Faith in the Midst of Doubt

I can’t remember a time in my life without God. However, several years ago I walked through a season of doubt that was difficult, scary, lonely, and isolating.

What can Christians do when they are beginning to question everything they have ever believed?

I grew up in a loving Christian home and attended a healthy church that taught me to love God and his word. Some of my earliest childhood memories are singing along with Christian songs on tape in the back seat of my mom’s car and rushing off to AWANA with my dad, and for that foundation I am grateful. But through a long series of events, I began to experience doubts that sent me spiraling downward:

Does God even really exist?

Did we just make him up to help us deal with life and death?

If a higher power does exist, how can we know he resembles the God of the Bible?

Do I only believe in God because Christianity is all I’ve ever known?

I was pierced by so many questions that it felt like I was playing Jenga, pulling out all of the pieces and wondering if the whole tower would come crashing down. It was hard for me to even read my Bible because every time I opened it up, I was faced with the constant assault of nagging questions that threatened to dismantle everything I had based my life upon.

I kept this struggle private for a long time, not feeling permission to ask these questions and worrying what other people would say about me if I actually verbalized some of these doubts. But everything seemed to change when I opened up to other people, sharing my fears and struggles. I still had all the same questions, but the questions weren’t quite as scary anymore.

I still struggle with doubt, and I probably always will. Going through those struggles changed and shaped me in profound ways that I’m still trying to understand. The questions still remain, but I have to remind myself that questions are not a bad thing. I want a real, robust, and genuine faith that is based on the truth, not just on something someone else told me. I still don’t like to face the doubts, but I know that the faith I have on the other side of the struggle is deeper, stronger, richer, and more historically rooted than I ever had before.

This short article can’t possibly cover all the various reasons, motivations, and struggles that can accompany someone who is walking through a season of doubt. But I’d like to offer a few pieces of advice for anyone who might see a bit of themselves in my story:

Talk to Someone
You don’t have to fight this battle alone.

Give yourself permission for sincere doubt.

The church is the best place to bring your questions; find someone who you trust and open up about your struggles.

Keep Asking Questions
Doubt is not a sin.

It is part of being human and can be a healthy part of our spiritual growth.

Stay curious!

Keep a Soft Heart
It is possible to think critically with your mind while still maintaining a gentle spirit.

Our quest for truth should not leave us in a place where we are cynical, resentful, angry, or stubborn.

Wrestling through the toughest questions in life is not always easy, simple, convenient, or pretty, but it doesn’t have to be lonely, scary, or painful. We can find joy in the journey.  The hard work of faith is worth it to know God and look more like him.

 I believe; help my unbelief!

Mark 9:24b

140: Why Doesn’t My Kid Believe? — Youth and the Deconstruction of Faith

In our most recent series, Reclaiming [Your] Faith, we’ve been talking about what the Bible has to say about diversity, intellectualism, justice and sexuality.

For some, how they’ve seen those who follow Jesus respond to these issues has caused them to question, deconstruct, and even deconvert from Christianity.

On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen sat down with Kyle Mikulan to discuss what it means for someone to deconstruct their faith and how you can walk with someone who is going through that process.

139: Diversity of Belief in the Church

Even within the Christian faith, there are differing opinions on doctrines like baptism, leadership, and spiritual gifts.

How can we know what is of primary importance and what is secondary?

Should we even care about these differences?

In this episode, Rachel Chester talks with Yancey Arrington about the diversity of beliefs within Christianity and how we can faithfully strive for both truth and unity.

3 Things You Must Know to Have a Thoughtful Life

When asked what the greatest commandment (i.e. the most important commandment) in the Old Testament law was, Jesus said to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.

All the laws of the Old Testament essentially boil down to these two things: love God and love others.  

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

— Matthew 22:36-39

We are called to love God with everything, including our mind.

But how can we love God like that?

How do we live a thoughtful life?  

Here are 3 things you must know and a few resources to help you learn more.

1. Know Who You Believe In
You have to first know God as he has revealed himself in the Bible. One of the charges against many Christians today is that they simply don’t know what the Bible says. They might know a few passages because they appear on social media posts with pretty backgrounds or coffee mugs, or because those are the verses they memorized as children. But, it seems, the Christian tradition of reading and knowing the Bible is not as strong as it once was.

We believe the Bible is God’s word and that it was written by human authors, under the supernatural guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Christians have always affirmed that it is the supreme source of truth for their beliefs and living.

But the only way to discover and understand the truths God reveals in the Bible is to read it for yourself.

And if you want some added help understanding things, get an ESV Study Bible or take our How to Study the Bible class in the fall.

Better yet, don’t do it alone. Join a small group to read, discuss, and apply God’s word in community.  

To love God with your mind, you have to know God as he’s revealed himself in Scripture.

