A Guest Blog by Sue Donaldson
I sat in chapel and wondered, “Maybe it’s not true.”
I lay in bed and thought, “What if they are wrong?”
I walked to class, lost in thought, “Have I lost my faith?”
I was enrolled in a Christian college, on my way to becoming an adult, when doubt crashed in – unexpected, unwanted, and uninvited.
Where did these thoughts come from?
Worried and afraid, I kept my doubts to myself. I feared giving voice to my doubt would give credence to the confusing thoughts swirling in my soul.
My doubt didn’t come as a safely arranged detour with a guaranteed time frame. It crashed upon me when I least expected and stuck around longer than I could have imagined.My doubt didn’t come as a safely arranged detour with a guaranteed time frame.
I didn’t know when or if my faith might return.
What was worse: the subject of doubt wasn’t covered in my coursework.
No one ever asked: “So how much do you believe in God today, Sue?” (I wish they had. I would’ve been honest. I may have cried.)
No one ever spoke in chapel with the topic: “You May One Day Doubt Your Faith As a Believer.” (I wish they had. I would’ve taken notes.)
That summer while singing about the Good News at camps in the great Northwest, I talked with a God I wasn’t sure was listening.
Looking up at the sky (isn’t that where God lived?) I asked, “God, why do I doubt? Where did these questions come from? Have I been duped? I’m going a little crazy.”
He answered by meeting me in my doubt.
Some of us need four times.
1. God Met Me In His Creation
First, I noticed the stars. Unlike Los Angeles, out in the Northwest, I was actually able to see stars.
I could not believe that stars were an accident. Someone was behind those stars, and I hung my faith on one of them.
It was a slender thread of hope.
2. God Met Me in the Wisdom of Another Believer
Second, I shared my doubt with a Christian woman.
I said it out loud with a clogged throat (you know that thickened feeling when you need to say something, but you may cry, so your throat clogs and words stay inside until the words finally bulldoze through).
I croaked to this older, wiser woman:
“Mrs. Dunkin, I have doubts.”
Without missing a beat (no clogging there), wise Mrs. Dunkin replied,“Oh, Sue, everyone doubts!”
I had never, ever heard that.
And I needed to hear that. (Do you need to hear that?)
Relief like a river loosened my muddied heart. I was so grateful for her comforting reply.
3. God Reminded Me He Was Bigger Than My Questions
Third, I challenged a professor.
I remember where we were walking: on the sidewalk connecting Rutherford Hall and Vyder Hall, my favorite professor and I were chatting as usual.
I stopped and said, clog-like: “Mr. Hills, I have doubts.”
He looked up over my head, and mused, like all good English professors do:
“Well, now, God isn’t a big enough God if He’s not big enough for our questions, is He?”
I nodded, struck dumb by his straightforward response.
My mind and heart sang with that simple truth. (Yours, too?)He’s big enough for my questions or He isn’t God.
God is big enough for my questions or He isn’t God.
So profound, and exactly what I needed to rebuild my riddled faith.
4. God Met Me in His Word
Lastly, I read a verse with fresh eyes.
Perhaps the most needed of the four, I heard this verse like I had never before (you know that feeling):
“Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17 KJV)
Okay then. A formula.
I was desperate for faith.
This verse taught me how to receive faith by hearing the Word.
God doesn’t always work with formulas, but His Word gave me the instruction I needed to move forward.God doesn’t always work with formulas, but His word gave me the instruction I needed to move forward.
I simply began reading the Bible. A lot. I jammed those words in, day by day.
It was the King James Version (I know, I’m showing my age. It was a long time ago—that’s all we had.)
I recall laying on my narrow bed, reading and reading and reading.
I’d pray, “You said this, God, so make it true in me. Faith comes by Your Word and I’m getting Your Word.”
It took time.
After six months of studying and letting my questions go to the God who is big enough for all our questions—gradually and steadily, my faith returned.
Not my parent’s faith. Not my friends’ faith.
I now had a faith that was all mine.
A gift from God.
This reminded me that faith is always God’s gift.
He allowed me to wrestle with my doubt for a bit so that my faith in Him could be solely, only mine.
And I’m grateful.
While it’s been a number of years since this time of doubt, I continue to ask God questions.
I continue to immerse myself in the Word.
I continue to thank God for that year of untethered faith when stars and people and the Bible made all the difference.
I continue to tell my story of faith and doubt and faith over and over again.
Because, in my experience, people need permission to be weak, so they can be encouraged to find their strength in God.
When I tell my story, I hope others are given permission to ask and wonder in order to be filled with genuine faith.I hope my story gives you permission to ask and wonder in order to be filled with genuine faith.
Do you doubt?
Do you know you can tell God your questions, and He won’t love you less?
Are you desperately struggling to believe and don’t know where to even begin?
If so, I encourage you to take these simple steps:
1) Look up and outward at God’s creation and thank Him for the beauty.
2) Tell a trusted friend about your doubt and ask them to pray for you.
3) Begin reading the Word daily (Sign up for a free bible study if you need help).
4) Share your prayer request over on the Living by Design Prayer Wall.
– Sue Donaldson
Sue Moore Donaldson speaks and writes to introduce God’s welcoming heart—inviting you to know the Ultimate Host and pass on His invitation. She and her husband Mark live on the Central Coast of California and have raised three semi-adult daughters (which means she’s always at the bank or on her knees.) Sue blogs at WelcomeHeart.com and is a frequent speaker for women’s events. You may view Sue’s speaking topics at WelcomeHeart.com/Speaking.