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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Doubt: When Faith Floats Away

Doubt: When Faith Floats AwayThe moment you let it go and stop seeking out the faith answers you need is like letting go of your life preserver in the middle of the ocean. You might be rescued. The life preserver might float back to you. But the ocean is pretty big.

Five great questions of life: Life * Love * Learning * Labor * Leadership

Learning: What's My Worldview?

Doubt: When Faith Floats Away

By Evan Nehring

Faith rocks when it's settled in your heart and feeling good! But sometimes your world capsizes like a boat in the ocean, and your faith slowly floats away. The choice is yours: to let go or to hold on and conquer the dark depths of uncertainty.

Doubt: When Faith Floats Away

My Season of Doubt

After high school graduation, I moved to Brandon, Manitoba for the summer to work for my uncle’s glass company. I stayed in a great basement bedroom with family friends.

Maybe it was because I was away from home for the first time, but I began to deeply question the foundation of what I believed as a Christian kid. I had made a strong commitment to Jesus the year before at youth convention—also in Brandon—but now I started wondering if this spiritual connection I had made was based on irrational and intellectually flimsy underpinnings. I was terrified. For a couple of weeks I could hardly sleep at night with the fear that I would not go to heaven if my doubts were not resolved.

I had a Transformer Bible, with articles for young people about faith questions. I poured through that. I had a Josh McDowell book on Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics Ask about the Christian Faith. Cover to cover. There was a book about the modern day search in the mountains of Turkey for Noah’s ark. I analyzed all of it. Too bad there was no internet yet!

The Way Out

While the searching for rational foundations was important for me, it wasn’t the final solution to my doubt. August brought youth camp at Manhattan Beach on Pelican Lake, Manitoba. I was just days away from leaving for North Central Bible College in Minneapolis. My road trip. I was praying at the tabernacle altar one night, alone, distraught. Maury Blair, the camp speaker, came over and tried to help me out.

“What’s going on, Evan?”

“I just can’t shake this doubt, Maury. I’m going to Bible college soon and I don’t even know if my faith in God is real.”

“Why are you going to Bible college?”

“Because God told me to go.”

“Are you sure he told you?”

“Yes, I’m absolutely sure in my heart that God wants me to go.” It was true. Through all of the doubt, I knew more surely than anything that I was supposed to be in Minneapolis that fall.

“Well,” Maury said, calculating, “then God must be real.”

Bam! In that very moment the full confidence of my faith flooded back into my heart. Twenty-six years later, it has never left.

Don't Stop Searching Until You Connect with God!

I don’t regret or resent the season of doubt. It was vital for me to work through those doubts in order to have confidence as a Jesus follower for the rest of my life. No one else’s story is just like mine, but I've always encouraged people to search out the answers they need. God responds to honest seekers.

Intellectual understanding of Jesus and the Bible aren't enough to bring faith to our hearts, but it’s important for us to know that:
  • Jesus was a historical figure.
  • He lived a well-documented life.
  • He was raised from the dead miraculously for our salvation.
Facts and faith work together to help this awesome reality settle into our hearts.

Part of entering adulthood is wrestling with the question of faith. Is it stressful? Yes, it can be. Some people go through this same type of doubt and searching for years. You need to do whatever you need to do to resolve the core question of your spirituality.

The moment you let it go and stop seeking out the faith answers you need is like letting go of your life preserver in the middle of the ocean. You might be rescued. The life preserver might float back to you. But the ocean is pretty big.

Hold on. Seek. God will meet you.

It’s impossible to have core values until you have a core.


So, what have been the big questions you've had to work through as a believer? Where did you find your answers? Still working through some stuff?

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  1. My current big questions do not revolve around whether there is a God, or who Jesus is. I think I am solid on that. Rather, my quandary is what "stream" or "flavor" of Christianity is where I belong. I am having serious reservations about some of the movements that I used to connect with. My whole journey is to find what is true, what is real, what is not man-made hype, and where do I find acceptance without striving? I haven't found the answers yet, but I have made choices to not participate in groups that make me feel less of a believer. Meanwhile, I am still holding on to that life preserver.

    1. Preachin' to the choir, Mrs. Wise! Settling into a home church/denomination is tricky. There's some give and take between our perfect scenario and the rough-edged blessing of community. Hope it goes well for you, and all the best with your blog!

  2. I have had several times when my faith has shaken, but my biggest moment was when I was first married. I started to truly question if God was real, or if I was just praying to the walls. It took several years to truly resolve this, but like Evan; through God's answers to my prayers and his speaking to me, I learned to trust again in God. I now have many experiences of Gods faithfulness and I will never go back.

  3. I like your point about intellectual understanding not making your faith real. The mind and heart are separated by 18 inches - and all the arguments our foolishness can muster.

    "When we in our foolishness thought we were wise, He played the fool and He opened our eyes - When we in our weakness believed we were strong, He became helpless to show we were wrong - So we follow God's own Fool, and only the foolish can tell! Believe the unbelievable! Come be a fool as well." (Michael Card, God's Own Fool, Scandalon, 1986, EMI Records)

  4. Faith. The very center of Christianity. How do you relate to faith, and how does faith relate to you? God brings experiences that stick through the years to give us an anchor to look back at. Experiences that highlight how faith makes you feel, the depth of its roots.

    Doubt is normal, and healthy for a christian to experience. Without doubt, how will you ever question the 'why' of things? And if you don't question, how will you learn the answers?

    I have my doubts, but my faith is pretty firmly rooted from the many experiences I have had with God. No matter how many times I strayed, He was always there to coax me back... to lead the way. Have faith, and lean on that faith to pull you through.

  5. Hey Evan. I had a very similar experience when I first moved out on my own but it was after Bible college. Alone in my bachelors suite, I considered turning away from God for only a short time, like maybe minutes because I didn't want to live as a hypocrite. I never doubted that God was real but I doubted that I could live for Him successfully. In those few moments of decision, I could not imagine my life outside of God's protection and direction. I knew that I had to walk forward with Jesus in my life even though I was bound to disappoint Him. I've never considered turning my back on God again in 20 years. His grace is enough.
    Heather Nehring Block

  6. Proverbs 25:2 - It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

    How noble, to build up our faith by searching out the deep questions. As Chris Rice says to God, "I hope you don't mind me asking the questions, but I figure you're big enough."

  7. I love Chris Rice! I'm gonna go find Amusing and enjoy some quiet time...

    This blog and commentary were exactly what I needed today--after another rough twitter session with atheists who've gone through the searching process and found Christianity and creationism wanting...a lot. They have serious issues with the book I published, which I KNOW was inspired when I asked God to help me connect the truth of Creation that I wanted to teach, with the playdough that preK Sunday schoolers were interested in. "The playdough didn't get here by evolving from something else, And it won't transform into anything in a million years all by itself." I set up and @playdoughpoem to promote it, but have only gotten arguments...which have challenged and strengthened my faith. To GOD be the glory!

    1. Thanks Sandra. Yes, I've learned how those Twitter battles can go. I try to stand firm and love, love, love. The push back can help us to dig deeper and understand better. Ultimately, we don't need to convince anyone but ourselves. Love compels us to engage unbelievers. Respect calls us to let them draw their lines. A few ponderings...