Have you doubted your faith recently, or ever? If you answered yes, then welcome to a fraternity of billions of people who have at one time or another, for one reason or another felt a cloud of doubt creep over their most sincere and dear religious beliefs. Today I want to take you on a journey of why and how I overcome my doubts. I hope that for somebody out there, my homegrown, plain English, non-theologian approach will be an extended branch of faith and hope in the midst of doubt and despair. My goal is not to try to convince you with science or Scripture but to simply share the thoughts and logical reasoning of a young Christian mind.
I am not much of a writer, at least in my own opinion. I have always considered my abilities as a speaker or verbal communicator superior to my writing abilities, so I will ask you to bear with me.
Now let me give this blog a little bit of context. I come out of a Slavic, Pentecostal background, and hence my experiences of faith are heavily tainted by my origins. Yet, I am proud of my journey of faith and look at my spiritual heritage, both its strengths and weaknesses with a fondness that we attribute to our best childhood memories.
Recently while sitting at a local coffee shop, during a meeting with some our bible school staff, I was asked a question. Do you ever doubt your faith? I am paraphrasing here, but essentially the question amounted to, do you ever doubt the existence of God and the tenets of Christianity? I answered, “No”, because right now it would appear more rational for me to doubt the existence of the Polar Bears, whom I have never personally seen, or historical figures like Isaac Newton, whom I have never met, than to doubt the existence of God.
Here is why:
Why and how I have been able to overcome doubt are tightly intertwined. I must first of all offer a disclaimer. I have never been put into a serious predicament of doubt based strictly on academic information. Based upon my personality and logical reasoning, I have always seen evolutionists and their theory for what it is a theory. I understand that in the liberal American educational system the theory of evolution was and is always presented out of context. First of all it is presented as the absolute truth not as a theory. No mention is made that the deductions and specifics of this theory have evolved and changed with time. Even the age of the Universe has been subject to change. My elementary school textbooks approximated it at only a few hundred million years of age. Now we estimate our Universe to be several billion years old, a tenfold increase in age in the matter of 20 years. I have avoided involving myself in debates about evolution and creation, not by specific intent but because I lack interest. I believe in the biblical story of creation because I believe in God and the infallibility of Scripture, not vice versa. I don’t believe in God because the Biblical story of creation is so convincing. Some may consider this ignorance, but right now I don’t feel a need or have the interest to become an expert in the creation verse evolution debate. I am a pragmatic and right now these subjects are not high on my importance list. Maybe one day that will change.
So here is my meager advice, don’t manufacture doubt in your life where none exists. Your faith will come under many attacks of Devil through various channels of your life. Don’t let debating the science of evolution and existence of God be one of them. In your debate you will likely go up against ardent atheists who have dedicated large portions of their lives to studying and educating themselves on a subject you only know in passing. The fallacy in your knowledge is not a pretext for the fallacy of God and should not be a pretext for the destruction of your faith.
I am convinced of God’s existence based upon two parallel reasons. I don’t consider either to be scientific. One is deeply personal and the other strictly philosophical.
I will begin by explaining the latter first. I believe in God because it makes sense. Without God I struggle to find purpose or meaning in life. Without God, I am confined to try to find purpose and meaning within the 80 or so years of my life. That’s an extremely difficult task one that I haven’t mastered. In a western society where you study away your young years only to work away your middle age to hopefully enjoy old age in good health is not an appealing proposition. Now top that with disease, death, betrayal, pain, here is where I have to side with Ecclesiastes and decry everything as pointless. By believing in God and Biblical truths all of this pointless activity gains perspective, and purpose. Besides struggling with life in the big picture, I struggle with everyday purpose outside of God as well. I am fairly well educated but I refuse to accept and measure my achievement in the dimension of education. I cannot find purpose in money even though I live comfortably. I have a career but I would feel destitute and miserable if that was my source of purpose. I have a lovely family but even then my purpose would eventually die with them or dissipate as my children grow up and leave my home. Without God I would likely give in to every selfish desire, rationalizing between them as I would try to find a balance of maximum gain for myself because nothing would really matter anymore. That’s essentially what you have in modern godless society. Even under the pretext of humanism lies the “evolutionary instinct” of survival. I am not here to expand on this debate, but in my reasoning the thoughts above are tips of my iceberg for why I believe in God. In summary I believe in God because without him I lack, hope, reference, purpose, permanence or significance. These are things without which my existence is miserable, and animalistic. Every time I have stepped out of my arena of faith I have experienced interior misery as I lose my directing compass of hope. I begin to feel vain and without purpose.
