Doubt is Expressing our Faith; not Losing it...
Do you want to know why many young people are ‘leaving the faith’? It’s because they feel that there is no room to doubt; to struggle and wrestle with and to question the things of God.
Sure, young people are leaving in droves from the church because they think Christians are judgmental, hypocrites, and so forth. However, what puts them off more than just our moral hypocrisy is our ‘know-it-all’ of a mysterious and transcendent God. Ok, that just went way philosophical, so let me wrap myself around to the first paragraph and let’s try to take a look at the bigger picture through proper lens.
Often, people are given the choice to either believe in the science of their classroom or the Bible. They are given the choice to either be certain of the things of God or just walk away because they obviously don’t have enough faith which really means they are not strong Christians and so forth. In either case, there is always a choice to be made.
To go a tad bit deeper, young people feel like they have to suppress any doubts they may have of God or the things of God. They feel like they just need to pretend it’s not there. They feel like doubt is this evil thing that just needs to be washed from the mind in an effort to just be totally certain of everything.
However, when young people do this, or really anyone, one of two things happen: First, they will eventually leave the faith because no one can actually be human and live like this. Or second, they will just go through the religious motions for the rest of their lives, saying and doing all the right things, while bitter as bitter can be. We really don’t want either to be an option, so what’s left? We’ll get there in just a moment.
We live in a broken world where crap happens. Let’s just be honest. This past couple of months in my hometown two young people, Addy and Gavin, lost their lives tragically. An officer lost his life while on duty. Then the citizens of my town scroll through their newsfeed and see that people are running rampant with guns murdering innocent people. Why? Why does all this happen? How are we to make sense of it all?
You see, young people will ask these questions but they feel like they can’t because it’s somehow dirty or wrong to do so; or that it makes them less of a real Christian if they do. I assure you that it doesn’t. If our young people are not given the space and TIME to wrestle with such things, how can we expect those outside the church to grapple with the things of God.
I want to propose that the ‘doubts’ that young people have about God or the things of God within the church is not them losing their faith or them being weakened in their faith. It’s them EXPRESSING their faith just like Job does in the Bible. Let’s turn there for a minute.
We all know who Job is, right? Well, actually we read the first two chapters, then the last two and only glance through the middle 38 because we’ve made ‘sense of the point.’ Have we though? We think of Job as the hero of the first two chapters, a weakling in his faith in the middle of Job, and then a hero again in the last chapter. But what if Job is a hero in the middle? Yes, even in the midst of his questioning of God and the things of God?
We all know that there is no one like Job for he is blameless and upright (Job 1:8). We all know that Job did not sin with his lips in the midst of adversity and senseless things happening to and around him (Job 1:22). Wait, what do you mean with his lips? What about with his heart or his hands or anything else? The Talmud, an ancient collection of Jewish teachings suggests that, while Job didn’t sin with his lips he did so with his heart.” Well, that certainly kills our hero image of Job, doesn’t it.
After all, in Job 3:1, we catch Job cursing the day he was born and then we just ignore the next 38 chapters and get to the last two where Job finally starts acting as a Christian should be acting. After all, isn’t that what his friends do: they talk theology with Job and tell him that he shouldn’t be acting or saying such and such in the midst of his adversity; that he shouldn’t be questioning God? We’re not really all that different at times.
However, what if he’s acting like a God-fearing man all along? Think about it: When we turn to Job 42, we read this: After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My anger brusn against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is RIGHT, as my servant Job has.’
Did Job speak right of God in those middle chapters that we tend to villainize him? Here, it says he did.
In the midst of Jobs doubts and questions about God and the things of God, Job is deemed as speaking right of God. If Job can be described that way here, how come we can’t allow young people to do the same?
When young people are angry at God, are confused about the goodness or God and the evil in this world, and when they are conflicted about the things of God, we need to allow them room. Instead of righting them off as only a matter of time before they leave the church, we need to understand that this could be THAT pivotal time when their faith is bringing them CLOSER to God.
When they are questioning why God took their classmate away at such a young age, we need to allow them the space and time to do so. We, Christians, are not that patient. Even if we allow it, we tend to put a timeline on it all. Don’t do that. Who knows what God is up in that individual.
SO, I know this isn’t the most academic posting of all time, but I do hope to convey a point for our young people and for you: When you doubt, don’t suppress it; be honest about it and don’t just talk about God in the midst of it; talk to God with it. Are we to really believe that is not big enough or that he is surprised by our doubts and questions? Or that God can’t handle it?
We’ve got to become better at not thinking we know it all. There are wounds to sit and live with. There are questions that the Bible simply doesn’t answer. There are mysteries that we can’t fathom and that’s all ok. Let’s take our doubts, our battles, our struggles, our questions and seek God in the midst of it instead of trying to escape the tension. God is in the tension.
Faith is the willingness to act faithfully in the midst of uncertain circumstances. Life is definitely uncertain. Who knows what the next hour will bring.