Some of my first memories are of hearing my grandfather preach in Spanish. He was a fiery minister, shouting with excitement and banging his hand on the pulpit; caught up in the moment of his impassioned teaching. I observed in awe of the man everyone adored. It seemed as though he had everything figured out, and I wanted to be just like him.
However, as I entered adolescence doubt seemed to define my faith rather than certitude. The more I asked questions it felt as if I wasn’t achieving the faithfulness my grandfather had shown me. Answers seemed to be few and far in between, what felt like a lack of belief made me feel like a weak Christian. In fact, it seems that, many of us have come to believe doubt is a sign of inadequate faith.
We see this theme littered throughout the gospels. One particular story catches my attention.
In Mark 9:14-29 we read of the doubt of a father whose son suffered from life-threatening seizures. After hearing of Jesus’ ability to heal the boy the father says, “But if you can You can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (Mark 9: 22). In this conversation the word that stands out most to me is if. The father is still experiencing doubt, despite hearing about Jesus’ miracles.
Jesus responds by saying, “If You can? All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23).
When we read stories like this and take account of Jesus’ words, I wonder if we fill up with the duty to have a perfect faith in God. If only we could believe without a shadow of a doubt, we might be pleasing to God and be living like a “true Christian”.
What I find most interesting about this passage is the father’s response to Jesus. In verse 24 the father cries out, “I do believe; help my doubt.” The father simply asks for help with his doubt.
The False Self is saturated with doubt, causing us to feel as if we need to manufacture our safety because God feels disconnected from our reality. However, the True Self, the part of self that trusts God, can help us see our doubt as a hallmark of our own development. Personally, I used to challenge God with my doubt. Asking questions like, “Are you ever going to hear my prayers and heal me?” I would stand livid in my pain and agony, wondering about God’s power to heal me of my anxiety, or what I used to call ‘same-sex attractions’. However, as I began to deepen in my understanding of God’s loving character my questions started to change.
I began asking questions as though God’s love for me was not only stable, but also unceasing. I began asking questions of God as though I was God’s beloved child. Inquiring with phrases like, “If I am utterly loved and created by you, how should I respond to and engage with my attractions for the same gender?”
What I now understand is as I began to change my approach to God from an angry demand for change to addressing the doubt I had, my questions took on another form.
The Gay Christian Network has been safe place where people can ask the challenging and uncomfortable questions. Responders to our online survey echo my sentiments:
“Continue to minister and reach people on an individual level, provide community and space for people to flourish.”
“GCN will always be a blessing by continuing to provide a welcome, a resource and a home to LGBT+ Christians looking for answers.”
Doubt is common no matter where we are in our lives, but we must be willing to ask the hard questions and speak out about uncomfortable truths. In my opinion, a Christian is not one without doubt, but someone who asks God for help within it. It is by trusting God to be a chaperon on our journey of spiritual development that we begin to live out our True Self.
At this year’s conference we have breakouts that will explore challenging questions surrounding topics like sexual ethics, healthy relationships, mental health, and other topics of life that remain overwhelming silent. Please know at GCN your doubt and questions are not only welcome, they are encouraged. When considered with humility, our doubts and questions move us closer to God.
- Where am I experiencing doubt in my life?
- What is it that God says about me, as God’s child, within this doubt?
- Write a prayer to God detailing this doubt.
End with this prayer:
Lord, help me with my doubt. Let it be a sign on the road of spiritual development that reminds me to trust you and ask questions that will deepen my faith as your beloved child.