In my early twenties, I was walking along in my faith, happily married and employed, filled with hope for the future, and then one day I learned I was pregnant. And then twelve weeks later, I learned I was not. The miscarriage was of a certain type that threatened my well-being. It would require months of follow-up tests to make sure I was well before we could try to get pregnant again.
“Everything happens for a reason!” I said. The reason, I decided, was both punishment for sins I’d committed and to teach me a lesson about loss. This was my first intimate loss, my first real pang of suffering. I wanted something and it had been denied. Now I would learn empathy, I thought. This was a lesson from God and I would learn it, and then I would have many babies.
About nine months after the first miscarriage, I miscarried again. This time it was much earlier, only five weeks along. It was this loss that crippled me. I sobbed. I raged. I threw myself onto the floor. Why?! I cried. People I loved said God is sovereign, God works all things for good, it just wasn’t meant to be. I hated this God who would take away not one but two babies, two promises of hope and a future. Why did God need these “angels in heaven”? What good could come from these losses?
As children and young adults, we inherit certain beliefs from our immediate influences. But what we learn early on, what Paul calls spiritual milk, isn’t always enough to sustain us. When our everyday lives are interrupted by extraordinary events and everything changes, our inherited ideologies are often called into question. Our foundation gets rocked. “Look what just happened!” we shout. “Everything’s broken! What am I supposed to do now?! Where were you?! Why didn’t you save me?”
It’s scary, this sudden doubt about our beliefs. After that second miscarriage, I felt empty and alone. The God I believed in failed me.
We have two choices when faced with what feel like threats to our faith—shut down and cling tight to what we have believed, sipping sweetly on that spiritual milk, or allow doubt its ground. Both scenarios have consequences.
When we shut down against the threats, we miss out on the opportunity to see God conquer those threats.
When we make room for doubt, we allow that perhaps we don’t know everything. Through doubt, God is able to reveal another dimension of himself, one that is more expansive and powerful than we could have ever imagined.
We are not taught this way of thinking in most Christian circles; instead, we are often given scripts to the Roman Road, prayers to pray with sinners, and cherry-picked verses for every topic under the sun in defense of our doctrines. Many of us have been taught that to believe is to be saved from hell; doubt and you’ll be cast into the depths. With these inherited beliefs, is it any wonder we are afraid to doubt?
But if God can create a whole universe with trillions of stars and galaxies and moons, if God can create an entire ecosystem as lush and exotic as Earth, if God can bring together atomic and subatomic particles to work collectively to form a creature capable of thinking, worrying, and wondering (7.3 billion of them alive right now), never mind all those animals with varying degrees of IQs, then I think God can handle our doubts. The message over and over in the Scriptures is, “Do not be afraid: the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go,” even into that gray valley of unknowns.
We have to make room for doubt and allow curiosity to blossom. God gave us this curiosity. It’s through that curiosity that we begin to know him, in all his breadth and depth and mystery. I think God loves when we question him. Who hasn’t experienced the pleasure of a good conversation? Who hasn’t emerged from that conversation with a greater appreciation for that other person, greater insight into their soul, greater empathy for their sufferings?
I wasn’t satisfied with the platitudes delivered to me after those miscarriages. What did I really believe about God? Who was God, really? Did I really believe everything—even these sudden losses—were orchestrated by God? Did God cause bad things to happen so he could bring about good? Where was he in my grief?
For answers, I turned to the One who promises I will find him when I seek with all my heart. I read Scriptures even closer, searching for who he really said he is. I discovered that “everything happens for a reason” isn’t in the Bible but “And we know that in all things God works together for the good of those who love him” is. “Everything happens for a reason” views God as the cause of all things, even death and destruction. “In all things God works together for the good…” positions God as the Great Redeemer who defeats death and destruction, who makes all things new.
I did not know this truth before I suffered this loss. I did not know God as profoundly before I doubted my idea of God.
Graduating from spiritual milk to solid foods requires much of us. It requires humility: we do not know all things about the world, or God. It requires openness to ideas outside of where we’re comfortable. When life delivers hard answers—miscarriage, cancer, suicides, car accidents, war—we have to be willing to ask the hard questions. We have to press beyond the pat answers and ask what those platitudes really mean—do they mean anything? This requires grace and wisdom and patience. This is a lifelong journey, seeking God, after all. It requires other people who are also honestly and humbly seeking after God. We need others to help us ask the hard questions, to encourage, and to counsel.
Finally, we have to be patient with ourselves and merciful with others. Our journeys are slow and fast, horizontal and vertical; the mountain is high and wide, and just when you think you’ve reached the top you see the full range ahead you need to trek yet, and there are people ahead of you and people behind, before you and beyond, people who can use your help and people who can help you in your belief and in your unbelief. Let’s walk in faith and doubt together, following after the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.