Doubting God in the end made my faith strong. Here’s why.
Growing up, I loved God. And I loved my church. I could see God at work there, and I could see that I was part of that work, part of the community. And then I got to high school, where I learned about evolution for the first time. Up until this point, I believed evolution was just a fringe theory that a guy named Darwin came up with after spending a little too much time alone with his thoughts on a tropical island. But when I learned about it in biology and religion classes, I was surprised by how strong the evidence for evolution was. And after reading up on it a little more, I ended up deciding that, yeah, I believed in evolution.
Believe it or not, that decision was the easy part. Because once I accepted evolution, I had to figure out where it fit into my faith. And that led to doubting God.
Evolution Led to Me Doubting God
The evolutionary version of the creation story is slow and messy and complicated—a tangled web of species both brought to life and killed off by a series of genetic detours and diversions. I knew God was a scientist just as much as an artist. But this process seemed wasteful and even cruel. Why would God, who is supposed to be all about standing up for the least of these, use a creation process that is based on survival of the fittest, the strongest?
As I struggled to put the pieces together, a thought crept into my head that I had never dared entertain before: What if the reason that none of this seemed to fit together was that there was no God? What if the world as we know it really did just come out of a big bang and natural selection? A world without God terrified me. It was no accident that I had always refused to consider the possibility before. But once I allowed that thought in, I was too scared that it was true to forget about it.
Doubting God Gave Me Fear-Tinted Glasses
I started to see everything through fear-tinted glasses that magnified the things that said, you’re right to have doubts, and distorted the rest of the picture. I was so afraid of losing my faith that I gave doubt everything it needed to grow in my heart.
I prayed. I read my Bible. But once I put those fear-tinted glasses on, it was like they were permanently adhered to my face. Eventually, something in my prayer or in Scripture would spark a new doubt or a new question I couldn’t answer. And I’d be surrounded by a sea of doubt, clinging to a mustard seed to keep my head above water.
For some people, this would be the part of the story where you confide in someone. Where you face the fact that you’re in the middle of a faith crisis, and you really need help.
But not me. Raising me and my siblings to love and serve God was my mom and dad’s number one goal as parents. I could have told them that I was going to be a teen mom or that I wanted to drop out of high school, that I crashed their car, or that I planned to permanently tattoo tiger stripes on my face. And they probably would have been upset, but eventually, they would have said, Well at least she’s still got her faith.
And it wasn’t just my parents. Everyone around me seemed so sure of God; they didn’t seem to be doubting God. I didn’t think they would understand my doubts. And more than that, I didn’t want to disappoint them.
Instead, I came up with my own doubt eradication plan. I thought that if I could just manage to put the evolutionary and biblical creation stories together—to answer those questions that started this journey into doubt—the doubt would go away. And then nobody would have to know.
So I started researching. I found science and religion professors from Calvin who wrote about creation from an evolutionary perspective. And I actually read their academic papers in my spare time. As a 17-year-old. Which should give you an idea of how desperate I was for answers.
And in a way, I found answers. I learned that there were theologically sound ways to bring science into the creation story, ways that enriched the story instead of diminishing God’s role in it. And using what I learned, I was able to start rebuilding my creation theology.
What I wasn’t able to do was get rid of my doubts.
Now that I had questioned one part of my faith and discovered there was more to the story, everything seemed to be a little less sturdy. So I started this cycle where I would build this delicate tower of faith up, and then I’d come up with a question I couldn’t account for, and the whole thing would collapse on me. I’d have to rebuild my faith all over again.
This cycle continued into college, and along the way, I covered all the Doubting Thomas greatest hits: Why does God allow suffering? Why does God only answer some prayers? How come Christians don’t seem to act much like Christians?