“Don’t worry about me, there’s no way I could ever doubt” was the reply I gave to a concerned friend while at the end of a summer working at a bible camp. Before I moved out, I was so convinced that I had experienced God at work in my life in such a significant way I assumed I was spiritually invincible. I was wrong.
Three days after coming back from camp, I moved 15 hours away from my hometown – my family, my friends, and my faith. It was this last f-word that I really did not expect to leave behind. I started to be faced with doubts that I feared were going to pull my faith apart at the seams.
I was warned of the statistics about the majority young adults leaving the church and their faith behind once they attend post-secondary, but I assumed that those stats didn’t apply to me. Attending college lead me to be bombarded with questions I thought I knew inside and out. And this bombardment led me to a terrifying realization: I had no answers of my own.
In the past when a challenging topic came up in conversation, I dealt with it intellectually among my close knit circle of Christian friends. I would simply recycle a neatly packaged answer for any hot topic question I was given. Now I was away from those friends, and I was the one asking the hard questions to myself. All of a sudden the prepackaged arguments I had used to answer those questions no longer sufficed.
I could no longer deal with the topics of pain, poverty, suicide, abuse, or heaven forbid the notion of hell. I was overwhelmed. I found myself knocked to the ground not knowing how to pick up the pieces of my faith that had been torn apart by the very questions I had once conquered.
So there I was, on my own, spiraling downward deeper into doubt. There were many nights where I would lie in my bed praying “God, if you’re there, would you get me through this, I got nothing left in me”. All the prayer felt like were empty words in an empty room to a God I wasn’t sure I even believed in anymore. As I tried to sleep I wondered if I would wake up the next morning and no longer be a Christian.
When I returned to my hometown for the summer, I felt like I ship wrecked my faith. I washed up on shore barely holding on the drift wood fragments of my faith. Eventually, I knew I had to begin building something from the wreckage. Thankfully, Jesus the carpenter seems to have a knack for transforming the broken into the beautiful.
The transformation did not happen overnight. One step at a time, by spending honest time one-on-one with God, and honest time in Christian community, I started to learn.
I started to learn that I can be honest – God’s not afraid or surprised by any of my questions. I started to learn that I can believe even when I don’t understand how all the pieces fit together. In fact, I started to learn that faith is not the absence of questions, but choosing to believe when I don’t have all the answers.
So for those of you who may be struggling with doubt, know that you’re not alone. For those who are in confident in your faith, I pray that in hearing my story that you may be better equipped to “have mercy on those who doubt”.
Photo by (flickr CC): Kat