April 26, 2013

Firsthand Experience | Day 15

Bout With Doubt

Scripture to meditate on: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

The following is an excerpt from Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own by Ryan and Josh Shook.

One of the biggest struggles in my (Ryan’s) spiritual life has been the battle with doubt. As if the doubts themselves weren’t enough, I used to think that to question my faith meant that I was a bad person. Sitting in church, I’d have thoughts like, Did Jesus really rise from the dead? When my dad would glance at me from the stage, I just knew he was reading my mind.

I’d feel immediate pangs of guilt. Oh, God, what have I just done? I’d think. I am such a fraud!

In high school I got so sick of feeling guilty about my doubts that I decided to embrace them. I’d ask my friends if they really believed the Bible was true, if they believed that God even existed. I took on the role of devil’s advocate with friends, arguing that maybe nothing in the Bible was true.

Some would say that I was just trying to be controversial, and that may have been partly true. But there was something deeper going on. Something very important. And I see it more clearly now.

I was actually trying to move from beliefs that had been handed to me by others to beliefs that I wanted to own for myself. I was trying to move from secondhand faith to firsthand faith.

And I realize now that there was no way I could detour around the hard questions and hope to arrive at a real, personal, lifelong experience of God. Most other followers of Christ I’ve talked to can’t either. The wrestling match with doubt can be messy, scary, and painful. But in the tough parts of life, it may be unavoidable. Even better, it can be necessary, energizing, and life changing.

That’s what we want to talk about in this chapter. Instead of feeling unspiritual or second-class because you’re hit by questions and doubts, or instead of running away from God entirely, we want you to be able to face your doubts.

As strange as it sounds, healthy doubts often become the building blocks for a faith that lasts. That’s why we like theologian Paul Tillich’s statement: “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” We want to help you think about doubts differently. We hope you’ll see that doubts can actually help you get to the firsthand faith you’ve always wanted—an understanding and experience of God that you can get enthusiastic about, that you can rely on for the rest of your life.