I once heard that understanding God is like understanding the human hand that drops food flakes into your fishbowl.

Swimming happily in its tank, the fish knows nothing of human things. It knows nothing of finances and bills, putting fish food on a grocery list, or carefully removing the fish from its water to scrub the slime from the pebbles. The fish can’t wrap its fishy head around tall, lithe human beings, walking on solid ground with two legs and breathing air.

I’ve used this analogy to try and explain God to my son. Curious and intelligent, he asks the tough questions I asked my parents at his age.

How does God just exist?

How does He know everything?

Why are we here?

Questions and Doubt

Do questions equal doubt?

As a young Adventist living in a rural Southeast Missouri community, dating a non-Adventist was a reality throughout my adolescence and adulthood. This reality resulted in many heated discussions about beliefs and truth.

When these boys took me out and rode home from the movies or a restaurant, the discussion would turn to religious beliefs.

The questions were not always offensive or disrespectful, but I always took them that way.

This is not an isolated occurrence, and many cultures have etiquette that excludes topics of politics and religion from polite conversation.

Mark Twain famously said, “I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics, a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.”

Why are we so quick to avoid discussing something interwoven into our being, like our beliefs? And why, in other cultures, is it purposely left out of conversations and even illegal in many cases to discuss religious and spiritual beliefs?

If You Have Faith Questions:

  1. Find a Safe Space for Dialogue: Seek out open-minded and empathetic individuals or communities that foster an environment for dialogue, whether online forums, book clubs, or faith-based discussion groups. Highlight that it’s essential to respect the beliefs of others, just as they should respect yours.
  2. Keep it Respectful: Approach delicate conversations about faith with respect. Communicate your curiosity respectfully; explaining your questions stem from seeking to understand rather than challenging or dismissing the beliefs of others. Ask questions respectfully and always start with common ground.
  3. Research for Yourself: Take the initiative to explore different belief systems, theological perspectives, and scholarly opinions. You can do this by reading religious texts, academic books, and articles and watching lectures or documentaries. A personal quest for knowledge can help answer your questions while developing a more profound understanding of your faith or other belief systems.
  4. Cultivate Tolerance and Understanding: Tolerance is paramount in a culture where questioning may not be widespread. By learning about and understanding various faiths and beliefs, you can foster a culture of acceptance, promoting open conversation about faith and spirituality.
  5. Balance Tradition and Personal Belief: Respecting and appreciating tradition is essential, but developing a personal understanding of faith is also crucial. This may involve adapting or interpreting teachings to align with our values and experiences and understanding that this process can occur without diminishing the legitimacy or sanctity of their faith.

A Prayer for the Curious and Doubt-filled

Father in Heaven,

We turn to You today, acknowledging our journey in the search for understanding, meaning, and purpose. In the presence of uncertainties, questions, and doubts about our faith, we humbly seek Your guidance and illumination.

Help us navigate the sea of beliefs and teachings with an open mind, willing to question, explore, and learn. Grant us the strength to face the discomfort of our doubts, endure the unease of not knowing, and embrace the beauty of our unique journey, not comparing it with the journeys of others.

Bless us with patience and resilience as we embark on this journey of discovery–discovering You more deeply. Remind us that our questioning does not signify a lack of faith but a longing to deepen our relationship with You and the mysteries of Your holiness.

Open our hearts to empathy, respect, and understanding as we encounter others on their faith journey, knowing that each path is as unique as the soul that treads it. Allow us to create safe spaces for dialogue, fostering an environment of acceptance and mutual growth.

Inspire us to balance our traditions with our personal beliefs, knowing that our faith is a living, evolving relationship with You. Guide us to find a harmonious blend of acceptance and adaptation, cherishing our past while embracing the future.

In moments of solitude, bless us with the peace of Your presence. In times of community, unite us in love and shared human experience. Help us to feel Your guiding hand through every question, curiosity, and step of the way.

Help us to find not just answers but wisdom, not just facts but understanding, not just beliefs but a genuine connection with You and with one another. We ask these things because we believe in Your promises, and we believe in Your faithfulness.

In Jesus’ Name, we pray and believe, Amen.