I remember these students because of their friendship. They came from different parts of the country and ended up as roommates. They hit it off quickly and became inseparable. They were as different as night and day, one from a big city, one from a small town. One was six feet two, while the other was five foot nine. One was white and the other black. One came from a family of 8 siblings who enjoyed a rural upbringing with parents who only graduated high school, while the other was an only child of parents educated at Ivy League schools. Although they were dramatically different, they both struggled with the same doubts about their faith in Jesus Christ.
These two young men saw life as a competition, a test, which it is in many ways. They believed every test has an answer. They thought every troubling question life throws at you must have a specific answer from Scripture, and be reasonable as well. I remember many conversations with these students in their dorm room, at the cafeteria, and around campus. I reminded them on many occasions that the Bible is remarkable for what it does NOT tell us. How many of the “why” questions it never attempts to answer. These young men had a hard time accepting that and fired questions at me. Why couldn’t God make everything absolutely clear to them? What was so hard about that? Why did they struggle with temptation and sin? Why is Jesus is so exclusivist? Why was my grandfather stricken with cancer? Why did I struggle with acne, shyness, and talking with girls? When would we become spiritual giants like Origen, Booker T. Washington, or C.S. Lewis and have all the answers? Why were we perpetually in the school of doubt?
I replied that building faith is like building muscle. If we never exercise our faith, it will shrink into uselessness. The greater the strain or test, the stronger our faith can become. Even when we think we’ve failed, we can bounce back, learn to fail forward, and benefit from trials. God often puts us in situations where our faith can be tried. We read His Scriptures about being Christ-like and pray for strength to be like Him. He then arranges opportunities where our character can be tested. He gives us challenges we know we cannot handle on our own. We find ourselves in circumstances where we have to depend on Him. He poses questions well beyond our ability to answer. In many and varied ways, He puts us where Job was once.
Read Job 38:1-42:6. Through no fault of his own, Job lost virtually everything (chapter 1-2). He wanted answers from God, but got more questions – four chapters worth of them. One example is in Job 38:4 where God asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Job’s response was stark and poignant. “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (42:6). God eventually blessed Job beyond his previous riches, needs, and expectations.
My two students survived many soul crises over their college years and went on to endure greater tests of faith. I will never forget something one of them said right before graduation: “If I didn’t have any faith to doubt, I would not doubt my faith. I have learned to keep and deepen my faith, even as doubt comes knocking on my door. I will not ditch my faith because of doubt.”
You will struggle with finding answers to tough questions. What will do when you realize God never answers many of our “why” questions? How will you react to unfair, unjust things that happen to you or others? How did Jesus deal with the greatest injustice of all? (Luke 23:32-34) Grow devotionally. First, download the YouVersion app for your phone and start one of the Bible reading programs this week to get to know God accurately. Second, pick up a copy of The Faith & Culture Devotional. You will always have faith and doubt – but what you feed grows.
Love is a verb,