Quick, here is a short True or False quiz.
TRUE OR FALSE: I believe in God.
Absolutely true. Every fragment that makes up the whole acknowledges this truth. The flesh, the soul, the body, the mind, the spirit: my entire existence accepts and proclaims that God is real.
TRUE OR FALSE: I believe in the Truth as revealed by the Bible.
True, at least on most days. Some days I am bombarded with questions, and it is on those days that my confidence wavers. Those days are rare, but I would be dishonest if I did not admit they were as much a part of my life as the days where I accept every word of Scripture as inspired by God Himself.
TRUE OR FALSE: I believe Jesus is who He and the rest of Scripture say He is.
True. I believe Scripture and history are in agreement. Jesus lived and breathed two thousand years ago. He taught and had many followers. The Bible says that He died on a cross and rose again on the third day after His death. Awesome story there; one that has moved my heart more times than I can recall. But it has also been the source of many sleepless nights and totally unproductive days. God in the flesh dead? God in the flesh raised to life again? Any adult that claims those truths are easy to accept is a liar. Scripture speaks to it. History speaks to it. But sometimes, my mind cannot fathom it. Sometimes, my unbelief is too strong to ignore. It is at those times I think about faith.
I have frequently wrestled with the idea of faith. There are times—frankly, too many times—that I get the impression we Christians are supposed to go through life with total confidence in what we believe. And if we don’t, we are not spiritual enough. Sure, you hear preachers and teachers say that it is ok to have doubts, but when they say that they are referring to things like uncertainty about God’s will for our lives and not understanding why God allowed a loved one to die. Those questions are acceptable. If we ask the wrong questions, like: Is Jesus really the only way? Is the Bible true? Questions of that nature are not only discouraged but they are labeled as weak and unspiritual. I am convinced this is why so many Christians live very frustrated, disappointed lives.
We all know what the dirty, ugly, secret is. We all know about the giant elephant in the corner of the room but we refuse to admit it to ourselves and we definitely won’t admit it to anyone else: We doubt. Our belief is not complete. Or strong. Or perfect. It is flawed and deeply human. Our belief is easily shaken. At times, it is easily broken. There are times that my intellect, my emotions, and my heart are telling me that there is no way Jesus fed five thousand men with one child’s lunch. The Gospels say it happened. That means God says it happened. If I doubt one part of that, I in effect doubt that the Bible is truly the inspired Word of God. If I doubt that, then what do I actually believe? If I have nothing authoritative to hold on to, then on what am I basing my religious beliefs?
I grow frustrated when I hear other Christians sigh and postulate why more people don’t embrace our beliefs. As if it is easy to embrace what Christians believe. Unfortunately, many Christians do feel our belief system is easily understood and it should make perfect sense to everyone, all of the time. Let me be blunt: That is insane! Scripture is full of examples of people of faith struggling with their desire to believe and their inability to actually do so. The disciples weren’t completely convinced that Jesus was the Messiah until they saw Him in His resurrected form. It is not as if they spent 3 years traveling with Him and watching Him raise people from the dead, heal the blind, lame, and diseased, feed thousands with one small meal, and control the elements. Oh wait. They did see all of that and yet they doubted.
When was the last time you saw Jesus raise someone from the dead? How about heal a cripple? Yeah, it has been like . . . never. Yes, we have the biblical accounts. Yes, we have the historical record and tradition. Yes, we have the previous two thousand years of human history to show us the power of Jesus’ life and message. But to expect Christians, from any age or generation, to live without doubts is unrealistic and damaging. It is damaging because it implies that to have doubts is to sin. So, when we doubt, and we all do, we feel guilty and defeated, which of course leads to even more doubting and more guilt. You see the pattern there? It’s vicious and it is unforgiving. That is not the life Scripture speaks to. That is not the life Jesus calls us to.
Where does all of this leave us? I’m not entirely sure. I do know a few things that have given me great comfort, though. First, questions are acceptable ways of interacting with God. Scripture is full of questions, many of them unanswered. Questions don’t make us sinful, or immature, or even unspiritual. Questions make us human and they show we are actively engaging our beliefs in a way that is healthy and God-ordained. Finally, sincere doubt can lead the way to a fuller and more vibrant faith.
True faith isn’t the act of believing in something we already know to be true. True faith is believing in something that defies our experience. True faith is believing when all evidence points to the opposite conclusion. True faith is living a life that makes no sense from a human perspective but is exactly what Jesus instructed us to do. True faith has all sorts of room for doubts. If it didn’t it wouldn’t be faith. We aren’t saved by assurances and truths. We are saved by grace, through faith. So, I believe, albeit hesitantly at times. And when I cannot believe completely, I cry out to God, “I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”