We fear uncertainty.
Losing a job, volatile stock markets, asking someone on a date. These all come with a level of uncertainty that can be unbearable for us at times.
But what about our faith?
How much uncertainty can we handle when it comes to our core beliefs?
A few years ago, I battled a deep depression that was brought on by doubt in what I believed.
It all started when one of my friends didn't agree with how God handled things. "How can God send people to hell? If I was God, I would never send people to hell—so if I feel like I'm better than God, why would I ever want to follow Him?"
And then another hard question from a dear friend: "Crystal, if you have sex before marriage, it's wrong, but you can eventually solve that sin issue by getting married. For me, since I have same-sex attraction, I can never have sex or get married without sinning."
Queue the existential crisis in my heart.
I knew that God was real because I had experienced Him, but I did not have an answer for those questions… and now I didn't know if He was good or just an evil dictator.
I doubted everything I believed.
Who, actually, is God? He didn't seem good, that's for sure.
I spent the next year walking around as a shell of a human. I went to work and felt numb.. Then I would come home and lay in my bed with tears running down my cheeks until all of the light from the day faded away, and I was in a dark hole. Then I fell asleep.
I wouldn't respond to texts from my friends for weeks or months, and when I did respond to their invitations to hang out it would always be, "I'm sorry, I don't know what's wrong, but I can't find the energy to come to that."
I started biking because I read that exercise and time outside helped with depression.
But it didn't cure the doubt.
I still went to church, but couldn't bring myself to join in worship because I didn't believe any of it was true and I definitely did not want to praise a dictator.
Any time I tried to journal or think deeply about my doubts, I would end up weeping in the first five minutes and give up after not making any progress.
I shared that I was doubting with my friends, but no one had any answers or ideas.
I really can't tell you what got me out of that depression, but I do know that one day I saw a small light at the end of the tunnel.
I told myself I would never stop feeling this way if I didn't do something about it, and I came up with some action steps.
- I was going to talk to my pastor about the doubts.
- I was going to read Matt Chandler's book “The Explicit Gospel”.
- I was going to force myself to spend 30 minutes a week thinking about my doubts even if I just cried and felt paralyzed.
So with all the extra time on my hands due to canceled plans, I set off on accomplishing my list.
I emailed my pastor. He redirected me to another pastor, who had just gotten a cancer diagnosis and ended up never responding to me.
I decided I wasn't going to let that stop me. I just needed someone who could hear all of my horrible thoughts about God and wouldn't condemn me. Preferably, someone who could handle a very theoretical discussion without their head exploding mid-conversation.
Thankfully I had a close friend that adored philosophy and he agreed to meet me at a coffee shop at 7 AM so that I could process my doubts.
He listened to my thoughts run in circles for an hour and never called me crazy or told me I lacked faith. He didn't push my doubts off as weakness or accuse me of losing my faith. He waded into the deep waters of doubt I was drowning in and reasoned with me. He helped me remember that hell is a necessary consequence if we truly want to have free will. Throughout our conversation, I began to realize how little I truly know about the vastness of God. I decided that I can either trust who God says He is in His Word, or I can trust my thoughts, feelings and experiences that are based on my limited knowledge.
My plan was starting to work.
I pressed on with the next steps. I read “The Explicit Gospel.” I forced myself to think about my doubts for 30 minutes a week. I reached out to a counselor and started therapy.
It wasn't until I asked some friends to pray over me at a retreat that I finally felt the weight of my doubt flee. James 5:16 tells us that "the prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much," and accomplish much it did! Something about these two girls huddling together with me, holding me, and praying over me unlocked the weight of doubt and fear that I had been feeling for over a year.
Healing is not always linear. Not all of our tactics may work. And it absolutely is not the same for every person. But God is faithful in the midst of our doubting, our depression, and our pain. He is not afraid of our doubts, in fact, He sympathizes with us because He knows what it's like to be human.
Does this story sound like yours? My advice is to lean into your community, use the resources at your disposal, and—instead of running from God like I did for months, trying to avoid the pain of dealing with doubt—seek Him out. He will answer.
"You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13
For more on doubt and faith, watch the message "Is Doubting Ok?" here.