Monday, November 10, 2008

My Name is Charles North, and I am a Doubter!


Religiously speaking, I doubt a lot. My mind is riddled with uncertainty. Maybe it's just my personality type or my analytical training. I used to think that I was alone in my uncertainty, and that sharing my doubts would label me as weak, unfaithful, or even ignorant. I also thought that sharing my doubts would hurt the faith of those who looked to me for answers and certainty. I've discovered, however, that if you ask people in an honest moment, just about everyone has doubts. And I'm not just talking about passing moments of “I wonder if . . ?” I'm talking about deep and prolonged doubts. Recurring doubts that keep you up at night. Since Christians rarely speak of doubt we feel that expressing it is somehow unfit for proper (religious) company. So we stew on it and think we are alone - strange or odd or different, even to the point of deviance.

I've become convinced that sharing doubts is very therapeutic. Ironically, sharing doubts promotes deeper faith. My eyes were opened to this a few years ago when I was talking to a High School Senior (a very bright kid) about religion and the problem of evil in the world. I shared my doubts with this kid. A few days later I got an email from the kid, and he had this to say, “I have been struggling with church for some time, but talking to you opened my eyes. I have never heard a minister admit to doubting God. But hearing you made me realize that it is okay to doubt and that I fit in at church.”

I want to de-pathologize doubt. I want us to speak more openly about our doubts. I think it is healthy to know you are not alone. Here are specific things I have doubted or still doubt. What about you? Is this healthy?

I've doubted that God exists.
I've doubted that God really cares and works in the world.
I've doubted that prayers make any difference.
I've doubted that there is a heaven after death.
I’ve doubted that there is a literal place called “hell.”
I’ve doubted that the Bible is “inspired.”
I’ve doubted that the church is capable of forgiveness.
I’ve doubted love.
I’ve doubted the “stories” of the Old Testament.
I’ve doubted my own “goodness.”
I’ve doubted the value of “truth.”

8 comments:

Still Hurting said...

It is easy to doubt things we have no substantive information on. But I TRULY believe that the life situations that cause us to doubt can also cause us to believe. Its the whole "equal and opposite reaction" thing. Certain events caused you to doubt truth, but there will be other events, possibly even very subtle ones, that will cause you to believe in truth again.

I have doubted the things you doubted, and more. But thru recovery, I have decided to see things in a new light. I lost all faith in love and friendship, but now had to sit down and literally "count my blessings" and saw that I had more friends than I could count who TRULY LOVED me. SO, in a way, its a matter of perspective.

Thats whats going on here said...

If you didn't doubt you wouldn't be human. As Christians you will always doubt what you are being taught is true or not,that's why you have to dig and do your own soul searching. You can't rely on the Preacher to teach you and you just go by what he says. I have learned to have faith.Faith is hard to have. I struggle everyday with it. I have had all the same doubts, but then I wonder is it the devil that is making me doubt?? Can the devil persaude you into thinking the way you do?? That's when faith and prayer comes into play.

jenn said...

I doubt many things in life, religion, love, relationships. I am one who doesn't truly believe unless it can be seen. Yes, I have a HUGE problem with faith. It is something I struggle with every day. I doubt myself...Am I "good enough" for ______? or Why would they want me to_____?

I once enjoyed going to church and felt that I had some faith in the Bible and God. I'm not so sure anymore, for many reasons. Will I ever have the faith I once had, or thought I had? I don't know. I doubt it.

The things in life that have caused me to doubt are not little things. They were life changing. I hope to believe again, and have faith in my life. Perhaps one day I will.

Tyrel said...

Well, without doubt there would be no certainty.

casey said...

the most recent doubt i have become aware of is does prayer really have a purpose, does it really change things? you can pray with all your heart for protection, yet i still get hurt. pray for healing, and still people die. so my thinking is why should i ask God for such things when things turn out according to HIS will. half the time i have no idea what i want,but God always knows what i need. i believe whole heartedly He will always provide me with what i need, never leave me alone to deal with life's struggles. He has also promised that He will never ask me to endure more than i can handle, i find great comfort in that. i also believe that everything that happens has a purpose. so in my opinion if you come out of suffering and learned nothing then you suffered for nothing. we are put through trials of many kinds, for the purpose of becoming more like the person God wants us to be. so whether it to be a stronger person, learn a lesson, become closer to someone, there is a reason. like wheat has to be thrashed to become useful, so must we endure our own thrashing to be useful to God.

Mark said...

There are those in this world that don't question a thing. They are happy to plod along through this life accepting things just the way they are. Some people might say they are content, I say they are complacent!

There are those in this world that doubt, but refuse to take the time to earnestly seek and grow, they become disenchanted and negative.

There are those in this world that doubt, that question things and seek answers. These people CAN grow in their relationship to God and to each other if they are open in there seeking.

I have doubted. I continue to doubt! More and more I thirst for knowledge. Doubt has to be part of our open discourse with each other as brothers and sisters.

Charles North said...

Tyrel!! That is a very clever comment.

Kerrie said...

I like what Mark said,

“There are those in this world that doubt, that question things and seek answers. These people CAN grow in their relationship to God and to each other if they are open in there seeking.

I doubt a lot and sometimes I have really frank conversations with God about some of the issues Casey mentioned. When I get like this it’s not pretty and I’m usually either crying and or very angry but somehow, my honesty with God I think lets him know how much I love him. There is an intimacy that develops when I question him sincerely looking for answers and not just turning my back. And I know that no matter what, he is not going to hold it against me.

The last time I “vented” to him and wanted some proof, he provided me with a clear concrete answer to my doubts and it shut me up for awhile but I’m a lot like the Israelites. I forget too easily.