Mitchell is a young worker from Brisbane. During the week he works as a Mechanical Engineer in consulting, but his main passion is sharing the good news of Jesus with people. At work Mitchell finds he constantly has to remind himself that he’s at work to actually do his job, not just to build relationships. Charlotte is from Perth and loves Taylor Swift and greyhounds. She’s part of the City Bible Forum team and is also completing her Bachelor of Theology and Ministry. In all her busyness, Charlotte is always looking for opportunities to connect with people. Both Mitchell and Charlotte share with us some of their reflections and insights from Headstart’s Raw topic of Spiritual Doubt.
For the final night of Headstart's Term 4 theme of RAW: UNMUTE – Cutting through the stigma, we opened up the discussion on spiritual doubt. Weng, a young worker in Sydney, and Annie, an apprentice with the City Bible Forum Team in Brisbane, shared their personal experiences in dealing with spiritual doubt. This in turn prompted many of us to be RAW and open up about some of the questions and experiences we’ve had and still may have.
Doubt is not a sign of weakness, but is a totally normal, expected part of the Christian life.
Mitchell: I haven’t been able to attend much of Headstart this year, but wow it was encouraging being able to listen in on the journeys of doubt from fellow Christian brothers and sisters. I’m glad that I came.
“You can be a Christian, but you can’t be a mature Christian if you have spiritual doubt”
“You’ll lead others astray; spiritual doubt can be contagious”
“We feel like we always need to be knowledgeable and in control”
“Fear of what others might think of you especially if you’re in a leadership role”
“You don’t know where to start with the mess”
“You’ve been going to church for so long and then you start to feel doubts and it feels too late to share”
At the start of the night we discussed what challenges we faced when talking about spiritual doubts and the stigma around it.
Mitchell: On a personal level, spiritual doubt is something that I’ve wrestled with this year around Covid-19, which has been particularly challenging with the restrictions around meeting with people. And at the same time, I’ve been trying to share Jesus with my colleagues, listening to the barriers they have to Jesus. I used to think ‘how could I possibly share Jesus with someone when I have all these questions myself?’.
So how do you cut through the stigma?
Headstart on Monday night was a great reminder of the importance of being honest with our doubts, and how the Christian life is one that is never meant to be run alone. We all need people to walk with us, to listen non-judgementally, and to share in the normal ups and downs of following Jesus.
I was reminded that having doubts is so common and is a very normal part of the Christian life. In fact, there are so many great stories in the Bible of people who wrestled with doubt (Moses, David, Habakkuk, Peter, Thomas…), and not once does God push them away or condemn them for having questions, but time and time again He walks with them and reminds them of the promises He has made to them.
Weng shared that he had previously been under the assumption that doubt was inherently bad, that nothing good could come from them and that Christians shouldn’t have them. However, by recognising that these were unhelpful assumptions and calling them out, he was able to cut through the stigma and work through the doubts.
Mark also helpfully highlighted that there is a difference between the one whose doubt leads to unbelief, the one looking for a way out of the relationship and the one whose doubt leads to a stronger faith, the one looking to deepen their relationship with God.
How do you deal well with doubts?
Annie and Weng shared some helpful insights on approaching and dealing with doubts better.
1. Meet up with older Christian brothers and sisters to look at God’s word together. We can praise God that he doesn’t leave us alone in the Christian life. He gives us His word and He gives us each other. Annie shared how in her life she is so thankful for faithful older Christian women who came alongside her and pointed her to Christ through God’s word.
2. Keep going to church and watch others in their spiritual journeys
3. Don’t give doubt power by sitting in your room alone, but find a way to talk about your doubts. There’s a war in your brain where there’s a cognitive dissonance between thoughts and reality, and that’s what doubt takes advantage of. We need others to be with us to restore reality.
4. God can still use imperfect me, so don’t stop serving God and His people. The Psalmist didn’t stop writing because they had doubt, but they expressed them within community and came out stronger. Annie shared how coming alongside a friend who was experiencing doubt was an opportunity of growth for both of them.
How can I support those struggling?
Be patient. Give them time to work through challenges at their own pace.
Listen non-judgementally and meet them where they’re at.
Be real with them - don’t pretend to have all the answers.
Encourage them to look to Jesus - who He is, what He has done. Hebrews is great for this, warning us not to be complacent, especially during hardships, but also showing us the great promises we have in Jesus.
Grace Huang wrapped up the night by sharing a Bible reflection from 1 John 4:7-12 and 5:13. This passage reminds us that part of being a Christian is about relationship; relationship with the creator and Father. Relationships aren’t static so doubt is natural. We have permission to doubt, doubts and questions keep the relationship alive.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. – 1 John 4:10-11