Those who believe they believe in God but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God Himself. -Madeline L’Engle, quoted in The Case for Faith(p. 223) by Lee Strobel.
As I mentioned before I was raised and homeschooled in an insular Evangelical/Fundamentalist environment.(For more see here ). It is this type of environment that has cheesy lines such as, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” However in my case I’ve had doubts basically since I was 18(which was 2003). Over time, however, it was in my doubts that I had a deep spirituality. It was the Strobel book I quoted that first showed me that there’s a place for doubt. Chapter 12 of The Purpose-Driven Life built on this, as it talks about the need to be honest with God and points out the honesty of biblical characters with God.
Now to dig into this. I have come to view the line, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” as contrary to Scripture. When God told Abraham of Sodom’s destruction, Abraham talked with God until He agreed to spare the city for ten righteous people. Moses, when informed of Israel’s destruction, didn’t just accept it — he talked God out of it! The Psalms are full of the prayers of people expressing their doubts, anger, frustrations, and other emotions to the Lord. David summed it up as, “I believe, therefore I said, ‘I am utterly ruined’ “; that is, because of my faith, I expressed my true emotions. Job expressed his true feelings throughout the book of Job, whereas his friends offered pious clichés. At the end of it, God said to one of the friends, ” I am incensed at you and your two friends, for you have not spoken the truth about Me as did My servant Job”(Job 42:7b, New JPS translation). From this we learn that God wants us to be honest with Him; He’s saying He’s OK with our anger, doubts, questions, fears, etc.
Like Jacob(Gen. 32:22-32), it’s OK to wrestle with God and say, “I will not let you go until You bless me” (Gen. 32:26, New JPS translation). This wrestling with God is what made Jacob into Israel.(In the Bible a name is tied to who you are and all you stand for.) In the New Testament it is written, “Test everything, hold onto the good”(1 Thess. 5:21, NRSV). Romans 12:2 mentions ” discerning” the will of God, which refers to proving it through repeated testing. Romans 12:1 mentions our “reasonable”, ” logical”, or “spiritual” service/worship(depending on the translation). I take this to mean that thinking and questioning can, too, be Acts of worship.
So when doubt strikes, we should give thanks to the Lord, for He knows all things and we don’t. Nevertheless, we seek it out, seekers find — a promise existing in some form in the Bible, the Quran, and the Book of Mormon. We should tell God exactly how we feel, return to the things that draw us to faith, and just admire them and the Lord Who is behind them. Also seek to understand the Bible from different theological perspectives; seek out new ideas. In Acts 17:11 the Bereans were praised for searching the Scriptures to see whether or not what Paul was saying is true.
I think doubt helps keep faith relevant, in that it forces people to face the questions those outside the bubble face. This, I believe, promotes empathy, particularly if the people involved are open-minded. Through doubt, if we are humble, we are reminded that God is bigger than our dogmas, our churches, our cultures, our nations, our races, or any other tribal identification you can come up with. By walking through the valley of doubt we learn which of our values are worth defending, why these values are important, thus teaching us integrity and giving us meaning. Doubt can be God’s way of expanding ourselves and showing us our possibilities. As Romain Rolland said, “Skepticism, ridding the faith of yesterday, prepares the way for the faith of tomorrow.” For millenia people have questioned popular dogmas(including religious ones); today we enjoy the benefits of their actions, for they were the history makers.