How Doubting God Made My Faith Strong

I Wasn’t the Only One Doubting God…and It Was OK

I was starting to think nothing could break my cycle of faith and doubt when I found this book: Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans (the book has since been retitled Faith Unraveled). The book is about Rachel’s faith crisis. But it could have been written about mine.

There were so many times where Rachel’s words seemed to be coming right out of my own head. I felt like I had finally found someone who understood what I was going through. And in Rachel’s story, I saw hope that I could get past this. A big part of her journey was learning to be okay with the questions—not to stop asking them but to accept that there wouldn’t always be answers.

And ironically, that was the very “answer” I needed to break out of my cycle of doubt. I still had plenty of questions, but I started to realize that those questions don’t mean that my faith is weak; they mean it’s strong. They mean that the tiny little mustard seed of faith I clung to at my weakest point was strong enough to keep me afloat in a sea of doubt.

And although I hadn’t noticed it before, each time my faith had crumbled in the face of a new doubt, God had repaired it with new, stronger fortifications. All that time that I spent evaluating and reevaluating my faith, feeling like I was stuck on a theological hamster wheel, I was actually building the strong, personal theology that I needed before my faith journey could move forward.

Doubting God Emptied Me

Finally, my head, my intellectual faith, was solidly above the water. But after several years of questioning everything about God, spiritually, I was dead. For so long, the closest I got to God was when I was wrestling him. As a result, the only way I knew how to talk to God was in an argument. And now that I had stopped arguing constantly, I didn’t really know what to say. So I didn’t say anything to God at all. I knew I had faith, but my heart was spiritually numb.

That was where things stood until I graduated from college. I was looking for a job, and within the span of two days, two different people sent me the same job posting. The Reformed Church in America (RCA) was looking for a writer and editor. And the job sounded perfect for me. More than anything had in a long time, this felt like a God thing. So I applied, and I was hired.

I think God brought me to this job because I needed the RCA just as much as they needed me. When your work revolves around communicating ministry, half your coworkers are ordained, and prayer, worship, and visits from missionaries are pretty regular occurrences in your workday, you can’t really avoid thinking about God. And at some point, my thinking bled into feeling. It happened so gradually I didn’t notice at first. But between my job and being part of my church, my heart finally started returning God’s calls. And I realized what a big spiritual hole there had been in my life.

I think it was a little like being super sleep deprived. After a while, you forget what you’re like when you get a good night’s sleep. So you’re amazed by how much better you feel and how much more you can give when you finally do get that good night of sleep.

Before I got back that emotional connection with God, my faith seemed incomplete, and I couldn’t figure out why. Today, I can tell you it was because faith isn’t just something you think; it’s something you feel. I’m not trying to say thinking isn’t important—I think it’s essential, too—and I’m also not saying that having faith means you always feel connected to God emotionally. Most of us don’t feel that all the time. And the moments we do feel that closeness often take intentional work—just like any other close relationship you might have.

But I think having that experience of feeling close to God, of knowing you’re loved beyond measure, is what makes us cling so tightly to our mustard seeds. Faith is worth saving because love, the greatest love of all, is priceless. And it’s only through our faith in that great love of God, that great grace of God, that we can truly be whole.

This article about doubting God originally appeared here.

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GraceRuiter@churchleaders.com'
Grace Ruiter is digital content coordinator for the Reformed Church in America.