He laced his fingers around the mug of coffee and listened to me as I poured out my concerns.
“Just tell me how to overcome doubt.” I said. “I’ve just never questioned this before, and now I’m not even sure what to believe.”
We were in some pretty deep theological and philosophical waters, discussing the canonicity of the Bible, how the books came to be selected, and what the difference is, if any, between the Word of God spoken by God through the prophets and the Word of God as we refer to David’s psalms, the genealogies, and other non-God-spoken writings.
The angst that had been roiling within me had reached a tipping point, and I finally asked my pastor if he’d meet me for coffee.
He assured me, first, that I wasn’t heretical or anathema because I doubted. And I wasn’t un-welcomed at the church either.
But then, to my dismay, he told me he couldn’t give me the answers I was looking for.
“I can tell you what I believe and why I’ve reached a point of rest in my searching,” he said, “but this is your journey, and you’ll have to get to the point yourself where you say, ‘This is solid ground. Here I can rest and trust.‘”
I really appreciate that he didn’t condemn me for doubting; in fact, he validated some of the concerns I had by sharing his own journey of questioning, searching, and finally resting. But he didn’t let me stay in limbo either.
“You don’t want to spend the rest of your life searching for something without knowing what it is. What do you need to be convinced of, and what evidence will be required to get you there?” And at some point, he concluded, you’ll need to rest in the knowledge that God has all the answers you don’t.
I haven’t talked much about this season of doubt because I’ve only recently come out of it. But having reached a place of rest, I want to extend an arm toward those of you who are currently wrestling and say, “I’ve been there. I know it’s hard. Let me point you toward the way out.”
1. Take your doubts to God.
You’re not alone. And you’re not condemned. Take this journey with God, and ask Him to show you the way. Like the father who wanted his son healed but wasn’t sure if it would happen, cry out to God, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” (see Mark 9:24).
2. Find a friend
Once you start questioning your faith, it’s easy to slide down a spiral of uncertainty and mish-mashy postmodern thinking. Find a friend who’s walked this road before you and has reached a place of rest, and ask them to help you walk the journey for yourself.
3. Decide what your place of rest looks like
For some of life’s doubts, you’ll never have a 100% verifiable answer. But you may find historical evidence to get you 97% of the way there. Decide what you need to make up your mind, and then pursue that wholeheartedly.
4. Follow hard after God
When you honestly ask God to help you overcome your unbelief, He will take you on a wild and incredible journey and you’ll discover things you didn’t even know you didn’t know! I know. I’ve been there. But as tempting as it is to follow rabbit trails, hold fast to God and keep your focus on Him. Follow His lead, and remember that the end goal is not some higher level of enlightenment but rather a deeper relationship with God in which He gets all the glory. Follow hard after Him.
Remember that conversation I started with? I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the Bible, but God did. In His grace and sense of humor, He’s brought me back to square one…. after we circled around the map a lot, kind of like the Israelites in the desert. But now I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Bible, a more comprehensive understanding of Scripture, and greater empathy for those who are doubting themselves. My season of doubt has become instead a season of blessing.
In fact, God has been leading me to share the things I’ve learned in my wanderings and resting, and I’m so excited to do just that through a 31-day series starting in October titled Deeper Bible Study. In it, we’ll not only look at different methods of studying the Bible, but we’ll also talk about why we should study the Bible in the first place, how to avoid common pitfalls, where to start, and what should be our end goal. I am SO. INCREDIBLY. EXCITED.
And if that’s not a testimony to God’s amazing ability to help His children overcome doubts and unbelief, I don’t know what is.
Will you join me?