I’ve heard and read a lot of stories from people who have been hurt by church leaders or fellow Christians when they admit their doubts. Sometimes they are blamed or shamed for doubting. When hurting Christians admit they feel far away from God, they often are told to look for a sin in their life that is blocking their access to God. I’ve never believed this. And despite hearing these kinds of unsupportive responses about doubt, I’ve luckily never felt insecure or ashamed of the ways I question God. And maybe that comes from not growing up within Christianity. Believing in God wasn’t a given for me like it was for many who grew up attending church every Sunday with their families and praying together before every meal and bedtime. And because it wasn’t a given, I think I’ve always been free to wonder and question. When I came to my beliefs, I came to them by questioning and wondering and seeking, and grabbing hold despite the doubts.
I like to say God and I have an understanding. And when saying this I expect quizzical looks or suspicion or chuckles as if I’m making some sort of ironic joke. But I mean it.
God and I have an understanding. I’ve always openly admitted my doubts to Him, asked bold questions of Him, and said that sometimes this whole faith just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes the plausibility of it all escapes me (the idea of Heaven fills me with so many questions, I don’t even know where to begin). Sometimes life’s pain is too much, and it just doesn’t feel right. Sometimes the hatred and violence in this world seem like they can overwhelm the love and the compassion, and I think, where are you? Sometimes the loss and the grief and the fear are too much, and I think, why would you do this? But I’ve promised God that I would hold my faith close and handle it with care because I feel it’s fragility. And I know that he knows this about me, so we have an understanding: I’ll keep believing and He’ll let me ask questions.
I’ve always known that my doubts weren’t too big, my questions too complicated, my fears too deep that God couldn’t handle it. Of course he can. But I’ve also known that he didn’t promise to shield me from any of it– the pain, the grief, the fear, the doubt. He promised redemption, but in no definite time frame, no guarantee of redemption now, here, just eventually. What we get for now is presence, and hope. Not answers, or comfort, or happiness, or freedom from pain, but presence.
Alece Ronzino wrote this beautiful piece a couple months ago at Deeper Story, When None of It Mattered, and I loved it. Unlike her, I don’t think I ever felt the certainty of faith. It’s not something I lost, it’s just something I’ve never really had. Worship music and sermons and devotionals and prayer circles have never really filled me with wonder or assurance or confidence the way they do for so many others. But that’s okay. There are others things that do. And when I admitted these things to God, as Alece said, “He was big enough to take it. His feelings weren’t hurt when I spoke words of doubt instead of faith. He didn’t mind when I cried rather than worshipped. He is God enough to handle this human heart of mine. He didn’t scold me; He didn’t heap “shoulds” or shame on me; He didn’t tell me to let go and let Him.” But He stayed and He sat with me, and He sat with Alece, and He’ll sit with all of us.
I have moments when God feels so close that all my doubts fade into the background. For me, these are not the norm, but I believe God knows that about me. He knows that I’ll keep questioning and wondering and seeking. And He knows that I do it because I want it all to make sense and I want everyone to feel included in His love and I want an answer to the fear and grief. He knows me better than I know myself. He knows where these questions come from and where they will lead me. And He’s patient with who I am.
And He’ll be patient with who you are and where you are, so don’t let your questions and doubts make you feel ashamed. Let them give you a new way to talk with God, honestly and vulnerably. Because He’s big enough to take it, and He loves enough to walk you through the dark.