Faith is not always easy to weather. It can feel light and breezy one day—with a string of hopeful and happy words: “Faith, hope and love.”
On others, it can feel like a giant weight you’re carrying around, making you wonder if you should drag it a little longer and see if it becomes light again or leave it behind and try life on without it.
Friends may share encouraging verses with you, like Hebrews 11:1 (“Faith is being sure of what we hope for … ”), or tell you to sign up for more church activities in an attempt to get your questions answered more quickly. Sometimes this helps, but sometimes it doesn’t.
Whether you feel like you spend most of your time as a doubting Thomas or just occasionally go through a season of wondering whether what you believe is true, below are some tips for weathering what can be a truly scary experience. If you find yourself there, try to go easy on yourself, and see if you find any of the following tips useful.
Try to Approach Your Doubt as You Would Your Job.
What is meant by this is not to work “harder” at asking big life questions, which might make you feel more crazed than you already do. But rather to treat your faith—and your faith community—as you would your job in the sense of not being too quick to quit.
Even jobs you love can leave you hurting, frustrated or confused at times. But you wouldn’t necessarily put in your two weeks notice for something that has also brought you joy, supportive peers, a sense of purpose and meaning, stability and peace. The same should go for your faith.
Remember that you don’t do your whole job in one day’s time. Most jobs have hundreds of responsibilities, when you really break them down. A season of doubt in one’s faith isn’t (usually) solved in one day. There will be times of talking with friends and church leaders, journaling, walking, worshipping, and sometimes just being, before you find yourself on the other side.
Try and be fair to yourself a doubting season: not expecting to accomplish or solve all things immediately, but rather willing to come back the next day to keep at it.
Talk to People (and God), as Honestly as Possible.
Sometimes when you’re struggling to figure things out, you might be afraid to say certain things for fear of being blasphemous.
If faced with such feelings, try and think of this: If you believe (or are trying to believe) in a God who knows all your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs (or lack thereof), then it’s likely He isn’t going to punish you for talking honestly with a friend about something He already knows about.
Further, if you feel so upset about the state of your life that you don’t feel like you can have a “nice” conversation with God in prayer, try and journal your feelings, as if you were writing Him a letter. You also may find it helpful to pray/write that God would come in search of you, so it doesn’t feel so much like you’re working to muster up faithful feelings.
Let People Pray for You, Even if You’re Not Praying.
It’s nice to know people are praying for you in general. And if they sit with you and pray aloud, it can provide hope when you hear the confident voice of someone who believes what you are trying to believe. This is also a bit like sitting with a spiritual cheerleader—someone who is rooting for peace and contentment in your life.
The action of closing one’s eyes, quieting down, maybe touching the hands of the other person as you pray—all this can take your death grip off the steering wheel and help you to center and breathe.
Continue to Serve.
One thing you may struggle with during a season of doubt is not feeling authentic, especially with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who may not seem like they’re struggling (word to the wise: there are more doubters among you than you may think). It can feel uncomfortable or even wrong to serve in your normal capacities in and outside of church.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t.
It’s OK to remain a greeter on Sunday mornings, to sing in the praise band, to host a Bible study in your home. In fact, these things can keep you afloat. You don’t have to fake it and act like you’re totally on fire for God, but it’s better to have good company in a time of doubt—especially company with whom you can be honest and who will lift you up in prayer—than none at all.
Reflect on the Things of Your Faith That Aren’t so Hard for You to Believe
Finally, when you’re tired of throwing fists in the air, you may find relief in thinking of the things about God and the Bible that you are more confident in: that God is love; that self-control and patience are meant to help us; that when Jesus said to love people He was telling us the right thing to do.
And that He came for the broken, for those who sometimes struggle and wonder, but who ache to know Him (Acts 17:26-28).
Peace to you, my friends. May your doubting not be too long or painful, and may you come out on the other side feeling not so alone. Because you’re certainly not alone.