what i’m reading: Faith & Doubt

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Category : God, different, faith, feeding my brain

  

I grew up never questioning what I was told about God.  I just accepted everything at face value.  Especially the part about “if you’re good everything will work out.”  So when I suffered a horrible set back in college, my faith shattered.  It simply couldn’t withstand the onslaught of doubt and questions.

It wasn’t until years later that I found a rekindled belief in God.  This time, instead of taking everything at face value I was filled with questions.  Is the Bible real? Is it relevant to my life? Why doesn’t God prove he exists? If a tree falls in the woods and no one’s around, does it make a sound?  I knew I could never believe in God until I wrestled with these questions.

To me questioning your faith can be one of the most important things you do.  I slowly learned that despite what I had been told, God never intended for us to hide our heads in the sand.

Likewise he never intended for us to act as if we had all the answers.

The story of Job cuts right to this matter.  Despite all of Job’s suffering he never learns why his life fell apart (it was a wager between God and Satan).  Even though God spoke to him and helped him come to terms with everything, God never revealed the reason why.  Job could have speculated all he wanted, but it’s unlikely he ever would have come up with the real reason.  Job didn’t have all the answers.  And his friends, who thought they had all the answers, turned out to be wrong as well.

It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.”

This is why John Ortberg’s new book Faith & Doubt appeals to me: I don’t know everything.  And yes, that’s hard to admit.

For most of us the words “faith” and “doubt” are separated by miles.  They couldn’t be perceived as more opposite.  We’ve been told we should never doubt any aspect of our faith has left us feeling guilty when we have questions.  Instead of addressing our doubts, we let them slowly erode our faith.  Is that how we’re supposed to feel?

Life is filled with difficulty and ambiguity.  And God doesn’t always give us clear cut explanations.  Just ask Job.  Yet we still need to operate in the midst of all this confusion.  As Ortberg points out, faith isn’t about 100% certainty.  It’s not about theological perfection.  It’s about going that last step, based on what you understand.  It’s about taking that “leap of faith” not because you know everything, but because you’ve come to some good conclusions based on what you do know.  Faith is about trusting in who God is, not what principles you have surrounded yourself with.

Faith & Doubt is filled with great information, good illustrations, and intriguing arguments.  As a whole I personally find it compelling.  But none of that is what I really take away from the book.  What I take away is something simpler:  it’s okay to have questions.

Which takes us right into R3’s mission (learning how to live out a life of faith).  This is rarely neat, and often a messy process.   We don’t always get directly from point A to point B.  Sometimes we need to ask questions.  Sometimes true exploration of faith raises hard issues.  At least that’s what’s happened in my own relationship with God.  As I struggle to understand what it means to live out a life of faith, I find I have questions.  That I have doubt.

Sometimes this doubt is significant (did God really kill people because he was angry?)  And sometimes this doubt is more trivial (Did Adam and Eve really live for hundreds of years?)  If I allowed myself to focus on the fact I don’t know everything, my relationship with God would end.  How could it continue?  If my requirement for true “faith” is 100% certainty, how do I console a family who loses a child when they ask if God is a loving god?  How do I reach out to the hurting when you expect theological perfection?

You can’t.

That’s why I will always have some doubt.  But I will also always have faith.  After reading Faith & Doubt, I no longer see faith and doubt as words separated by distance.  Instead I see them as part of the complicated picture of who God is. 

And I’m okay with that.