(You can get up to speed by reading yesterday's post if you haven't already. I plan to be as honest as possible in writing this series and I don't intend to gloss over the questions I was struggling with. It is not my intent to cause anyone else to start doubting, but it is my hope and prayer that by the end of this I will have written words that would encourage. If you have ever doubted, you are not alone. Please stick with me through to the end.)
The interactions I had with my atheist friends had planted seeds of doubt. At first I was bothered because I wanted desperately to know how to counter their arguments and attacks on faith. What would get through to them? Then, as I started to research ways to enter into a logical, rational debate, I started to ask questions I had never asked before.
How do we know the Bible is the inspired Word of God & not just a bunch of stories collected from ancient peoples?
How did the writers of the Bible know what to write? How did God communicate His Word to them?
Is the Bible truly inerrant? Or did the writers misinterpret things in their own human-ness?
The seeds were starting to sprout.
Some more of the questions I was asking.....
How do we know the Creation story is accurate as written in the Bible if no people were alive to witness it?
Did Creation occurr in the literal 7 days or was the word 'day' used figuratively in the Bible account?
What about scientific evidence for the theory of evolution? How does a Christian answer that?
I started buying books on Christian apologetics. But it seemed like each question I tried to answer opened the door to half a dozen more questions. And, oftentimes the books I was reading glossed over the answers. They didn't answer them in the depth I was longing for.
Even if I could get past the 'scientific' questions, other questions started bothering me on an even deeper level.
What about the God of the Old Testament? Why does He seem so different from God as we know Him as revealed in Jesus?
Why did God seem to command war, death, and destruction in parts of the Old Testament?
Why did God command that ALL inhabitants of certain pagan cities be destroyed by the Israelites? What about the babies and the children?
This one had me stuck for a LONG time. As much as it still disturbed me, I could kind of grasp destroying those old enough to choose their sinful lifestyle. But, the children! That didn't coincide with the God I knew, the God I worship. My mother's heart cried out in protest.
And, what about grace? What about the grace that I knew? My 20's were a dark time...one in which I made choices that would have condemned me if I had lived in the age of the Old Testament. I would have died along with the other sinners. Does God love us more now, have more capacity for mercy than He did then? If He couldn't or wouldn't extend grace to them, then maybe He hadn't really extended it to me. Maybe I wasn't understanding grace at all.
What about those who have never even heard of God? Are they condemned?
What about those who grew up in a culture where they were taught to believe in another religion (just as I was taught about Jesus) and it's all they've ever known? Are they condemned?
What about those whose hearts are good and who long to do good but they just missed the mark when it came to Jesus? Are they condemned?
These questions plagued me. I couldn't let go of them. I wanted answers. I needed answers.
I began searching online for answers to these questions. Surely I wasn't the only one who was asking them. Surely after thousands of years of theological discussion and searching, somewhere there had to be an answer that made sense to me.
And, while I did come across some good discussions and found some food for thought, the matters still weren't settled in my heart 100%.
This doubt was affecting my everyday life. I was distracted, irritable. My mind was constantly mulling over all the questions, all the many ways people had tried to answer them. When I read stories from the Bible to my children, or tried answering questions they had about God I'd find myself wondering if it was really all made up. After all, some of those Bible stories really do sound far fetched.
I began trying to spend more time in the Word. I was praying. I was seeking. And, far too often I felt emptiness and silence. I wanted God to speak to me . I wanted revelation.
I tried talking with my husband. "Haven't you ever wondered if it's all real? If God really exists?" I'd ask him.
"No. I've never questioned it. I've never doubted it."
"Really?" I would ask desperately. "Haven't you ever asked any of these questions?"
"All Creation itself is evidence of God. I believe His Word. That's enough for me."
And, it's true. My husband is the sort that once he believes something to be true, there is nothing that will sway him or make him change his mind. He remains steadfast.
And I envied that about him.
God, why do you hide yourself from us?
If Your love, your Plan of salvation is supposed to be easy enough for a child to understand and believe, why am I struggling so much with so many questions?
Around this time, I came across some verses that started speaking some spiritual healing into my heart.
"I am the Lord and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret from somewhere in a land of darkness.
I have not said to Jacob's descendants, 'Seek me in vain.'
I the Lord speak the truth."
"Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart you rebels.
Remember the former things, those of long ago,
I am God and there is no other.
I am God and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times what is still to come.
I say 'My purpose will stand and I will do all that I please.'
What I began to take from these verses is that God wanted to be found. My seeking, my questioning was not fruitless. It did not have to lead to darkness. Instead, if I held on to my faith, my seeking could lead to revelation.
(More to come about that path to revelation in my next post....)