(Warning: this post is not for everyone.)¹
In the early days of my faith, my understanding of growth in it meant getting to where I had no more doubts. So, with that understanding, I embarked on a mission to put an end to all my doubts.
Man, I struggled. And too real was the struggle thereof.
The worst part was, the more I struggled, the more the doubts. It wasn’t that I didn’t find answers to my questions. The problem, in fact, was that I did find answers, only they turned out to be like doors in the Tombraider games I loved as a kid: every time you finally managed to find the key and open a door, there were another five waiting for you. (Except in real life it was more like ten.) It was frustrating.
I didn’t give up, though. I kept hard at it, trusting I’d find that, like they used to say in X-Files, “the truth is out there.” I often joke that I’ve heard all the arguments for and against religious belief in general, and Christianity in particular.
Except, it’s not entirely a joke: I really have heard tons—not all, I’m sure, but let’s just say it takes a lot to surprise me at this point. And no, that’s not even something I’m proud of, it’s just what it is. But I say that to say, at some point in the journey that took me through all these arguments, it finally hit me…
There’s no final answer.
After all, doubts are really questions, aren’t they?
And questions demand answers. But much as I believe all questions have answers, I’ve come to accept that not all answers stop questions. Nor am I referring only to bad answers, either. I’m saying, for some questions, not even the best answers are enough. As anyone who has ever loved already knows, there’s no answer to the question, “Do you really love me?” that can stop it coming again.²
For some questions, there are no final answers—and it’s not the fault of the answers. It’s just that questions just don’t stop coming back. (Blame it on being human.)
To be clear, deciding there was no final answer didn’t stop me looking for answers. That didn’t change, it’s who I am. What changed was, I stopped expecting to find the answer. You know, the one answer to bind them all. I focused more on living out what I believed to be true.
Funny thing was, this switch of focus led me to new and richer answers. As I lived out what I knew, I discovered things about my faith that I could never have found merely by thinking about it. And somehow—perhaps because I was putting less pressure on them—the answers I did find proved ever more fulfilling.
I had, in the most roundabout of ways, come to learn that faith is not the absence of doubt, as I imagined—it’s steadily living out what you know in the face of all you admittedly don’t know or fully understand. In surrendering my search for a final answer, I had made an unexpected discovery:
For some questions, the most helpful answer is your own life.
You might be familiar with the proper Christian term for this: testimony.³
- Not that anyone can’t read it, but it might be answering questions that have never troubled you, in which case you’re possibly better off ignoring it completely.
- This might be more a problem with some kinds of people than others. And it’s not to say those kinds of people are better for asking, or worse for not accepting. We’re just all different kinds, each with our defining characteristics, and the strengths and weaknesses arising from those characteristics.
- Revelation 12:10–11 tells of Christians overcoming “the accuser” (aka raiser of doubts) by their testimony. This is how I understand that.