Can I be a Christian if I do not know who, what, or where God is? Can I be a Christian if I do not know what parts of the Bible are valid, if any of it? Can I be a Christian if I am praying with my face to the ground, and I can neither find the words to say, nor feel like there’s any point in trying? If God does not exist, is life worth living at all?
These are the questions I found myself asking a few years ago. I was not sure how I had gotten there. I had been active in the church for most of my life, I had recently returned from living in Nicaragua as a missionary, I was participating in ministry, I was doing everything right. And yet, deep inside of myself, the terror of not knowing was stabbing into me, tormenting me day and night. My entire life depended on God’s existence, and I was no longer able to say for sure whether he did exist or not.
What I know now is that doubt is a very natural and healthy expression of faith. A part of growth is questioning our old habits, beliefs and ways of understanding the world. If we never doubt, we never question and never seek answers—that is not being sure of ourselves—it is stagnation.
I imagine that in the period between the minor prophets and the birth of Jesus that the people of Israel had their doubts. Under a brutal military rule by oppressive conquerors, they were waiting for a savior that they had been told would overcome and bring in the Kingdom of God. When would this Messiah come? How would he come? Is he coming at all?
The promise was eventually fulfilled, but not how anyone anticipated. Who in Israel would have expected a baby in a barn to be the Messiah? They wanted fanfare, military might, and national pride. Instead, they got the very human reality of birth pains and terrified new parents. They got a vulnerable, powerless child. They got humility. It is no wonder that they killed him.
I think that all of us will, at one time or another, attempt to slay the changes God wants to make in our lives. Humans are afflicted with chronic and universal metathesiophobia- the fear of change. We all become comfortable with our way of life, our way of thinking, and our way of being. When challenged, we go into fight or flight mode. We attack the change, or just run away and try to forget that we were ever tempted to alter our course.
My existential dread in the face of doubt was that I would not be okay if I changed. I did not believe that I could change my opinions and survive the process. Frankly, I did not believe that God would survive, either. My self-centered faith did not understand that God was strong enough to handle my questions and my fear.
I eventually decided to let go—of everything. I let go of any attempt I was making to believe, and decided that God was either going to prove to me that he existed, or he does not. He could handle my crisis or he was not worth following. That was simultaneously the best and most traumatic decision I have ever made.
I changed my thinking- I read the Bible through a new lens, changed the way I thought about God, practiced my faith differently. Jesus was able to handle it. He was, and is, capable of working with me through my questions, fears, and doubts. He was okay, and so was I.