2. Know What You Believe In
You have to know what you believe and the core beliefs that Christians throughout history have stacked hands on. Studying theology can help you do that.

We’ve also posted the essential beliefs of our church on our website. Frankly, they are pretty generic essential beliefs similar to what you’d find on many church websites.

But know that those genericsounding beliefs you see on church websites have been carefully crafted, formed by Scripture, and debated at different points throughout the history of the church. 

We don’t take them for granted and neither should you.

To learn more, here are two great resources to get you started:

 

3. Know Why you Believe In It
You have to know why you believe what you believe, and, at least to some degree, be able to explain and defend what you believe. There’s actually a name for the defense of the Christian faith: apologetics.

That doesn’t mean you have to be one of those debaters who like to argue and discuss and push back. Some people are wired that way and some people aren’t. But like Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 

Know what you believe—the hope that is in you. And know why you believe it so that you can explain it to someone else who asks why you have that hope, and why you believe what you believe.

Be prepared to address objections or concerns people might have. People have questions. You’ve probably asked some of them, even if you’re settled in your belief: 

  • How could a good God allow suffering?  
  • How can a loving God send people to hell?  
  • Hasn’t science disproven Christianity?  
  • How can you say there’s only one true faith? 
  • Doesn’t Christianity denigrate women? And condone slavery? 

Fortunately, there are good answers to these questions. Christians have applied their minds to the study of Scripture for hundreds of years to come up with satisfying, God-honoring answers to these questions. So do the work to know what those answers are. 

Here are two great resources to get you started on studying apologetics:

 

 

While Christianity is very much tied to our hearts, it requires us to use our wits, our reason, and the entirety of our minds to truly follow Christ.

Let me encourage you, don’t check your brain at the door.

Dive in, learn, and use your knowledge and reason together with your feelings and faith. And as you do, may you, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 

Forgiving Myself

As I lie awake in my bed after everyone else in my house has gone to sleep, my mind replays my failings like a horrifying highlight reel.

How I lost my temper with my children again.

The impatience threaded through a conversation with a friend.

The devastation on my husband’s face when my sharp words cut him down.

My grief over what I’ve done blossoms into shame, convincing me that change is impossible. The shame is amplified by bitterness, and before I know it, I have welcomed dangerous lies and doubted the gospel. My head may nod enthusiastically over Jesus’s words to forgive my offender seventy times seven, but what about when the offender is me?

I don’t think I’m alone. Longtime followers of Christ are intimately familiar with the command to forgive. But when the struggle is internal, maybe you, like me, consider it almost virtuous to punish yourself harshly and deny yourself any eligibility for grace.

Why is it so hard to forgive ourselves?

In my years-long internal battle with self-resentment, I’ve identified three major obstacles along the way:

1. Pride

As a natural people-pleaser, I appreciate high standards and the accolades thrown my way when I’ve reached them. It feels good to pretend I can be righteous and good — until it doesn’t work. Pride can make me delusional about my own propensity to sin. Pride strives to patch over mistakes, pretending they never happened. Pride tells me I should’ve done better — tried harder. But Scripture says that I can’t work hard enough, that I can’t achieve perfection on my own. God isn’t surprised or shaken at my unholiness. He knows all his children need discipline and training. Instead of burying my sin deep enough to maintain my image, humbly admitting my sin before the Lord is the first step toward forgiving myself.

2. Doubt

In the Garden of Eden, we see the serpent’s first tactic as he sweet-talked Eve and Adam, weaving threads of doubt into their view of God. The Enemy is always the first to remind me of my moral failures and the first to suggest that God might not be who I’ve believed him to be. He whispers lies that tell me God didn’t really make me righteous, I can’t really be loved enough, God doesn’t really keep his promise to forgive. But we can learn to discern his hissing amidst our thoughts. Just as Jesus used Scripture to combat all of Satan’s lies in the desert, our only defense is to plant ourselves in the Bible and stand firm on God’s promises.

3. Shame

If I allow pride and doubt to fester in me, they will swing wide the door for shame. When fear of exposure controls me and God’s love seems distant, I begin to believe that there is no escape from my sin. Shame wraps its victim in the label of their wrongs. It distracts me from God’s presence, disrupts my relationships, and discourages my efforts toward spiritual maturity. But the truth of my identity in Christ can overcome the trap of shame. I love the lyrics to the song “You Are More” by Tenth Avenue North:

You are more than the choices that you made,

you are more than the sum of your past mistakes,

you are more than the problems you create,

you’ve been remade.

Because Christ has made us new creations, we are not defined by our sins. I have victory over shame because I am a child of God, a recipient of his great mercy without earning any of it, and my sin was nailed to the cross.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:13-14

I don’t have to keep looking back on my past sins. I don’t have to be anxious about future struggles. Freedom from shame’s snare allows me to be honest about my failures before the Lord. I don’t have to hide or justify my sin, instead humbly approaching him for forgiveness. And when we ask God to forgive us, we can be sure that he does and that his forgiveness is final.

