By Aubrey Hoeppner
I’ve been doubting lately.
There, I said it. Let the gasping begin. Don’t worry, I’ve already directed myself to the Christian apologetics section of the library. I snuck out with a stack of books, praying I wouldn’t bump into anyone from church and be forced to explain my reading choices.
There’s a shame that accompanies doubt, a feeling that you are failing in faith. We all like to pretend our faith is rock solid, never fading, exploding with unbridled trust in every word of Scripture. But if you occasionally feel something ranging from a twinge of uncertainty to a potential full-blown loss of faith, set aside that shame and pull up a chair.
My particular brand of doubting tends to be intellectual distrust; someone else’s might be more emotional, based in anger, confusion, or disenchantment with God. As humans we have no shortage of questions about why we should deign to submit our lives to God’s lordship. Our world has produced an abundant selection of lords to choose from. And there are certainly times when it feels like continuing on in Christ is not the obvious choice we once found it to be.
I’ve spent my whole life as a part of the Church, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe that Jesus had died to save me from sin. So I’m always a little surprised when I begin to feel that nagging voice of doubt invading a prayer: Who are you really talking to? Are you just deluding yourself? Or in church: Do you really believe in the God you’re praising?
From there it progresses to your garden-variety “rational” skepticism. The items in question are the usual suspects—the problem of evil, the authority and authenticity of Scripture, the divinity of Christ from time to time. All the qualities of God I have come to trust and find security in, the community of believers I belong to, the hope I look for in Christ—it could all disappear, quickly and silently if I were to turn the corner and embrace the message of doubt.
What if it’s all a lie?
In these times of doubting, sometimes all it takes to calm the questions is a glance out the window to remember the glory of God proclaimed in creation. But sometimes it’s days and weeks of studying and praying and re-evaluating. Sometimes I’ll even find Christianity to be the clearly logical victor in whatever issue I’m wrestling with, only to hear the voice of doubt still lingering.
And after days and weeks of searching, without freedom from that nagging voice, I start to tentatively consider the other options. Where else can I go? The other options are fairly straightforward, though hopelessly bleak: Choose another faith, or give in to disbelief, nothingness, and meaninglessness of all existence. This is a point of intense loneliness. On the side of Christianity, my familiar comfort and hope and Christ called into question; on the side of other faiths, even more troubling sets of questions; in the chasm of atheism, nothing.
And then comes a different question: Which of these is worth believing? Looking beyond just the questions, which of these truly offers life?
Looking my other options in the face, I know that, compared to Christ, I have no other real options.
No other option offers what Christ offers. Nothing else offers me the mercy that Christ does. Nothing else offers the hope that Christ does. Nothing else even claims to meet our need for freedom from sin the way Christ does.
In a revealing moment, Peter comes to the same conclusion in John 6. Many are turning away from Jesus because of the difficulty of His teachings, though He is describing the eternal life available only through Him. (“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”) But when Jesus asks His twelve disciples if they plan to leave also, Peter answers that they have no better option, because no one else offers them what Jesus can:
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God”(John 6:66-69).
To whom shall we go? To whom shall we turn for the life Jesus offers?
Who else claims to have to power to remove our sin and restore us to God?
Who else offers to meet our deepest need for freedom from darkness?
Who else offered His very own self as the sacrifice for us?
Who else is worth believing, besides Christ?
To whom shall we go? Who, besides Jesus, has the words of eternal life?
Peter doesn’t present a lengthy apologetic argument about why he is choosing to follow Christ (though he certainly could have). He simply states that no one else can give him anything that compares to the life available in Jesus.
This perspective doesn’t answer all the questions we face in relation to our faith, but this truth does give us a reason to seek out answers to those questions and to follow Christ even as we are seeking answers.
Doubt is only worth defeating if its object is worth believing. And Jesus is the only one worth believing.
Lord, Thank you for all that you offer us in Christ. Thank you for your faithfulness to us, even as we question you and doubt you. Please fill us with confidence in your power to accomplish all that you desire in and through us, and let that confidence carry us through seasons of doubting. For those of us who struggle with this, please lead us to answers that ground us in you, give us faith through uncertainty, and grant us peace that transcends our understanding.
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