There was a night I was sitting in a church event when I was a teenager. As usual I had taken a seat in the back with a few friends and really wasn’t paying attention. Well, until I heard someone say ‘Doreen’ (my mother) was being taken to the hospital right then. My brother, sister, and I found someone to take us to the hospital so we could find out what was happening.
It’s strange the things you remember when you look back on events in your past. I remember seeing my mother’s coat at the hospital, in the emergency department. Then my father came out to see us and said, ‘Mom’s gone’. My mother was a Christian, did many good things, but she died. I have lived with a lot of questions for God.
I think everyone has some ‘big picture’ questions for God such as, ‘why am I here?’, or, ‘why is there such suffering in the world?’ And then there are questions we have about ourselves, ‘Why did You make me like this?’, for example.
Then there are questions about what, and why, we believe. Why can’t we do this? Why do we believe that? Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any good answers. Sometimes there seems to be great ones. And at other times no ones seems to know anything. It can all lead someone to wonder if they can have questions and doubts and still be following Jesus.
As we read about the disciples through the gospels we do discover a few things. They didn’t always get it. At times they didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about. They certainly had their doubts. One disciple betrayed Jesus. Another denied he knew Him. When Jesus was arrested they all ran away. The great leaders of the early church all had seasons of doubt, failure, success, and faith.
Throughout the gospels we see Jesus speaking to the masses but then explaining things to His disciples. These times would have taken place sitting around discussing the events and teachings of the day. They asked questions. They talked it through. This was part of their learning and growing process. If this was a normal practice of Jesus and the disciples then it is definitely ok for us to do the same. It is how we will grow in our faith.
This has some other implications. Jesus, who was fully man, and fully God surrounded Himself with these young people. Despite the fact they had failures, doubt, and questions He did not reject them. Instead He poured Himself into them. From Jesus’ own example we know He will not reject you either when you go through these seasons as well.
It’s normal to have questions. What we also learn from Jesus and the disciples is that in order to grow we need a place to ask questions. We need a place to discuss beliefs, the Bible, our lives, and what and why we believe. This needs to be a part of every youths’ and young adults’ spiritual upbringing. If you never have this opportunity, your beliefs will never be as rooted as they could be because you’ve never had to wrestle with questions of faith yourself.
What this means is you may have to be proactive in finding such a place. You may have to ask questions. You may have to find a group of friends and have these discussions together. Your church youth group may need to be a place for you to discuss your beliefs. What is certain is, if this was part of what Jesus and the disciples did, it is important.
Me too.These two very short words have incredible impact. When people have questions and doubts and feel like failures these words can be powerful and life saving. The truth is you are not alone. You are not the first person with questions. Every person has had them. Everyone has gone through seasons of doubt. No one is perfect. We all have our own issues. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be human.
Here is the test to know if you are missing something in your journey. When can you, along with other believers, confess your sins and ask for help? When is it okay to admit you are struggling? When can you ask for help? When can you admit you don’t know or understand something? If the answer to these questions is, ‘you don’t know’, you are missing out. Without these things we miss out on the healing that comes with our confessions. When you are left to think you are screwed up, a failure, and alone in your battles, you are sentenced to spiritual misery.
You need opportunities to be real with others. To admit it when you make mistakes. Incredible things happen spiritually, emotionally, and physically when repentance and forgiveness happen. In this place we give an opportunity to let God minister to the real issues we are facing and let the healing begin.
The fact that we have questions and need a place to ask them seems obvious. However, one the main toxins that repels this generation from the Church is that they feel the Church can’t handle their failures and doubts. This is a problem for two reasons. Most churches really don’t handle failure well. Secondly, people who have doubt and failures don’t always handle it well.
It’s no secret you will mess some things up in life. But what happens when you do? Do you try and make it right? Ask for forgiveness? When you have a doubt or questions about the Bible or your church’s beliefs have you sought out answers? Have you read your Bible? Have you asked people you trust about their beliefs? There is a responsibility on your part to get the answers you need.
As individuals, groups, and churches we need to extend the same grace Jesus did to the young men He was with. This does not mean we tolerate things we shouldn’t. Jesus corrected His own disciples when they needed to be corrected and it was done in love, in grace, and mercy. Even if these haven’t always been extended to you, you need to do the right thing: be like Jesus and extend it to others.
Also, realize that many people don’t know how to handle other’s failure, or those who think different, and have doubts. I wish I could say it would never happen to you but perhaps it already has, or will. This does not mean God has rejected you. Perhaps a person has, but they aren’t Jesus. This is the time to ask God to examine your own heart and attitude. Maybe there is something that needs to change in you, or maybe God can lead you to a place or person to help walk you through your own failures, struggles and doubt. It is important you have a person, a group, or a church that will help you in your journey. I pray, as you should also, that you will find those people or places.