As my daughter starts her new chapter at college this fall, I wrote this as something I needed to hear when I was her age:
You will question your faith more in the next four years more than you probably ever will. That is normal and perfectly okay. As Frederick Buechner says about his own spiritual life, “If there is no room for doubt, there is no room for me.”
Doubt and thoughtful questions are some of our only ways of Growing Up.
God is not put off by your doubts and questions. Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, the one they called doubting Thomas, went from doubt to a declaration of Jesus’ Lordship and divinity in a short amount of time. Read that story, tell me that Thomas didn’t become a stronger and more faithful follower of Jesus because he first doubted. To get to the point where he is embracing Jesus and calling him “my Lord and my God,” is directly tied to the fact that he first was in doubt.
But, remember where Thomas was. He was still among the other disciples, he was still fellowshipping with them, he was still praying with them. He was present among other believers when Jesus showed up.
Jesus was more than capable of appearing to Thomas out there on his own but it was much more likely for Jesus to show up in the context of his followers and friends than someplace else. Staying connected to God’s people, even when doubting, allows you to be cared for, listened to, prayed for, and befriended. In times of doubt, this is so important.
A healthy community of believers can nurture you during doubtful and skeptical times and demonstrate to you that God is still working, still making a difference, and still showing up despite our questions about him. Not all churches can handle a doubt filled young person but many can and will.
I still remember a sermon I heard when I was in college. The pastor said that God promised to be with his people, he didn’t promise that their life would be untarnished by the world and its disappointments. That message gave me the perspective to stop keeping score of my good and bad times, but instead, take in the presence of God in my life. Those are the promises that sustained my spiritual life despite a questioning and wavering faith.
Don’t get spooked by your questions and doubts, they could be the sign that God is about to teach you something essential and profound. If you are willing to be spiritually uncomfortable for a while and can find some devoted, caring believers, then your life with Christ will be just fine and in fact, will grow and mature.