My personal reasons for my faith in God take origins in my childhood. It is those experiences that have formed me into whom I am. I call them my personal encounters with God. Some say that emotional experiences, although powerful in the moment, do not leave the lasting impression that is associated with the impressions gained from education and logical deductions, and they may be right, however that’s not true in my case.
I can categorize my personal experiences with God as follows, moments of prayer, manifestations of power and acts of grace.
Prayer has always been a two way street in my life. It has both been a place of dialogue. All of my difficult life decisions have been made against the back drop of prayer. All my joys and sorrows have first and foremost been shared with God. At the same time it is a place where God speaks into my life, providing direction and bringing change. This is something that is spiritual, and not something I can display for someone to see, however it is an essential building block of my faith.
I have been a witness to people being healed and some who have not received healing. I have felt God’s supernatural touch, and seen others touched by the Spirit of God. I can’t completely explain, and won’t attempt to partially explain why some people get healed and some don’t; why sometimes God manifests himself with great power and other times he doesn’t. What I can take away is the supernatural aspect of God that builds my faith.
Finally I have seen God’s grace manifested in my life consistently. I have been forgiven, encouraged and restored. I have been rescued from situations where I felt like I had no way out. I have seen miracles occur both in my life and the lives of others. In fact seeing the lives of other people restored is one of the most encouraging aspects of my faith.
My experiences have formed a pattern in my life. Some of the specific moments may have even temporarily faded from my memory, however as a whole they form a building block of my faith. Most, if not all these moments, cannot be substantiated by scientific fact and require an element of faith to understand and derive significance from. Yet understanding my audience, which likely consists of people who are acquainted with the Christian faith, I believe that they have a slew of their own personal experiences with God. It is my hope that this will bring an awareness of God into their lives. That they will begin to recognize his hand, give him his due credit and build their own faith story.
My God is a big God, he is not confined to the limits of my understanding, philosophy, or experiences. I don’t even want to attempt at defining him, I can merely share my story of faith. Something I recently heard while watching a video on the conflict in Eastern Ukraine sums up how I feel about Him. A woman who is involved in spreading humanitarian aid through a local church stated that she was asked, “Where is God during all this senseless death and destruction?” She answered, “The same place he was when Jesus Christ was on the cross.” God is who he is, complete, sovereign Creator, who doesn’t need your or my approval to be who He is. I just want to be obedient to the one who loved me and found me important and significant to display His grace when He absolutely didn’t need to. I find that so refreshing in our self-infatuated selfie culture. Knowing that this kind of God is in control gives me comfort and peace even in moments of despair and sorrow. I want Him to lead and direct my life. I find this perspective on life and existence, liberating and humbling. I wouldn’t have it any other way and I feel a deep sorrow for people who have lost their faith for whatever reason because I know they don’t have what I do and that’s unfortunate.
This position may seem ignorant to an unbeliever but I liken it to a Biblical parable where a man finds a pearl in a field (Matthew 13). He sells everything he has and buys the field because he knows the value of the pearl. In a nutshell that’s me. Selling out your life for a field doesn’t make sense. Selling out all your possessions for a pearl does, especially considering that pearls where considered to carry a greater value than they do today when this parable was shared. Once you find the pearl, the truth, in your life what seems irrational for others begins to make perfect sense.
If you are a believer who is battling with doubt I want to leave you this parting thought. You can’t control thoughts that may come into your mind but you can control the thoughts that you accept, consider and meditate on. Recently I had the opportunity to talk to people who stepped away from God and did some things that they deeply regret and never expected to do. Their spiritual downfall began with doubt of their faith. Once God was put into doubt so was obedience to him and the concept of sin. With these boundaries erased downfall came shortly afterwards. This may not be everyone’s story but I feel like it’s a perspective I want to share.