Short answer, yes.
It is perfectly normal to struggle with some doubts about your faith.
The more thoughtful answer is… maybe. Sometimes? No. Wait. Yes. It’s definitely fine. At least I think it is, on the whole.
Hello. My name is Josh and I love to overthink things. Any kind of thing really… faith, dinner plans, email introductions, fantasy football lineups, blogs… You name it and I will become the living embodiment of first confidence, and next, second-guessing. I have a lot of moments of absolutely knowing that I 100% know absolutely nothing – or too much. It’s a lot like recognizing the grass is really green on both sides but consequently thinking the fence offers the most comfortable viewing angle. And it is exhausting.
So, when it comes to matters of faith, I have managed to find a way to struggle with the struggle of struggling with my faith. Yet I wasn’t always like this.
It’s The Way We Do Things
As a child, there was an unspoken expectation of just accepting how life was – without questions, without doubts, without too much of a fuss. We do it this way because this is the way we’ve always done it. Here is your faith, go and enjoy it, my son!
“This is the way” does not always hit my ears as the credo of The Mandalorian, but rather as an ultra-vague reason behind family traditions, behaviors, and beliefs. For a long time, I believed it was best to do things [this way] because this is the way we do things.
And then I – similar to a side story in a galaxy far, far, away – became more complex over time. The old ways did not always make sense.
The reasons for doing, thinking, or behaving seemed outdated and no longer good enough for how I wanted to experience life in the present.
Over time I began to naturally experience a deeper curiosity for my faith and developed a deeper understanding of who Jesus was and just how personal that relationship could become. It was weird, confusing, and – dare I say – felt a bit rebellious.
Questions Led To The Truth About My Struggle With Faith
I started to ask questions. A lot of them. I still do.
Questions provoked research, conversation, and critical thought. All those things led to one thing: truth.
As an adult, I can look back at those seemingly rebellious moments and not be crippled by shame but embrace a feeling of pride. I felt in my heart a desire for more: more knowledge, more emotion, more connection, more everything.
And the only way to get there was to ask questions, to explore, and to be OK with having some doubts. Once you accept that it’s OK to have both faith and questions (doubts), I honestly think it unlocks a whole new world of connection to an infinite God. Your faith in God does not make God real. Our faith is the response to a real God that wants to be known to us.
Doubt & Curiosity Are Biblical!
If we think of doubters in the Bible, Thomas must be at the top of everyone’s list, right? I mean… “Doubting Thomas” was literally his nickname.
I consider this kid an absolute legend.
And “kid” is not an insult, we know he was very young. What we sometimes overlook is how brave he was. A young man willing to ask questions seek deeper meanings, and who very clearly wanted to experience a risen Christ for himself.
When Jesus appeared to Thomas and the Disciples (John 20), he did not come to prove a point or to embarrass Thomas for having doubts. But instead, Jesus honored Thomas’s questions by showing him the scars, the wounds, and giving Thomas what he needed to believe.
Jesus Welcomes Our Faith Struggle
Jesus did not walk away from Thomas and his doubts, but instead literally stretched out his hands to Thomas so he could believe!
We have an example of Jesus welcoming moments of doubt and curiosity with compassion to those who ask! How different would the story of Jesus have been if he just laughed at the kid and sarcastically looked at Peter like, “Would you believe this guy?!? LOL! Now BEAT IT, NERD! The grown-ups have Resurrection business!”
That’s not who Jesus is.
Where To Start First When We Struggle With Faith
So, if you are struggling with matters of faith, here’s where I would start…
Yes, I know, this first one is a total Sunday school answer, but it is still the best place to start! We don’t have the benefit of living, breathing, human flesh version of Jesus to share a coffee and ask a few questions. But prayer is the direct line to God, so… do it! To put it another way, I have yet to find a topic so big and complicated God was unwilling to hear.
What is the issue giving you moments of doubt or grief? How can you be curious about that topic? Is this from an outside source? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? Does this doubt or lack of faith prevent you from being a true version of yourself? Being curious is not at all like a police interrogation. It can be as simple as showing enough grace to yourself to simply ask, “Where is this feeling coming from?” (If you’re interested, I was a guest on the Making Sense of Ministry Podcast and talked a lot about Compassion and Curiosity.
Find someone who regularly challenges your faith.
I have a few people in my life that are living life or talking about issues or loving their communities in ways that make me stop and stare – in a good way. What is it about them that causes me to stand still for a moment and consider what I’m doing? We should be pursuing people that think differently than we do and who will then challenge us to learn more about ourselves, our world, and God.
Be vulnerable about your faith and your questions.
Despite my best efforts, I have yet to resolve all my issues and answer my questions all alone. And while there were some significant pride hurdles to get over, I’ve found vulnerability with others to be super helpful. Not only does it allow me to get to know people in better ways, but I’ve discovered I’m not alone. I’m not crazy. I’m not a terrible Christian because I have questions. And I was not the first to ask these questions either. Trusting others with my doubts has only led to stronger relationships and a deeper longing for experiencing Jesus.
And this is the counterintuitive part for many ministry leaders:
Openly sharing struggles with the students we are leading, makes you a better leader. I’m not suggesting you start a message with, “Well gang, you were right all along, I don’t know what I’m doing. BUT I BROUGHT PIZZA!” Don’t do that. What I am recommending is that we never exclude ourselves from the Biblical truths we are trying to share.
Sometimes I think there is a belief residing deep in the back of our brains that “If I show people I’m weak, they will refuse to follow”. And that just isn’t true. When we assume the response is going to be “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU,” we will never allow space for the more common reply of “Yeah, me too.” Sharing a struggle is not proving you are a failure. It reveals you are a human. And most students prefer relationships with real people, not robots. It’s not our job to be sinless, just to point to the one who is.
I hope we are a people that are not afraid to ask questions. We can know that our doubts will not decrease the size of our God, but rather reveal the depth of God’s love for us.
Josh is originally from Sevierville, TN and now lives in Knoxville where he serves as Director of Students at Cokesbury Church. Josh has been in Student Ministry for more than a decade. On par with loving students is his desire to see student workers succeed and be equipped for the joys and challenges of Student Ministry. Josh is married to Ginny and dad to Mattie and Beau. Outside of church work, he loves golf, Tennessee Volunteers football (naturally), and Kansas Jayhawks basketball (unnaturally, but it feels right).