As many of you know, I have written much about the epidemic of people losing their faith. It is not only a concern, but an obsession of mine. Because of this, I engage with quite a few people on the issue. I often feel as if I serve as a last chance stop for many who are in their darkest hour, heading out the door of Christianity.
Recently, I received an email from a lady I know. Not too long ago I met with her and her husband to discuss her doubts about her faith. She now informs me that her niece who is a missionary in China is experiencing the same doubts about God. Here is some of what her niece has to say:
“I don’t know what to do. When I hear people talk about God I almost feel uncomfortable…THAT scares the heck out of me. I find myself being pessimistic or maybe just skeptical. When people talk to me about trusting God for my finances, for my time here, finding a mate, or what comes after China, etc I hear the thought in my head “yea, if He’s real.” What is going on with me?!! How did I get this far? I feel like such a child; an immature Christian. I went from a huge turn around in my faith in 2005 and continually growing closer to him, being closer to Him than ever right after my dad died all the way until last September (God and I were best buddies) to completely questioning his existence.”
Her brother advised her: “Push those thoughts out of my head and simply believe what I know to be true.”
Thanks so much for remembering me!
I feel for you both so much. It looks as if you have such a wonderful relationship with your niece. She sounds like she respects you a great deal.
You both are in such a hard position right now. It is often referred to as “the dark night of the soul” (Google it). It is a time of substantial doubt and disillusionment, and it is common for Christians, even very good Christians, to go through. I don’t have any silver bullet that will get either of you out of this, but I can say that it is often a very positive thing for your faith. But, I have to admit, it is often a time when one comes to the realization that they don’t have any faith. I don’t know where either of you are at, but I know that it is dark.
Her brother told her that she just has “to push those thoughts out of [her] head and simply believe what [she] know[s] to be true. ” I don’t like this advice at all. In fact, I think it could make things worse. The very reason why you are going through these things is because you don’t know them to be true. This is ok. None of us has perfect knowledge, but we need to make our decisions based on sufficient knowledge that God has provided. Often, when I am in the dark night myself, I have three things that I look toward.
1. The lack of sufficient explanation for all things outside of God.
For me, to not believe in God would take a greater leap of faith. Even though he seems to be absent at times, this does not provide sufficient rational for me to believe that everything came from nothing. Intelligence from non-intelligence. Beauty from non-beauty. An understanding of good and evil from an amoral void. Personhood from non-personhood.
Romans 1 tells us that creation itself is a grand display of God’s nature and attributes. The absurdity of a universe without God produces so many intellectual deformities that I don’t know how to recover and remain emotionally stable or intellectually fulfilled. To reject God, I would have to go intellectually dormant. Therefore, I reestablish my belief in God. Here is a good place to go to read a little more on the arguments for God’s existence.
2. The prophetic nature of the Scripture.
In Isaiah 53 we read a detailed account of Christ’s atonement and resurrection which was written 700 years before the events took place. This passage is an outstanding testimony to the reality of our faith. What makes it even more convincing is that copies of Isaiah were found among the dead sea scrolls. One of them, according to believers and non-believers alike, dates back to nearly 200 years before Christ. This is significant to me since it rules out the possibility that someone wrote this after the fact. For 2000 years, people have scrambled to interpret this passage in other ways to avoid coming to grips with the obvious—that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.
We don’t have time to look at other very convincing prophetic passages such as Daniel 9 and 11 (which are nearly as stunning), but suffice it to say that when I have doubts, my mind simply does not know what else to do with Isaiah 53. There is simply nothing like it in all of literature. In Isa 40-48 God calls on people to test him and compare him to other gods asking if they can predict the future the way he has. The answer is “no.” Here is Isaiah 53.
3. Finally, and most importantly, I consider the resurrection of Christ.
What an extraordinary claim. Our faith rests on the reality of Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead. It is the focal point of all else. If Christ rose from the grave, then our faith is true. If he did not, God must still exist, but we need to look for him elsewhere (1 Cor. 15: 16-17). Yet I believe that there is overwhelming evidence that he did raise from the grave. We have dozens of first century documents which purport such an event. We have eye witness testimony and we have the mass growth and expansion of the church that evidences that something had to have happened in the first century significant enough to produce a belief that overtook the world.
How do I explain the existence of the church without the resurrection? How do I explain supposed eye-witnesses dying for this claim if it were not true? How do I explain someone making up a faith built on the humiliation, rejection, and murder of a first century carpenter Messiah? How do I explain the empty tomb. While people attempt to provide alternative explanations, and while these explanations are possibilities, they are not, in any sense, probabilities. (more on this here: and here). The most probable explanation for these things is that Christ really did raise from the grave. And the implications are tremendous. I would read my article on the death of the 12 Apostles here.
In the end, I don’t think either of you should be ashamed of your doubt. Doubt is often the a bridge to strengthen your belief. Don’t neglect your mind. Don’t push these questions into a closet somewhere in the back of your mind. God is not afraid of your questions or doubts. You will not be reprimanded for them. Bring them before him and seek the answers to your questions.
God is the only one who can ultimately give you security in your beliefs, and I believe this is his perfect will. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can convict you of their truth. Yet, the Holy Spirit uses your search, journey, dark night, and mind to prepare you to accept him at a deeper level.
We all have room to grow in our faith. Myself included. Take courage and don’t lose heart.
I might also suggest that you both get involved in The Theology Program. Its purpose is to help you work through these things at a fundamental level. You can find out more about it here.
I will be in prayer for you both. Please keep me up to date and let’s keep this dialogue going.