There are many who believe that doubting the Word of God weakens one’s faith, but I like to believe the opposite—that it strengthens our relationship with Him. Can anyone say that they have not felt like the father in Mark 9:24 (ESV) who cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief”? Miguel de Unamuno, a Spanish philosopher, once famously said: “Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe in the God idea, not God himself.”
I started to first question what I was taught about the Bible when I read a book on a Roman festival called the Saturnalia which took place every December. When I discovered that our Christmas replaced the Saturnalia and that Jesus wasn’t actually born on the 25th of December my entire world was tilted off its axis. As I grew up I discovered that a lot of things I had taken for granted weren’t true. If Santa is a comforting lie we tell children, why couldn’t God be, too? I stopped believing in the idea of God the same time I stopped believing in Santa.
But I didn’t want to not believe. It’s not pleasant to experience your first existential crisis at such a young age. I wanted to believe in God because His existence made sense. His presence surrounded me, but I did not see Him. I was ignorant of the fact that true faith is believing without seeing, as in John 20:29. My parents, too, believed in God, and surely my all-knowing parents couldn’t be wrong! I wanted to believe there was something—somebody—out there looking over me. But my desire to believe couldn’t reconcile with what I was reading. And, perhaps what hurt the most was that nobody could answer the questions I had.
I learned that while my parents believed in God and believed in Christ, they could not detail for me the specifics of what they believed. They never questioned their faith and as such, never thought about it in any great detail. They believed because they believed, and that was that. I was rather annoying about it, too; constantly pestering my parents about what they thought of different aspects of Christianity, however, couldn’t give me the answers I sought. I was an overly curious and demanding child who wanted answers that made logical and rational sense. It bugged me to no end that the people around me didn’t question their faith because it led me to think that they did not understand themselves enough to do so.
I was not one of those teenagers who stopped believing in God because their friends did and because it was ‘cool’ to be an atheist. Most of my peers didn’t believe in God because they simply were not guided to do so. They didn’t grow up attending religious services routinely, or praying three times a day. Religion didn’t occupy an important space in their lives. I have always had a massive amount of respect for anyone that, like me, grew up in a religious household, and who retained their faith in the face of ignorance and cynicism from their peers. There’s a lot of pressure nowadays to steer away from religion.
How can faith be a bad thing when it makes us better people? As in Isaiah 41:10 (ESV) we are told to “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” We can do all things through our faith in God.
Someone to Hold My Hand
Having studied religion for five years now I recognize just how important having faith is to so many people; it has the power to save lives. In my own moments of pain and suffering I have found myself turning to God. Yes—even when I doubted Him, I sought His guidance. As my Dad always says, there are no atheists in foxholes. It is reassuring to think that our lives and our world are more than just a slip up in the mechanics of the Universe. It is our natural human instinct to hope in the existence of a higher being, especially when facing a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, trouble, or fear. Those moments of pain made me understand that I did not need to see to believe. I only needed to hope.
There is perhaps nothing more frightening than the feeling of being utterly alone. Growing up, I always felt that I could get through anything at all so long as there was someone there to go through it with me. When I had a nightmare, I turned to my parents to keep me safe. When I went on a rollercoaster, I felt a lot better squeezing the hand of the person sitting next to me—unless they were a stranger, at which point they would probably move seats. Being in the company of another can lessen all our concerns and our troubles. Nobody, no matter how brave they appear, wants to face their fears alone. And who better than God to walk with us—not only guiding us, but side by side with us. Knowing this, how can we help but believe? It enriches our lives, and it makes us better people.