In his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered the entirety of sin. When we are forgiven, our sin no longer hangs over us. Our souls don’t wallow in a place of guilt, for he has defeated pride, doubt, and shame. What a gift! What love! Why would we continue to carry the burden of blame when God has removed all blame from us?

When I rehearse the truth that I am a child of God, his beloved treasure for whom he died, then my heart can confess my failures to my Father, trust his promises, and rest in his grace.

How Can I Experience Blessing?

How can I experience blessing?

Does God Promise Healing?

Does God promise healing?

It seems like that question demands a clear cut answer.

Listen to how our Teaching Pastor, Yancey Arrington answers this question in our latest video.

Come To Him

As we embark on our 28 Days of Prayer, I hope you’re joining in. Prayer plays a crucial role in our relationship with God, but it can be intimidating.

Many of us feel some trepidation, uncertainty, or confusion when we think about prayer.

We may feel convicted of a lack of desire to pray. We may feel ashamed about failure to consistently pray in the past. Or maybe we just don’t really know how to begin.

As we enter into this challenge together, let’s remember that prayer is simply an invitation into the presence of God. We are called to come to him.

Here are three ways in which we can accept his invitation.

COME IN CHILD-LIKE FAITH
You can come just as you are to God, messy and broken with peanut butter on your face and a rip in your jeans.

Jesus invited the weary, the broken, the bruised, the thirsty – he’s invited all those in need and all those at the end of their ropes. Your Father desires you to bring your burdens to him. The heart of the gospel is that through Jesus we come to God, not with the assumption we are good enough, but with the knowledge that we are not.

Think about how small children talk to their parents. The conversation never ends! There may be pauses, but children always pick back up again with whatever is on their minds. They just blurt out what they want and what they need. They interrupt. They ask without regard for what it will cost you or where it will come from. They ask because they depend completely upon you. And they keep asking with mind numbing persistence.

Come to your Father in prayer like a child. Children are supremely confident in their parents’ love and power. Instinctively, they trust. They believe their parents want to do good for them. And your Father’s care and provision is perfectly wise, strong, and loving.

You can trust him even more than kids trust their mom and dad.

COME IN COMMUNITY
Prayer is not just for a single person alone and desperate in a foxhole; it’s an outpouring to our Father by our family in Christ. We pray for each other and with each other. There might be times in our lives when we cannot get out of bed or even lift our heads because of the suffering of this world. But still, our family in Christ prays for us. We pray together for those who don’t know God, trusting that God not only hears us, but that our prayers matter, now and for eternity.

We need each other. We are created not only for relationship with God, but for relationship with one another. Prayer is a way of life together as the church. Our faith is personal, but it is not private.

COME IN SURRENDER
When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray in Matthew 6:10, the heart of his prayer was this:

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Prayer tunes our hearts to God’s will. When we come to him, we are acknowledging our need. Any posture other than humility is just self-deception. If we had it all figured out, why would we come to him at all?

Our prayers are a step of surrender.

We surrender our plans and priorities. We surrender our dreams and decisions. We surrender our very lives, praying that his kingdom would be built rather than our own. That his will would be done, not ours.

Now, God’s will is not always done on earth. Child abuse is not God’s will, racism is not God’s will, the exploitation of human beings through pornography is not God’s will, and teenagers killing themselves with drugs is not God’s will. We realize the world is broken. So, we cry out to him. We surrender ourselves to his kingdom, asking that he would make all things new.

So come to him.

Come as a child, pouring out your heart and trusting in your Father’s goodness. Come together with your brothers and sisters in the faith, lifting each other’s needs to the Savior. Come in complete surrender, seeking his kingdom and desiring his will.

Just come.

131: Curses, Tears, and Worship — Praying with the Psalms

Clear Creek Community Church is taking part in 28 Days of Prayer as a church family.

As part of these 28 days, we are praying through Psalms, the prayerbook of the people of God.

Throughout this book, there are many different types of psalms; each one a different and authentic way of crying out to God our Father.

In this episode, Rachel talks with Tanner Smith, Director of Prayer Ministries, and Denise Ward, teacher of Grief Share and Women of the Word, about the example of honest and intimate prayers in the Psalms and how we can incorporate them into our own prayer lives.

130: What is Spiritual Warfare?

Throughout Revelation, John wants his readers to realize that there is more going on that meets the eye; there is a spiritual reality at work with angels and demons, and God and Satan.

So, what is spiritual warfare?

Is it something we really experience today?

Ryan sits down with Bruce Wesley to discuss Satan and demons, as well as the authority, power, and peace of Jesus.