Questions. Doubts. Fears. These weren’t words that were allowed in my faith vocabulary as a child and teenager. I was taught not to question God or why things happen because everything happens for a reason. I was taught to blindly trust the male leaders in the church, never questioning their interpretations of scripture and God all while sitting quietly underneath their instruction. But I was never taught how to handle the questions I had when I didn’t know why something was happening or when I disagreed with interpretations of scripture (especially about women leadership in the church).
This is why Rachel’s voice mattered and changed the world, at least my world. Rachel Held Evans was an author, blogger, speaker, and a prophet. Rachel was also a wife, mother, and friend to many. She spoke against power, and in an era of blatant hypocrisy, she was alarmingly honest. Rachel’s untimely death at 37 years old has left a void in our world. But her influence and inspiration will not be forgotten.
Rachel Held Evans reminded me that I was allowed to not only have hard questions, but I was allowed to voice those questions. I was allowed to have doubts in the midst of my faith. Indeed, doubt can even save faith.
Too often our society leads us to believe that we are weak if we have questions, especially when it comes to religion and faith. But that couldn’t be further from the truth; that couldn’t be further from The Truth. Rachel said, “sometimes Christians worry that if we don’t provide bullet-point answers to all of life’s questions, people will assume that our faith is unreasonable. In reaction to very loud atheists like Richard Dawkins, we have become a bit too loud ourselves. Faith in Jesus has been recast as a position in a debate, not a way of life.”
We aren’t weak or less than because of our questions, and we don’t have to have answers for everything. We grow stronger when we ask questions. We grow wiser when we listen. Our faith grows and develops into a way of life. We can see how God can hold our questions and our doubts as we believe.
In an excerpt From Rachel’s book, Faith Unraveled, she speaks to what it means to have these doubts and why they matter:
“My friend Adele describes fundamentalism as holding so tightly to your beliefs that your fingernails leave imprints on the palm of your hand.
We would all like to believe that had we lived in the days of the early church or the Protestant Reformation, we would have chosen the side of truth, but in nearly every case, this would have required a deep questioning of the fundamental teachings of the time. It would have required a willingness to change. We must be wary of imitating the Pharisees, who bragged that had they lived during the time of the prophets, they would have protected the innocent (see Matt. 23:30), but who then plotted against Jesus and persecuted his disciples.
Doubt is a difficult animal to master because it requires that we learn the difference between doubting God and doubting what we believe about God. The former has the potential to destroy faith; the latter has the power to enrich and refine it. The former is a vice; the latter a virtue.
Sometimes Christians worry that if we don’t provide bullet-point answers to all of life’s questions, people will assume that our faith is unreasonable. Faith in Jesus has been recast as a position in a debate, not a way of life.”
Yes. The Truth is big enough to handle your questions. Your hard, agonizing, terrifying doubts and what-if’s about God and the Universe and How Things Work.”
So, I hope you are inspired to keep asking questions on this faith journey, and I hope you allow yourself. I hope you know you are safe in a community of faith where you can ask your questions with great vulnerability and grace. I hope you are bold. I hope you claim your space in the world.
Even if you think you know all of the answers. You don’t. I don’t. Nobody does.