My Bible is full of little notes, dates and doodles. There’s a VBS sticker with a fishing lure that says “cast your cares on God,” sticky notes of all shapes and colors reminding me of a thought, and highlighted verses taken out of context to help me get through my driver’s test or A.C.T. There are miniature sketches of the Lord’s Supper elements, stars and underlinings galore, and cute little quips and quotes from youth pastors and summer camps of old.
Recently, I was flipping through this worn, compact Bible from my teens and 20s and found two interesting dates that were noted. The first was from 2010, when I was 15. It said, “Hannah stopped doubting on 7-18-2010.” I remember sitting in the back pew of the sanctuary in McAlester, First. I had been dealing with frustration in my faith and innocent inclinations toward unbelief, when it all came to a head at this Sunday evening service. I don’t actually remember what was taught or who was teaching, but I remember feeling this overwhelming clarity in my salvation. I scribbled the note in the front page of my little NIV Bible. “Don’t forget to never doubt again,” I told myself.
The second date noted in this Bible is just from last year. I was 24 at the time and in the depths of true, honest doubt. It said, “Hannah began to stop doubting on 12/30/2019.” I had been wrestling with my faith for a couple months leading up to Dec. 30 and found myself on a trip in Italy when I again encountered that precious clarity that only God provides. I remember standing in the courtyard of the Vatican, cold and annoyed by the saturation of religion, not just in the Catholic capital of the world but in my life. Then, joy and clarity won.
Since I began the lifelong journey to stop doubting in 2020, I have discovered that our Baptist culture doesn’t often create room for struggling believers to ask difficult questions. When we do finally work up the nerve to question, we get flooded with precious little Southern quips like “Just have more faith,” “bless your heart,” or “I’ll be prayin’ for ya.” It’s hard to be honest in church. It’s scary to face big questions you’ve never had to answer by yourself.
It seems young adults are within the typical life season to begin dealing with their faith issues, specifically doubt. It’s not very fair when you consider how fresh we are to the real world in the first place. We finally begin to manage our own taxes, bills and “adult issues” when we get slammed with real questions like, “How can I know I’m saved?”, “Is the Bible truly infallible?” and “Does God really exist?”
Maybe you’re someone who is dealing with doubt. Maybe your grandchild, friend, child or sibling is the one struggling in unbelief. How will you deal with this? Let me share a couple things that continue to open my heart up to the clarity of belief and faith, and that might help you or your loved one.
First, ask the hard questions. When it comes to my doubts in God or Scripture, the Enemy does not want me to seek clarity or understanding. Both are found by asking questions and being permitted to process. When it comes to my doubt, I have to realize that my eternity is worth understanding. If you are where I was and sometimes still am, we have a lot of huge questions that no one seems to want to answer head-on. Polite Jesus-like sentiments have gotten a lot of Christians out of truly answering a hard question for a struggling believer.
If you’re the one struggling in doubt, be brave enough to ask the difficult questions. Don’t be satisfied with a numb indifference. If you’re the one trying to love the doubter well, let them ask questions, without restraints or wagging fingers.
Second, pay attention to what voice of which you’re listening. All of my doubts come over me in waves of anxiety and anger the moment I allow anyone’s voice to be elevated to the volume of the Lord God. I see Eve reflected in my own heart when I allow the Enemy to whisper in my ear, drawing me to question my Father. Her real problem wasn’t that she took the fruit; it was that she chose to listen to the wrong voice.
If you’re the one struggling in doubt, from where are your questions coming? Does the same voice that brings unbelief also brings with it fear and shame? If you’re the one trying to love the doubter well, be the voice of the Father that slowly, gently draws them to His Word. Pray Scripture over them, even if they don’t know it. Psalm 73 is a personal favorite.
Doubt and the struggle with unbelief are normal. They really are.
A few weeks ago, on May 22, I had my 18th spiritual birthday. Eighteen. In the physical world, it means I’m a legal adult. In the spiritual world, it seems as though I’m still learning to walk. Sometimes my toddle is like a newborn giraffe, innocently bounding and fumbling along. Sometimes my steps are that of a bitter, reckless drunk, struggling to see straight, let alone walk the right path.
Despite my flaws or intentions, after 18 years, I’ve come to trust a beautiful voice. The voice leads me beside still waters and makes me lie down in peace of mind (Psalm 23). It sings over me in my fear, anxiety and curiosity (Zeph. 3:17). It hushes my self-destructive, critical thoughts. It calls me to a deeper love and abundance than I could have ever earned (Eph. 2:6-10). It melts my deepest anger and bitterness with its sweet words. It is graciously silent when I cry out with offensive questions. It lulls me to flawed, yet hopeful trust with its gentleness. This is the voice of my Great Creator.
This is the voice to which I choose to listen.