As long as I can remember, I have been a Christian. A Pentecostal, Spirit-filled Christian. I can remember my Pastor growing up joking that I was born on one of the back church pews; and I believed him for a good while.
Now that I’ve grown up just a little bit, I know that there is a world outside of church, and Pentecostal church members. I now know that life isn’t all about potlucks and tent revivals, there isn’t always a moving worship song playing when you need it to be.
I’m thankful for my church growing up. Those are the good people who formed me, gave me wings, believed in me, and taught me goodness. They baptized me, and brought my family casseroles when life was difficult. They were the ones who gave me car rides home after long, late night youth group services. They taught me what grace and compassion look like, and shared their family’s secret bean dip recipes… They were my people. And I was theirs. I owe so much of who I am to them.
But growing up in a secure Christian environment doesn’t exempt a person from questions of faith. It doesn’t give you immunity from any kind of doubt.
As I grew into my 20’s believing the world was mine for the taking, I headed across the seas and onto the mission field. I could write an entirely separate blog about that experience, and maybe I will later. But for now I want you to know that those were the days that my faith began to shift.
I started asking questions that I had never even thought of before. Christianity wasn’t so simple anymore, and suddenly my foundation was shifting. Questions arose deep in my spirit that seemed to have no answers. There were no perfectly scripted bible verses that fit into tidy boxes to answer these questions. Everyday there was a new challenge – Everyday there were more questions. Everyday my faith was being tossed.
Not wanting to become a “backslider” (that’s term for a “Christian gone bad” for those of you who aren’t Christian) I clung tightly to every word in the Bible I could. I prayed, and prayed hard for answers… and when I couldn’t even do that anymore, I prayed in the Spirit.
Friend, I know you have questions too. Maybe you’re too afraid to voice them. Maybe you think if you start to entertain the questions, you yourself will become one of those “bless-their-hearts-God-can-still-save-them” backsliders.
Here are just a few of the questions I have about scripture, God, and theology in general. I’m guessing yours may be some of the same, and you also probably have many different ones:
What’s the meaning of the whole “accepting Jesus into your heart” thing? If someone lived on an island and had never heard the gospel once, but believes there must be a God whom they worship, but doesn’t say the “sinners prayer “, will they still get into heaven? Or will they be damned to hell? Is hell even real? If God is Almighty, All Loving, and the Creator of everything, then why did he even create a hell? Why would God create a place of punishment for the sin that he created in me in the first place? Can I trust the Bible, and its many authors as the voice of God? Is the Bible literal? Is it inherent and infallible even when I know it was written by fallible men? Does God create suffering? Why did my friend’s husband have to die? Why did my friend’s 4-year old daughter have to die? Did God have a radical change of heart between the Old and New Testaments? Why is blood sacrifice required for our sins? Why did Jesus have to die?
As I’m sure you can tell by now, I have had a lot of questions regarding faith. Some of them I have answers to, and others I still wrestle with. They grow with me, and move. And the ones that I do have answers to, those answers sometimes evolve and change also. Because just when I think I have figured it out, and mastered the questions – I find a new question arises, or a different perspective takes place. And once again it challenges my answers, and I’m left wondering once more.
But I don’t think God is angered, or threatened by my questions or yours. I believe God welcomes them, invites them in, and entertains them in His presence. Psalm 139:9 says that “If I ride on the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, your strength will support me.”
If you have ever asked any of these questions out loud to another Christian, you may have been met with the reply, “Oh you know, you just have to have faith like a child. Believe the Bible is true, and accept what you’ve been taught” – To which I blankly stare at them and say: have you ever been around a child?? Their entire world revolves around asking questions. They are born with a natural wonder and curiosity. They question everything, and its not because they are trying to be rebellious, rude, or prove anyone wrong – they just honestly want an answer. They truly want to know.
And friend, I know that’s how you and I are. We aren’t trying break down the establishment, we aren’t trying to prove anyone wrong – we just honestly want to know. We ask because it matters to us, and if it matters to us, I have to believe it matters to God. I have to believe that God is involved in the wondering, and in the doubting, and that the Holy Spirit is moving in the times of my questioning, and in the times I have answers. God isn’t partial to us only when we are mindless followers.
I would love to have my faith all mapped out, and every question answered. But isn’t this messy, winding, progressing and regressing path we take- isn’t this faith at its core?
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