Do you have any nagging doubts about God? If you do, I understand why you may not be quick to admit it. There's a good chance you'll be wheeled in for emergency theological surgery by the elders. Or you might even find yourself outside the fellowship where you'll be given some time to "get it right". Perhaps these sound harsh, but surveys of those who have left the Church because they raised some questions and had some doubts show these responses to be pretty common.
This concerns what is often called a "faith crisis". Someone is struggling to maintain faith. They've asked some questions and not found answers that leave them "settled". Or something has happened in life that they thought wouldn't if they just "followed the rules". Perhaps they've found that Science and Scripture don't always agree and now they're struggling with their faith.
What does the Church do with people in faith crisis mode? Well, if folks are brave enough to actually admit to having doubts, we usually try to answer their questions so they can be certain again. They need to be sure. We've got to get them back on track. I mean, what's their problem anyway? Can't they see that chapter such and such, verse so and so, clearly states the answer to any doubts they may have?
Our intentions are good.
So, we set out to prove that the Earth is actually only 6,000 years old and not billions. Genesis should settle the issue (yes, the Book with a talking serpent that becomes the world's first snake). We'll show them how it clearly states that God created all things 6000 years ago. We'll make sure they understand that Science is wrong about this one. If they don't agree after that, then perhaps they can still attend, but they probably shouldn't be allowed to teach Sunday School.
Or perhaps someone is struggling with the violence of the Old Testament and the fact that God seemed to get angry quite often and would smote people for things like trying to keep precious cargo (like an Ark) from falling off the cart. The God who handled the gay agenda by burning down the ancient equivalent of San Fransisco. "Is this the same God as Jesus?", they ask. "Well, of course it is", we respond. "It's from the same Bible, don't you see?" Another faith crisis subverted. All in a day's work. If they have follow-up questions such as "Well, does that mean God has a split-personality? Is God given to His emotions like we are? Could God's ancient rage flare up at any moment?", then this is a good time to warn them of the Marcion heresy (who taught that the God of the Old Testament was a different entity than Jesus). The fear of being a heretic is sure to snap them out of their faith crisis and bury any nagging questions deep under their new skin-deep faith.
Or how about when a Christian is dealt one of life's brutal hands? Their child goes off to college and never goes back to church. Their spouse wants a divorce. They never do get healthy or wealthy. God hasn't kept them from the evils of this world. The "protective hedge around them" must have been trimmed down to something demons were easily able to hop over. They think God has abandoned them. What then? So often, this is when we do our best imitations of Job's friends and throw Scripture darts at their open wounds in order to "cure them" of their faith crisis. "God works all things for the good...Train up a child in the way...For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous..." That's it. We'll make sure they're certain that their wayward child will return to God because they trained him/her in the way they should go. We'll make sure that they know that if they are certain that they've been "called according to His purpose", that He'll be sure to work all things for the good (feel free to apply a little spiritual pressure here to free their minds of doubts). Let them know that according to Psalm 5, they must simply not be righteous enough to receive God's blessing. Crisis averted! Great job team.
Forgive the sarcastic tone, but I think we need to do better than this. It's not that we don't try. It's not that our motives are impure. I think we genuinely don't know how to handle doubt and uncertainty. We don't know what to do if it creeps into our own lives and we often mishandle it when it creeps into the lives of other Christians. So, many of us stay in the "crisis of faith closet" and keep it to ourselves. What would people think? I mean, just imagine what might happen to a pastor that admitted doubts, right? Uh...
First of all, people with questions and doubts about God are often genuine seekers of God. Don't assume they are hopeless atheist, heretics, or lesser Christians of some kind. They are not to be pitied. They are not to be shunned. They aren't even to be fixed! They are to be encouraged to keep going. Just keep swimming, as Dory wisely shared with an anxious clown fish.
Keep going after God. That's the key. Go after God Himself. It's not that we should stop asking the questions or seeking the answers. By all means, engage! But the goal is having God, not not having doubts (I felt a post like this deserved a double negative). Doubt actually feeds faith. If faith increases, it's in spite of doubt, not because there is none to begin with. Faith acts without certainty. That's what makes it faith. Otherwise, we could call it "knowing". Like what God does.
I think there's a place for doubts and questions in our journey with God. And, for the record, I don't believe the Bible answers all our questions. I don't think it's meant to. It's the Bible that actually raises most of my questions. It's often those who read their Bible in pursuit of God that have the most questions and nagging doubts. Don't stone them (though there's a verse for that). Don't hand them over to Satan (though there's a verse for that too). Love them in their uncertainty. Love them enough to honor the mind God has given them. They're engaging God. Encourage that. Point them toward faith instead of certainty.
BTW, I have doubts about being right about all of this.
And so do you.
Dave became the Senior Pastor in April 2015 at TCC after serving as the Director of Children's and Praise Ministries for 9 years. He graduated in 2011 from A.W. Tozer Seminary with a Masters in Christian Leadership. He and his wife, Katie, live in Sequim with their 6 children, 2 dogs, 15 chickens, and 50,000 honeybees.
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