A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog had this headliner quote – “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt.” (Rene Descartes)
It is almost a rite of passage that the young doubt almost everything as they mature. For many this occurs while they are in High School or maybe in College. They doubt or question everything that they were told by their parents as children. A major catalyst that kicks of this period of soul searching is the independence that most children become aware of as they hit their teenage years. As they are trusted by themselves more and maybe become more independent for things like transportation and money they also recognize that they no longer seek the opinion and approval of their parents for every decision that they face. That independence includes making decision about what is right and wrong in day-to-day life. That quickly escalates into doubting, or at least calling into question, decisions that have been made for them by their parents.
Often that period of doubting includes questioning their religious beliefs. Some are able to separate the religion part from the faith part of their beliefs, but many are confused by the interplay of the two. In that period of rebellion against prior parental decisions, regular attendance at church often goes by the wayside. Sometimes the faith of the young adult becomes muddled in the doubts about the practice of religion. The rush to feel free of the requirements of particular religious practices or dogma can leave the questioning young mind adrift, with nothing to anchor their faith and no way to put it into practice. Fortunately, most have second thoughts about completely abandoning their faith along with the practices of their specific religion. Sometimes that leads to experimenting with various alternative religious practices. Some seek an alternative in Buddhism or other non-Christian religions, but most eventually find a way to rationalize the practices of some practicing religious group with their faith.
Young children tend to accept without questioning what their parents tell them. For a while, both Santa and God are real to them. The belief in Santa may be the first childhood beliefs to be discarded, along with fairies, goblins, ghosts and witches. Eventually the religious beliefs that were given to us by our parents are also discarded. At that point, either we develop our own, new beliefs, based upon our faith; or, we continue searching for meaning in life. How many times have you heard a younger person say that they are still trying to “find myself”? What they are searching for is something to have faith in; something to replace that childhood faith that they discarded. The good news is that most are found again by the Good Shepard and their faith is restored. One side benefit of having those doubts or second thoughts about your faith as an adult is that the conviction of your beliefs becomes much stronger when made as an adult.
Maybe you went through that process of questioning your faith as a youth, or maybe some traumatic event later in life caused you to have doubts about God and your faith in Him. Maybe you asked the question, “How could a loving God let this happen to me?” Instead, you should be thanking that loving God for helping you get through that event. Whether you realized it at the time or not, you turned to Him in that troubled time; because, in the back of your mind, you realized that He was the only one there with you and the only one who could help you.
Friedrich Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”
I believe that the same can be said about our faith. Doubting or questioning your religious practices doesn’t necessarily call your faith into question, but does usually cause you to examine it Examining your faith does not kill it and can make it stronger by stripping away the man-made parts of religion that may be troubling you. In the final analysis, your faith starts with the relationship that you have with God. What trappings of religion you want to embrace from that base is up to you. As long as that remains the foundation of your beliefs, you have nothing to doubt.
Have a great Christmas by putting the Christ part first. No doubt.