2/25/17 Joe about 30
Today I was at a suburban mall, and went out to the commons area where men wait patiently while their wives are shopping, and I reached out to Joe, a young father-to-be who was also waiting patiently for his wife. I asked about his spiritual beliefs, and found out he had abandoned the faith he grew up in upon leaving home. We talked some and he told me he was about to be a father, so I asked how he would answer the questions his child might ask of him one day. “I’m sure you will want to raise your child with moral guidelines, but where do these morals come from if you don’t believe in God? And your child will know if you have doubts yourself. Now is the time to deal with your doubts – not just for your own sake but for the sake of your children someday.”
This was the turning point in the conversation which caught Joe’s interest. He began to ask questions, not trying to disprove Christianity but wanting to learn. Sincere questions, healthy questions. And I was glad I have pursued the answers to these questions myself, not just for my own faith but for the faith of my family and people I love, and for the faith of complete strangers like Joe. As it says in 1 Peter 1, we need to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
But how should we deal with our doubts? On the Sea of Galilee, Peter tried to deal with them himself, looking at the stormy water he was walking on, and he began to sink. He had taken his eyes off of Jesus – never a good idea. But is simply ignoring our doubts a good idea? We might keep our eyes on Jesus, but we are still aware of our doubts, lurking in our peripheral vision. When I was a young Christian in my late teens, I was blessed to have some Christian adults who counseled me that “God isn’t afraid of our questions”. This told me two things – that it is okay to ask sincere questions about our faith if we have them, and that we should take those questions to God. It is possible to deal with our doubts while keeping our eyes on Jesus, because He has all the answers. He wants us to have enough faith to trust Him for the answers, and in the meantime we should pray the same wise prayer of the father who wanted Jesus to heal his son in Mark 9 – “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” We may have doubts but all we need is a mustard seed of faith to go to Jesus with our questions, and he can vanquish those doubts and grow our mustard seed faith into a tree big enough for “birds to perch in its branches” – not just ourselves and our loved ones, but even strangers like Joe whom God puts in our path.