“I haven’t really been close to God lately,” she said. “And I don’t want to be.”
Her confession sent me back twelve years. Back to the day I lost my first loved one and started questioning everything I had ever believed to be true. Back to the time when the same words would have sounded perfectly natural coming from my own mouth.
I haven’t really been close to God lately.
And I don’t want to be.
Is it bad that I told her that was okay? That her doubts are perfectly natural and she’s allowed to question the existence, the goodness, the faithfulness of God?
And I call myself a youth leader.
What should I have done instead? I could have offered her a dozen platitudes:
“There’s a reason for this tragedy.”
“God brings forth beauty from ashes.”
“The Lord makes all things work together for our good.”
My ten-year-old self would assure you that those are not the words a girl needs to hear when she stands in the midst of tragedy. When everything hurts. When she hasn’t been close to God and she doesn’t want to be.
I didn’t need to tell her those foundational truths of Christianity because she already knows them. She’s spent her whole life hearing them, but this is the moment when she decides for herself whether or not they are true.
So I told her what I would have liked to hear myself when the doubts came rushing in. That what she’s feeling is all right. That the questions are good. The questions will cement her faith and make her stronger in the end.
We demand perfection of ourselves—of our faith; but God never does.
Jesus didn’t scoff at Nicodemus’ many questions or ridicule Thomas’ need to see the resurrected Messiah with his own eyes. And when a faithless Peter sank beneath the waves, I don’t think the words, “O ye of little faith” were a reprimand, but an invitation to reclaim the belief he had fumbled.
It’s okay to fumble your faith every once in awhile.
It’s okay to question and doubt the things you once believed.
It’s okay to feel a little distant from God at times. (And to not want to be closer.)
It’s okay because God really wants to answer our questions. God really wants us to learn to trust Him more. And God truly is big enough to draw us back into His arms, whether or not we were looking to find our way there.
And I think my young friend is going to turn out just fine, because deep within her hurting heart, she searches for truth. And I believe it’s possible to doubt our way back to God, because I did it myself many years ago.
So let the questions come as they will, and may they always lead you back to the heart of the Father.