there was a time in my life that i had no doubt.
only certainty that what i had made the center of my life was, indeed, the whole truth.
then, my foundation suddenly crumbled underneath me; after the seeds of doubt i’d been hiding in the bowels of denial put down roots and made quick work of destroying all i thought i knew.
a switch flipped one day, when i asked the question – at age 22 – newly married and just out of college: “what if it all isn’t true??” i spent the next seven years desperately trying to get that switch to flip back, to turn the lights back on.
i wanted it back – the easy, certain faith of my youth.
it was a miserable seven years; full of dark confusion, desperate searching, depression, resignation, wishing for it all to end (one way or another).
(i have never been more grateful than the moment i stepped out of that fog into the warm lovelight of a present God.)
what i didn’t know back then was that doubt is normal.
it is a vital piece of a vibrant, alive faith. because certainty is no faith at all.
“If we are unwilling to live askew for a while, set off balance, to wait on the ever-spacious threshold, we remain in the same old room for all our lives. If we will not balance knowing with a kind of open ended not knowing – nothing new seems to happen. Thus it is called “faith” and demands living with a certain degree of anxiety and holding a very real amount of tension.” -Richard Rohr, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective
i have found this to be oh-so-true. once i have learned to sit with my doubts, allow them to inform my faith; accepted, rather than denied, them… brand-new doors have opened to me, doors to freedom – and even creativity – with God.
but here’s what i want you to know about doubt: ::it doesn’t feel normal::
not when you’ve only ever known certainty, and have believed doubters to be “…like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” (James 1:6-8 NIV). my impression was that doubting was cause for shame, so i had just never gone there.
during those seven years, as i approached pastors and philosophers, apologists and religion professors, i was trying to pull myself out of what was surely a shameful situation of no longer being able to simply believe. it was incredibly painful, that upheaval of the faith i’d once known. it was excruciating to no longer know what was true, no longer know how to orient my life.
no one chooses doubt because it is the easy way out, because they’re being lazy about their faith (somehow i had this impression). it is anything but easy.
i had a few people during these years tell me, with a wave of the hand: “oh yeah, of course – we all have doubts.” i’d – at first – begin to breathe a little easier, until they followed that up with “that’s normal; but i just keep coming back to the Bible, where it says God blah blah blah…” nobody stopped long enough to hear me that i was questioning everything. not just the specifics of where my beliefs would land, but the big things they took for granted, like God’s existence or the veracity of the Bible. this doubt i was experiencing was not “normal“, based on the responses i had to what i was experiencing all those years. no.one.got.it. i was alone.
the very few responses that helped me, that gave me hope, were the ones that spoke to their own personal experience of a big God. the friend who said “i will see the light for you until you can see it yourself.” and refused to be anything but present. the ones who guided me deeper into my doubts to see what they were telling me – about myself, about God. these hearts held mine gently until that day that light pierced the fog.
my faith now is so much messier than it was before the lights went out. and so much more beautiful and free and real.
now, there is daylight and there is moonless night.
they both move in my spirit, and i am with God.
this post was written as a linkup with the Doubters Anonymous group my friend Alissa runs (and i am part of) – if this is a topic that you’d like to read more perspectives on, go check it out: