I just got Netflix, and so I have watched more movies and tv shows in the past three weeks than I have in my entire life. After watching a bunch of documentaries about where our food comes from (Guys, I might be vegan now), I ended up watching the film Religulous with Bill Maher. In the movie, Maher interviews layman in the Christian church as well as ex-members of the Church of Latter-day Saints, some fringe religious cult members, an Islamic imam, a Jewish rabbi and several others to prove that the only true response to religion is to doubt everything we know.
Despite the movie’s blatant framing, innumerable biases and use of several fallacies, it did touch on the idea of doubt as truth that we are so quick to accept culturally when it comes to living out a faith.
My Own Experiences
I’ve shared a little about my spiritual journey here before, coming from Catholicism, falling away from the church, and then discovering true faith through Protestantism. While I absolutely cannot speak about everyone’s experience with doubt, I can speak about my own struggles with this beast.
It didn’t take me long before I began to question whether the priest standing in front of me on Sunday mornings was more holy than I and had all the answers. As a teenager, while all of my friends thought about what they would have for lunch tomorrow and when the next school dance was, I would stay up long nights staring at my ceiling wondering where God was. I was angry at the thought that God existed because, honestly, he was doing a horrible job.
I would come up with these elaborate excuses as to why things were the way they were. Clearly the people in Jesus’s time were just afraid of dying so they came up with some elaborate story to comfort themselves on long dark nights. Clearly all the pastors knew this and were either deluding themselves or more likely keeping up appearances to keep everyone calm. Because I didn’t understand what it meant to experience the richness of a Christian faith, I came up with these really lame excuses as to why people did the things they did.
Thankfully, through my doubt, God showed me truth, His truth.
How Doubt Presents Itself
Doubt has many ways of creeping into our lives. Sometimes it’s gradual and itches at the back of our neck repeatedly. Other times it hits us like a tidal wave knocking us on our feet causing us to grasp for air.
Sometimes doubt is perpetual. People can live in perpetual doubt like Bill Maher and refuse to believe in anything they cannot know for sure. *
There can even be Christians who live in perpetual doubt wanting to believe in what Christ offers but rejecting teachings, miracles, and reports as improbable. They’ll comment on the illegitimacy of Scripture saying that it was written by an older generation, by close-minded people, and was the result of politics, not spirituality. They will completely remove God from faith.
Blind Doubt is Not Part of Your Faith
Doubt can indeed lead to a richer, deeper faith for many. I’ve spoken with many people who have experienced dark nights of the soul only to come out the other side with a deeper understanding of God and a love for Him they never would have experienced before. Unfortunately, there are some who get caught up in doubt, equating doubt with the truth and playing it up as part of their faith journey.
Blind doubt is not part of your faith. Your faith is not cyclical. The model of faith is not to experience seasons of doubt followed by seasons of certainty over and over and over again. Doubt is a wedge that is put between you and God. It’s purpose is to either leave you in confusion or drive you away from truth.
Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
When in doubt, you should always be moving toward a goal. You should always be seeking to know God more fully. Trust God to power through your doubt. Your doubt is not the end goal. God is.
I’m not sure I can emphasize that enough. I’ve met several people in conversation who sound as if they believe that God will save them based on their doubt. As if when they plead their case at the end of their lives, they might be able to say “but God, you didn’t show me enough, and you didn’t reveal yourself enough. Maybe you should have done more of this. Maybe you should have done this.”
God cannot help you if you have made doubt your god.
What To Do?
1. When in doubt, trust God. Yeah, that sounds like a horrible, Sunday school-esque cliche, but it’s truth. When you find yourself doubting, ask what is is you’re doubting and why you’re doubting. I often discovered that the reason I was doubting was because I was going over a hurdle in my relationship with God and was having difficulty understanding Him.
2. Read. Read. Read. I find comfort in reading the writings of several Christian theologians who struggled with far more than I ever struggled with and lived to write powerful works for Christianity. It’s helpful to know that C.S. Lewis had every reason to not be Christian and chose the faith after being an atheist for a good part of his life.
3. Seek community. Don’t be afraid to confess your doubt to fellow church members. That’s what that faith community is there for, to bring you closer together.
But the most important thing is don’t settle. It’s easy to get caught up in everyday doubts but persevere and don’t lose hope.
Photo Credit: seyed mostafa zamani
*To the agnostic, knowledge takes on a whole new meaning to religion. There are things that we can definitively know in this life that are not solely sensory. We typically don’t define knowledge as something that is known 100% as true. This is an odd concept that has now been used to critique Christianity as untrue because it does not satisfy every last one of our tiny desires. It’s interesting to note here that there were people who literally stood next to Jesus as he performed miracles and saw the same signs that everyone else did and still refused to believe. Let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not uncertainty you don’t want, it’s God.