A while back my good friend Jay called me up. It was late at night (that is, late at night for two guys with young kids—so, like, nine o’clock).
“Can I ask you a question?” he asked.
“Suuure….” I replied, feeling somewhat nervous given the late hour.
“Do you ever have doubts?” Jay asked.
“What kind of doubts…?” I inquired.
“Doubts about God, Christianity, and….”
“Oh, those kinds of doubts…,” I said with a sense of relief. “Heck yeah, all the time…why do you ask?”
Jay explained, “I was listening to a pastor on the radio, and he was asked if he ever had doubts. He said he never did…and I was surprised because I have lots of doubts…”
“He’s lying.” I said. “Either that or he hasn’t been a pastor that long. I don’t know any pastor worth his salt that doesn’t, from time to time, have doubts about Christianity. There are a lot of things about Christianity that sound crazy. Any thoughtful pastor or Christian is going to wrestle with those things.”
At this point I went on a mini rant about all the doubts I’ve had in the last year. Everything from doubting the existence of God, the deity of Christ, the validity of the Bible, to doubting whether or not I was truly saved (to be honest that last one really surprised me).
“I thought that was the case…” Jay said.
At this point I can’t remember the exact wording of our conversation but we discussed a lot of things about doubts.
We talked about how doubts aren’t necessarily bad things. And how, contrary to popular belief, doubts don’t go away just because you’ve walked with Jesus for a while or read everything there is to read on God, the Christian life, and the Bible (not that either of us had or ever will). We discussed how it doesn’t matter if you have doubts, but instead what you do with them.
At this point I probably listed out a number of books (after the Bible) that I think every Christian should read when they have doubts. (The list was likely something close to this: Top 25 Christian Apologetics Books
We then discussed how doubt is not limited to areas of faith. (Years ago after a major argument with my wife, Meredith, I think we both doubted whether or not marriage was a God-ordained institution…or even if it was a good idea at all.) We doubt relationships, our abilities, even our perception of reality.
So Jay and I concluded we’re not sure what that pastor on the radio was smoking when he said he didn’t have doubts. Maybe he was afraid that if he confessed his doubts other people (people in his congregation) would doubt their own faith (or worse…doubt him). Or maybe at that time in his life he really couldn’t think of any deep questions to which he didn’t already have the answers.
At some point we said goodbye, but if I could go back in time I would add this addendum to our conversation.
I would have said, “Jay, something I’m just now learning is having all the answers is not the same as not having doubts.”
“So you’re done reading books?” he might have replied.
“No, what I mean is I could give most people the right answer to most of their ‘faith’ questions. But whether or not I truly believe those answers is a whole different matter—that’s doubt. Do I believe what I say? Is it really true? Answers alone won’t get me there. They help, but they won’t get me to a place of complete confidence.”
“So what will?” he might have asked.
“Honestly, a relationship,” I’d have said.
Then I would have stepped into my imaginary little pulpit and continued:
“Lately I find that the more I spend time with God through prayer and just being mindful of his presence the harder it is to doubt His existence.
“The more I let Jesus have his way in my life, the harder it is to doubt that he is alive and Lord of all creation.
“The more I spend time in the Bible, really just soaking it up and letting it shape me, the harder it is to doubt that it is really God’s Word.”
And because my friend Jay doesn’t like easy answers (he’s too smart for that) I’m sure he would have liked that little spiritual reflection.
Looking back I think Jay knew the following things when he called: Doubt is normal. I don’t need to have all the answers. God and my relationship with him is bigger than my doubt.
I think my good friend Jay just needed some reassurance.