From time to time, I have people come to me distressed because they have doubts about their faith. Often, they feel guilty for questioning their faith, or they are worried where their doubts will lead them. There are others who leave the church because of their doubts. They feel that they cannot attend church if they are questioning their beliefs because it makes them hypocrites. The fear and pain that can accompany questioning your faith is natural and understandable. However, questioning your faith is natural too. In fact, it is healthy. Let me explain.
Questioning your faith is natural and is how you grow. God gave us minds to explore and understand. It is through exploring and questioning faith that we grow deeper and that the faith becomes ours, rather the just something that our parents taught us or that we received from tradition. In the words of Ann C. Sullivan in "The Christian Century": "According to child psychologists, learning to think for ourselves is not only as normal but a healthy sign of development. It's part of growing up. And so it is on our journey of faith. At some point, if we want to move into the kind of intimacy with God that God desires, we need to grow up and become both enlightened and informed."
Questioning is Biblical: The Bible does not tell us that we are not to question our faith. In fact, the Bible is the story of spiritual journey of our fore-parents in faith. The Psalms are full of hymns that question where God is in the midst of trouble. The Book of Job seeks to answer the same question, but refuses to leave us with simple, pat answers. People often think of the Bible as a book of answers, we read it and it tells us what to believe. But the Bible is more complicated than that. In its pages we encounter God, and through this encounter, we are given space to explore deep questions and to wrestle of our faith, as we seek to understand who God is in our lives and in the world.
God does not get mad or punish you for questioning. God made us into thinking beings, who naturally ask questions. God is greater than our questions, and neither God's divine being nor God's ego are threatened by our questions. If questions can move us into a deeper relationship with God and a more authentic faith, then we can see them as a gift from God.
The church is a place to ask questions. Some of the greatest saints and leaders of Christianity have questioned their faith, including the founder of the Methodist tradition, John Wesley. Through the wisdom we have received from them, the church has developed tools to help people work through their questions. If you leave the church when you are questioning, then it is easy to ignore the questions and not do the work it takes to face them. However, in the church, you will be surrounded by people who love you and will walk with you in your questions. I have questioned my faith, and it has always been the faith of others that have held me when I had little faith of my own. It has been their support which helped me work through my questions and become a deeper person in faith.
I share these ideas with you to assure you that Wilmington United Methodist is a place to ask deep questions and to grow in your faith.
Your brother in Christ,