“I believe; help my unbelief.”
– Mark 9:24
Ever since I was a little girl, faith has come easily to me. It wasn’t hard to believe in God. It wasn’t hard to believe God loved me. It wasn’t hard to trust Him, and it wasn’t hard to trust the church.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t had doubts. All of us do at some time or another, especially in the midst of suffering. Doubt is normal and even healthy for people of faith. It’s how we grow, and it’s how we get to know God.
However doubt has never been a struggle for me–not in the enduring sense. Doubt doesn’t follow me like a shadow. Only rarely do I push back against God, or my pastors.
That’s why, for a long time, I didn’t understand the Christians who do. For these “not-so-sure ones,” faith is a struggle. Truth isn’t clear, and trust is hard. They question God, they question Scripture, and they question the church. Often.
I have friends who are not-so-sure about God, and I have tried to walk lovingly beside them. But for the not-so-sure writers, bloggers, and teachers out there–the ones I don’t know in person–I tend to have less patience. I get annoyed by their questioning, and exasperated by their insistent doubting. To me it seems cynical, not sincere.
So I judge them.
And to be totally honest, I wonder if the not-so-sure ones are bad for the church.
But God has been doing a work in me. The Holy Spirit has been transforming my mind and heart, and I’m beginning to see these “not-so-sure ones” in a new way.
It all began with the important realization that faith is a gift. For every single Christian, faith in Christ is a thing we receive. No one summons up faith on their own willpower. It is a total grace, which means none of us can boast.
However faith is a gift in another sense. It is a “spiritual gift” in the same way that evangelism or preaching are gifts, given to some but not to all. In 1 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul explains that some of us are given “faith,” while others are given “gifts of healing,” “prophecy,” and “speaking in tongues.”
What this tells me is this: faith comes easier for some than for others. For some Christians, faith is their spiritual gift. They will not struggle with God or Scripture or the church the way others do. They will have radical trust, and that trust will be their testimony.
But not everyone has this gift.
Not everyone has the gift of faith. If that’s you, if you are one of the not-so-sure ones who wrestles with God, struggles with authority, and has lots and lots of questions, if you look at other Christians, the “sure ones” for whom faith comes easily, and think, “Maybe I’m not meant to be a Christian” or “Maybe I don’t have a place in the church”…if that’s you, I want you to know one thing:
It’s possible God made you that way.
That part of yourself that seems like a weakness, it could be your strength. The part of you that seems like a bad Christian, it could make you an essential part of the church. That thing that makes you doubt your place, it IS your place.
I used to judge the not-so-sure ones, but I was wrong. Now I see that they’re not hurting the church. I even wonder if they are the conscience of the church.
The way I see it, the world is full of people who are not-so-sure about Christianity. They look at Christians and think we’re brainwashed, or ignorant, or willfully blind. And I get it. The Bible is full of unbelievable things. Miracles, plagues, healings, resurrections? None of it is easy to swallow.
That’s why we need the not-so-sure ones. If the world looked at the church and saw unblinking, unquestioning believers, a lot of them would say, “No thanks. I don’t fit in there. If being a Christian means blind faith, then I’m out.”
That’s why you, the not-so-sure ones, matter. Your struggle is your witness. Your struggle also keeps the rest of us honest. You challenge us to ask questions we might not otherwise ask. You show us our blindspots. You point out our wrongs. You challenge us all to go deeper.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul tells us that the Body of Christ has many parts, each dependent on the other. What this tells me is that we need the not-so sure ones. We need you to be you, to wrestle, to wonder, to ask. We need you to walk that fine line between doubt and cynicism as if it is a holy calling. Because in a way, it is.
And if you’re like me, and faith has always come easily? I bet you’ve been tempted to judge the not-so-sure ones too. But let’s be grateful for them instead. We need them. They see things we don’t always see. They ask questions we don’t always ask. As the people of God, we are better because of them.
Thank God for the not-so-sure ones, who are not the weakness of the church. Quite often, they are its strength.
Wow. Thanks for this. I am one of those not-so-sure ones and I can admit that I’ve had the same tendency to judge the sure ones as naive, blind, maybe even not as smart or intellectual as those of us who do ask hard questions. I totally agree with you that we are all part of the Church, and each of our testimonies speaks differently to those who need them. Although I have judged the sure ones, I am also inspired by them and their unwavering faith. For me, those sure ones are the strength I need in a journey where I am easily lost and confused. It can be incredibly frustrating to not be able to let go of the doubts and the questions. And yet, I’m still here. Still walking with Him. Still clinging to Jesus. Still sure in my heart even when I’m unsure in my head. Thanks for sharing so openly and thank you for validating my place in God’s family.
Thank you for talking about this Sharon. We should welcome questions of all kinds. Jesus wasn’t afraid of questions and we should not be either! At our regular teen Bible study I
I ask for their deepest,hard questions. People who are questioning are people who are thinking! You never know, it might be the Holy Spirit working in them! Love and pray for all those who ask!
Hi Sharon, thanks for your incite. I just came across your blog recently and it’s amazing. I too used to wonder how people couldn’t believe in God or Jesus or the Bible, like how could you not right? I grew up in Nashville, where pretty much everybody goes to church or claims to be christian and if you doubted, you prob kept it to yourself, bc I never heard of such. Anyway, after college (priv. Christian) I moved to Spain, where almost no one is an active believer under 45. I think The Catholic Church has a lot to do with that, I met young people who are agnostic or athiest. But I wasn’t strong in my faith to witness in anyway. I didn’t even understand the Gospel. My church was great at Bible Story telling, but I never remember hearing about developing a deep relationship with God, until I moved to Miami. People who go to Church here are serious about it. You got to be. Either you know what you believe or you don’t and people take advantage of that. Anyway, I felt that finally I was starting to have a real relationship with God at 28. Then I started to work at a Orthodox Jewish School. I never realized that these Jews didn’t love or accept Jesus as messiah, in fact they scorned him. I thought, how is this possible? Gods chosen people???!? Then I started researching why, prophetic scripture, Isaiah 53 (Rabbis Opinions) and then I was like hemm how could they not? Even though scripture speaks of their doubt. So for a season I was studying to make sure it was true, Jesus is really who he says he was. I’m confident in Jesus as Messiah, but it’s ironic to see my co-workers walking around living and old-Testsment lifestyle of life under the law. Of all people, why can’t they see? And other questions about the age of the bible, the flood, 2 pairs of animals on the ark, populating the whole earth, talking animals, at times these stories seemed hard to grasp, but if God can create the whole earth from nothing, anything is possible and I have my peace in His word and spirit. I am a bold believer, but I did go through a time of questioning and understanding before going public with a bold Christian Lifestyle, which only gets stronger everyday. Nothing is too hard for God. Amen! 😉 many blessings for your ministry 😉