Editor’s Note: Pastor Roger Barrier’s “Ask Roger” column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m finding that believing in the validity of Christianity is becoming more difficult.
How could a loving God allow so much suffering? With thousands of religions spanning the globe who are we to say, or for Jesus to say, that he is the only one who can help us find God? It just doesn’t make sense.
How could God send people to hell who’ve never had a chance to hear about Christ?
How can we believe that the six-day creation as recorded in Genesis One could ever be literally true? How are we supposed to trust in the Bible when it has demonstrable conflicts and errors?
I see some reasons why the fight surrounding gay marriage is worth the struggle. But what bothers me is that gays and lesbians actually have anatomic, structural brain differences from heterosexuals.
I’m asking questions that I’ve never asked before and the answers and non-answers are really bothering me. I’m not even sure exactly what I’m asking from you except that I’m really struggling with my doubts and miserable in the process. My anchor is slipping and the boat is drifting, do you see what I mean?
Please help me, Randy
Move over; I need a seat in your boat. We are fellow travelers looking for security and answers.
My faith struggles began in my early 20s. I’ll be vulnerable and say that I’ve struggled with doubts ever since.
I’ll not take time to reiterate my struggles with doubts — but I will share with you the truths that I turn to for peace when my faith is shaking. By the way, in Psalm 73, Asaph had his doubts about the goodness of God. Far from disqualifying him to lead worship, God gave him lots of grace. He told him to keep his own doubts quiet so as not to disturb the congregation. Then, God gave him the understanding and the time to work through his issues.
I continued sharing the Word of God even while I was doubting because the Word of God is powerful and life-changing. I continued pastoring because God gave me the grace and time that I needed to seek insight for answers to my questions.
1. Doubts concerning Jesus Christ are normal.
I once asked a pastor friend, “Do you ever have doubts?” He cocked his head and said, “Well, of course. Doesn’t everybody?”
We don’t talk much about our doubts in the Christian church. We talk about faith. Doubt is an “off-limits” subject. It is like we are stained, or a traitor to the cause, if we admit to doubt.
Think about John the Baptist. He was the forerunner of Jesus. But when depressed and imprisoned, his faith wavered. He sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you really the one, or should we look for another?” (Luke 7:18-23).
Jesus did not say, “Yes,” and settle the issue for John once and for all. He told him to look at His works: “Tell John that blind eyes see; paralyzed limbs are restored; deaf ears here; and demons are exorcised.”
The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is no faith. A faith-doubt crisis is not the same as no faith at all.
I do know some who claim never to have had a single doubt about the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ. In some ways that’s an easy faith.
I know many who have struggled to believe — and in the solution to their struggle they found their faith stronger than ever.
Struggles with face and doubts are normal Christianity. We come out the other side stronger than ever
2. Doubts often arise when we are disappointed with Jesus.
Why Did John the Baptist begin to doubt? Because Jesus did not live up to his expectations.
Judas was disappointed with Jesus and look where it got him.
Many people have expectations for Jesus that He has no intentions of meeting. Their prayers are not in line with his will. Or, secret sins impair their requests.
Some people are disappointed about: children, jobs, sickness, finances, marriage etc.— He’s not providing the love and care they expected, and so they turn somewhere else to find help.
3. Jesus never criticizes up or scolds us for struggling with doubt. He’s pulling for us to find victory.
When the storm increased and the sea was entering the boat, Jesus was asleep back aft. The disciples awoke him and pleaded with him to save them. Jesus responded, “Oh, little faiths, where’s your faith?” This was not a rebuke. The term “little faiths” is viewed in the Greek language as a term of endearment.
Jesus has a vested interest in helping those who doubt to find faith.
That is what He did with me. Jesus did not brand me a heretic. He did not take away my ministry. He refused to punish me for having doubts; instead, He took steps gently to increase my faith. He was kind to me. I never once had the impression that He was angry with my unbelief—disappointed perhaps—but not irate. Never once did I feel betrayed or deserted.
I’ll share with you what I call my “Faith Anchors.”
First, I decided that God may well be doing things about which I knew nothing. This is a matter of humility and good sense.
The Bible makes it clear that God has mysteries that he has no intention of sharing with us in this life.
This makes me think of Job. For 42 chapters, Job tried to get answers from God about what was going on in his life. Near the end of the book, God seemed to get tired with Job for asking the same questions again and again. He rebukes him harshly: “Who in the world do you think you are that you dare to question me!?”
God then proceeds to challenge Job: “If you think you’re so smart then answer these questions.” God then asks Job questions about everything from the stars in the sky to the sea monsters in the ocean. Job scores “zero” on his tests.
I decided that it takes a lot of pride and arrogance to falter in faith when God does not acquiesce to answer our questions. By the way, when the book of Job ends God has not answered a single one of Job’s questions.
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