It doesn’t take long for news of another deconstructing Christian to hit our social media feed. It seems Christian artists and authors with major platforms are turning away from the faith of their childhood or young adult life. The confessions and testimonies are heartbreaking, leaving behind a wake of emotions for all involved.
I can’t help but think there’s a strong connection between deconstruction and a life of unanswered questions. My generation and the one before me were never taught how to deal with their doubts… and now we’re seeing the results of those years. We’re getting an unfiltered, raw view of what the locusts have eaten.
To clarify, deconstructing one’s faith in and of itself doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, it can be very helpful to go back to the basics, such as fellow believer and former singer of ZoeGirl, Alisa Childers, confessed to doing in recent years. However, most of the time, it seems these deconstructing men and women that go viral aren’t rebuilding their faith on the sturdy foundation of the Word of God but rather, are turning into atheists.
This is a mass casualty in our time that creates dozens of questions. Were these people really saved to begin with? Does this mean we can lose our salvation? Were they never saved at all? How could someone who once loved Christ and passionately sang or wrote about the message of the gospel suddenly turn their back on it?
And perhaps the scariest question of all—could it happen to me?
There are certainly no easy answers to this epidemic, but here are five things I wish the church would teach about doubt that might start to help.
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1. It’s okay to have doubts.
We need to start with this basic permission, because I believe there’s a silent understanding that doubting as a Christian is taboo. We think we shouldn’t speak of it, that it somehow makes us a bad Christian if we admit we’re struggling. So rather than deal with the doubts and bring them to the light to die, we secretly grow them in the shadows.
I’ve found a particular verse in the book of Mark works wonders for resetting me in seasons of doubt. Mark 9:14-29 tells of a man looking for help for his possessed son. To sum up, the father brought his son to the disciples, and they couldn’t cast out the demon. This attempt drew a crowd, so Jesus came and asked what they were arguing about. (Sidebar: I love how Jesus asks questions and invites us into answers He already knows!) The disciples explained, Jesus had them bring the child to Him instead, and the demon started convulsing the boy into seizures. The father began explaining how awful the boy’s life had been, and how the demons had attempted to kill him multiple times.
Now here are the verses I want to highlight (vs 22b-24). “‘But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘“If you can”! All things are possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’”
Right there. A hurting father, helpless to heal his son, standing directly before the very person of Jesus Christ, and he still wasn’t sure. But his heart wanted to be certain! I think this might be one of the most honest, gut-wrenching prayers in the Bible, and I’ve prayed it myself with streaming tears and gritted teeth many times. Lord, I believe; help my unbelief! Sometimes, the “want to want-to” is all we can muster, and it’s enough. It’s always enough. Embrace that tiny mustard seed and watch what God grows.
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2. Everyone has doubts.
One of the enemy’s greatest tricks is to convince us we’re alone in whatever it is we’re struggling with. Things feel much bigger and more out of control when they stay in our minds, rather than when they’re shared out loud and prayed over. I bet if you went to a family member or friend right now—or even someone on staff at your church—and confessed that you’ve been struggling with a season of doubt, they would either be in the same boat or have come out of it at some point in their life. There’s nothing shameful about having questions, not understanding portions of the Bible, or even wondering what God is doing in your life and if it’s truly good. When we go through hard times, it’s completely human and normal to question. We have that example in the book of Job. Job started out handling things well, but gradually declined into complaints and grief. But guess what? God didn’t condemn Job—God met him where he was and revealed His character. He brought Job assurance via His power and presence.
3. You don’t have to stay in your doubt.
The best news about recognizing our doubt as Christians is the realization that we don’t have to stay there. We can pass through the doubts as a natural progression of our journey. It reminds me of Christian in the book Pilgrim’s Progress. The hero of the story, Christian, walked through all manner of trials and tribulations before reaching heaven, and he didn’t do it perfectly. Neither will we.
We can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that even when it’s hard, we can keep walking and come through the valley of the shadow of death. If you’re in a season of doubt, don’t stop moving! This means don’t stop praying. Don’t stop seeking godly counsel. Don’t stop reading the Word. Don’t stop attending church and surrounding yourself with fellow believers. Isolating yourself with your thoughts would be the most damaging thing you could do. Trust the Lord to work out these things in your heart, just like He’s working them out for believers all over the world.
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4. You’ll probably doubt more than once.
We tend to go through seasons of growth. Just like life brings waves of hard times and good times, it’s natural for our doubts and faith to ebb and flow. The goal is that over time, as we grow stronger and more secure in the things of the Lord, that the doubting seasons are fewer and farther between (and shorter in duration!). I’ve been there before—wrestled through a season of questions and uncertainty and come victorious out the other side, only to struggle with a new doubt months later. We never fully arrive this side of heaven—and that’s okay. Take the pressures off yourself to have everything figured out. There are some answers that we just aren’t going to receive this side of eternity.
The flip side of that coin is that some questions do have answers—we’re just not looking in the right place (the Bible!) or we’re simply not taking the time to find those answers. God doesn’t require us to have blind faith in our theology. We’re supposed to know what we believe and be confident in it, so that we might “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15). If you have questions and aren’t seeking the answers, that is more than likely the first step to overcoming.
5. Your doubt isn’t wasted.
Another comforting fact about doubting is that we can believe it’s for our good and has a purpose. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Thankfully, this verse doesn’t say “all things except doubting.” This means we can trust that even our questions and fears and doubts have their place in our ultimate sanctification. We’re being made more like Christ while on this earth. And furthermore, we know from Isaiah that God’s Word never returns void. Nothing is wasted—not even your seasons of questions—if you stay grounded in the Word and open your heart for it to renew you.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)
These things aren’t easy things to discuss—they’re hard and messy and sometimes convoluted. But it’s well past time that we normalize this relatable aspect of the Christian life and come together in community to encourage and build each other up in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
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Originally published Wednesday, 16 June 2021.