I had lunch with a friend today, and he asked if I ever had spiritual doubts. “Of course,” I responded, “who doesn’t?” He admitted having been scared to ask the question, and relieved that instead of judging him, I empathised with him. He’s spoken to others who didn’t respond kindly, and he’s gun shy about voicing his doubts out loud.
Why do we do that? Are we so insecure in our own faith that others’ doubts scare us? Do we feel that we need to defend God? Do we believe refuting or glossing over people’s struggles will spur them on to faith? If so, would it be an honest faith?
I also have struggled, and deeply. Like Job, during my darkest period of doubt, Christian friends multiplied my suffering by calling my doubt un-Christian. Even those I loved and respected, including a pastor and close friends, were uncomfortable with my questioning, and shut it down or brushed it off. Only one friend was supportive and loving, and I talked to her many times throughout my struggles.
As we ate our soup, I shared how lonely my doubtful time was. How I longed for sad songs at church! I couldn’t honestly sing our worship songs for years. And could we please read the complete Psalm — the “Praise God, hallelujah” part, and the “Where are you, I’m drowning” part? After the light dawned and I found a deepened trust in God, I wondered if I should lead “worship for dark times” so that others wouldn’t feel so alone.
Mentioning sad songs struck a chord (probably a minor one). My friend recounted singing a song he wrote at church. Afterwards, someone told him it had a beautiful melody; too bad the words were dark. Hurt, he wondered if something was wrong with him, and if sharing doubts would ostracise him from the “club.” I assured him I remembered that song, and found it beautiful. When someone shares their heart, no matter the content, we should honour the gift.
Before I’d personally faced doubts, especially as a new believer, I might have responded the same. I was pretty enthusiastic in those days! Now, I take care to listen openly with people, no matter where they are in their faith walk. I’ve been there; how can I judge? I’m glad to share my own experience, and leave the rest up to God. His greatest commandment is to love, not convert.