How Doubting Grows Our Faith
by Rachael Dymski
Almost everything I have come to believe grew from a place of doubt.
My second daughter began as a whisper, as an I-can’t-possibly-be-pregnant-but-I’ll-check-anyway baby, grown in darkness and steady white noise of my body. The only proof of her existence was my revulsion to vegetables, and then the jeans that wouldn’t button, and finally, the kicks and rolls and inability to do upward dog. She was grown in darkness, in seclusion, and until I held her against my chest after the stroke of midnight in November, I asked, “Is she real?” Could morning sickness plus weight gain plus puffy eyes plus cravings for mayo suddenly equal a new life?
If we’re all grown in the darkness like that, if we need to become accustomed to it and developed in it before we can ever bear the light, then darkness, of some kind, must be for our good.
Don’t we all have a cynic inside us, and isn’t that a good thing? We have that little voice that keeps us from taking the world and other people at face value, and whether natural or learned, it works like a shield, protecting us, in a way, from the things in life that hurt us. Without it we would believe every infomercial, every magazine, every weight loss program—every piece of advice that tells us how to become something other than what we currently are.
Jesus loves me, this I know, goes the song. For the Bible tells me so.
The Bible tells me, so it must be true?
How can I believe the Bible?
Most of my life has been plagued with questions. I don’t think I am unique in this. Don’t we all wonder about the breath we fill ourselves with, about what happens when we no longer need it? Don’t we all question the purpose of art, poetry, love, light, and laughter if we cannot hold onto it forever? Aren’t we all trying to figure out how we can live so that we are at peace with the person inside our skin?
Many Christian’s I’ve met are under the impression that we shouldn’t have doubts or questions. In my opinion, this could not be further from the truth. Our questions, particularly about God and our faith, can often be the venue through which we come to know and understand God better.
Here is what I have learned from years of doubts and questions:
- Our Doubts Discourage Apathy.
It is hard to feel neutral about life and religion when our questions about their meaning and validity keep us awake at night. The topics of religion, God, faith, and absolute truth rarely generate an apathetic response, and so it would make sense that our questions unsettle us on a deep level. This is a gift. Without our questions, would we ever look deeper? Without wondering about the world around us, would we ever look past our own noses?
Our questions and doubts can be uncomfortable. But if we allow ourselves to sit in the space between the question and the answer: if we are willing to venture into the darkness of uncertainty, these questions are good for our souls.
Questions about God, the Bible, and my faith sent me on a years-long journey, researching its history, its documentation, the places where it seems to contradict itself. If the Bible is really the word of God, I reasoned, then it matters that I know that for myself. If I can really believe what it says, then it changes everything about my life and how I understand myself.
Here is what I know after all this questioning, research, wondering: breathing is a sacred thing. To be alive is to receive a gift, in and out, every day, and nothing has helped me understand that more than the Bible. This doubting, too, has been a gift, because the difference between knowing something and really knowing it, so that you breathe it in and out—so that it changes you that frequently and that fully—is like the difference between being alive and living. And my questions, more than almost anything else, have been the catalyst for my living.
- Our Questions Do Not Disappoint God.
There is a lingering belief in the church that in order to be good Christians we must have all the answers. We think that if we can just study and memorize enough, we won’t have any more questions.
This is impossible. The Psalms are filled with questions. Abraham had questions. The disciples had questions. The author of Ecclesiastes most certainly had questions.
God knows that we are limited. He made us with limits. He made us with questions. I think that we run from questions because we are afraid they will unravel our faith. We are afraid that if we can’t provide a satisfactory answer, we won’t be able to convince anyone of what we believe.
If God already knows our thoughts, then we don’t have to hide them from Him. The Psalms ask honestly: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourselves in times of trouble?” “Why have you forgotten me?” “Why have you forgotten the oppressed?”
They are also filled with beautiful glimmers of hope: “My Rock and My Redeemer,” “I will sing of your steadfast love,” “Your love, O Lord, endures forever.”
The psalms are full of questions, and yet they are rooted in the firm foundation of God’s love. When we give our questions to God, He will not be disappointed with us. He will use them, instead, to grow our faith: to lead us out of darkness and into light.
- We Aren’t Meant to Question Alone.
Over the summer I sat with a friend and asked her if Jesus loved my children. How could I know, with certainty?
She replied, “1 John 4:7 says that love comes from God. Any love you have for her you were given by God. So you can hold to that.”
She didn’t judge me for asking the question. She didn’t think my faith was weak. Instead, she entered it with me and offered me encouragement.
The Christian life is made for community. We are the body of Christ, created to learn from one another and to live life alongside each other. This life must include the discussion of our doubts. We are called to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, that we might not be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13). We are called to honesty, to lifting one another up in prayer, to bringing our questions into the light.
Your doubt is not a thing to hide from or to be ashamed of, especially in the church—but we must not leave them where they are. If God is sovereign over all things, then He is also sovereign over our doubts. The Bible is full of people who questioned, who failed to believe, who wondered about the whole meaning of life, and God met all those people right where they were
Rachael Dymski is a mother, writer, and florist living in Central Pennsylvania. Her forthcoming book, Anxiety Interrupted (New Hope), is about the importance of asking hard questions. Her work has been featured in The Gospel Coalition, Mothers Always Write, Relevant Magazine, and Risen Motherhood. You can read more of her writing on her blog: www.rachaeldymski.com.
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