like somehow i found myself drowning among doubts … I just started a biblestudy on God’s personality but somehow i found myself on a worst place. As i do the biblestudy something says these “cool things” should make an impact in me, but they dont, like my inner radar would be broken … i wanna thank u that you share things so openly!:)
Hey my dear friends: Please first know that I love you both dearly in Christ, and I know how hard it is to fall into this fog of doubt. I appreciate you both being so honest and real about this, and I’m also grateful for your encouragement even in the midst of this harder time.
You see, the Big Christian Secret is that every Christian in the world runs into doubts, question, confusion, and frustration, because there isn’t anything wrong with you that isn’t already wrong with everyone else. This doesn’t make you a bad Christian, but an honest one.
In fact, I would say that every human being who ever existed runs into doubts about their own worldviews, a sort of existential panic about what they truly believe, and it can be downright disorienting.
Here are three simple things we must know. I have said them many times before and they could sound familiar, so please feel free to skip around.
1) Sometimes doubts are just seasonal valleys, because we’re fragile squishy human beings who occasionally get moody.
No one is expected to maintain an emotional high about their faith all the time. Not everyday is a rocked out laser show singing to Jesus on full blast. Maybe at that Sunday service or the retreat or revival, you felt a spine-tingling surge of divine ecstasy with God, and it could’ve been a legitimate experience: but not everyday of your marriage is supposed to look like your wedding. That sort of hype is impossible to sustain. We’re not in Heaven yet, and we don’t need to force it either.
Moses didn’t split a Red Sea every Thursday. David didn’t kill a Goliath at every revival. And Jesus didn’t transfigure — that scene in Mark 9 when Jesus shoots laser beams and lightning out his face — every time they ate breakfast. We’re not supposed to re-create our highs, but to remember the Most High in our lows.
And you know, some days you just get tired, cranky, jaded, or gassy. Sometimes you’re just not in the mood. Sometimes this means for very long seasons, you might not “feel God.” And when you feel far from Him, maybe that doesn’t get to determine your overall faith, or maybe we’ve measured our entire progress on absurd spiritual parameters.
When you think God isn’t near, you can tell Him, “I feel so far.” God is not mad about your doubts, your venting, your shaking of the first, or your inability to get excited about Him. He receives us in every condition, so that His grace might fill the dryness of our desert seasons.
Your feelings are very real, but they can’t be everything. If we always waited to feel right with God to be good Christians, no one would ever get right or get good. So it’s really not about “how to get this right,” but simply pressing into God with even the tiny little bit of faith that we have today, for Jesus said even a mustard seed of faith is enough to move mountains.
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2) Sometimes doubts are gentle promptings to investigate your deepest beliefs, especially when life hits hard.
The truth is: Doubt is not a “sin.” It’s great to have a vibrant, robust, thriving sort of faith, and God wants that for you. But our deepest roots are born out of the winter nights when we’ve had to dig into the shallow dirt of our infant beliefs and reach into the soil of our most core foundations.
Contrary to pop culture option, Christianity will challenge you to think for yourself. As a pastor, I never want to teach you what to think as much as how. True faith, the kind that perseveres through pain and trials and urgency, takes a surgical navigation through all the very difficult questions of life. Only doubts will ever get you to ask them.
When pain hits home and you’re walking through that cancer or car accident or earthquake, you want the kind of faith that can face death. In the end, I want a faith that doesn’t just tickle my inspiration or gives me cute slogans, but a faith that can get beat up by suffering and scholars and satanic evil, and will keep on standing. And that only comes when you’re able to hold up those doubts to the light, rotate them over and over, and take a second look at every intellectual and existential answer that Christianity has to offer.
There are too many Christians who don’t really dig to the bottom of what they believe, so that when tragedy comes, they wonder how their concept of God could ever allow such misery. This quickly turns into a toxic disillusionment because their faith was never nuanced enough to deal with the gray-space struggle of real life. It’s not that their God was not big enough, but rather much too small.
It’s one thing to say that “Jesus died for my sins and got up from the dead.” Any church attender could say they believe this, and maybe they do in some esoteric symbolic way. But what really gets you through the grinding jaws of suffering is to know that Jesus actually conquered a nameless grave, that he threw a right hook at Satan and a left hook at sin, that the Resurrection offers a sweeping victory against entropy and aging and disease and atrocity, and that Jesus uppercut death in the face. Jesus destroyed all our greatest enemies by entering through them himself, and then invites us into such power and grace.
The Resurrection, if it really happened, has to be both existentially satisfying and intellectually complete. It’s totally wise to doubt that such a thing happened: but such doubt drives you to seek the truth, and when you even entertain the possibility that it happened, it’s downright electrifying.
3) Some of us are simply wired to be more doubtful than others.
Though I believe Jesus is the ultimate answer and accommodation for our reality, I also doubt him every single day.
When Moses split the Red Sea, there were probably 1) victorious triumphant warriors saying “This is our God!” and 2) doubtful panicking screamers running full speed through whales and plankton. I’m a Screamer. I’m a cynic. I’m a critic. I’m Peter, who fell into the water after he got off the boat.
I’m not giving you an excuse to have a halfway lukewarm faith. I would never wish that upon anyone. But I’m okay with my slow-burning, smoldering, sit-in-the-backseat sort of faith most of the time. Just because I don’t sing like the front row of worship service doesn’t mean I don’t love Jesus. It just means I’m wired to love him when I write, when I see the sun break through the stitching in the clouds, when I serve the homeless and see the face of Jesus there.
Please don’t beat yourself up about a slowly sizzling faith. Each day, no matter how you feel or what’s happening, pray anyway. Read the Bible anyway. Sing anyway. Serve anyway. Your life keeps going, so talk with God anyway. And just sometimes: the Sea will split again. Those giants fall with great aplomb. And Jesus will be there on the mountaintop, full of light and glory and weight, unleashing his furious love poured out for us destitute, despondent sinners. It’s those rare moments which I call to mind as I descend back into the valley, and no one can ever talk me out them. Even with my tiny little bit of seed-sized faith, I can say, “So there I saw him on that mountain, and he is true. He is good. He is down here, too, as He always was, and will be.”