How a loss forced me to seek out answers to my own questions on faith
By Tiffany Huffman
Next week we will celebrate the 4th of July. For my family, this meant the usual watermelon, fireworks, some kind of athletic competition, and also celebrating my dad’s birthday. He is no longer with us, but I carry with me the traditions and memories and I think about him a lot this time of year. My father was strong and steady. I was a curious little girl with a questioning mind and I leaned heavily on his strength and Christian faith.
I would think, “If he believes, it must be true! I can trust this because my dad trusts this.” This faith is my heritage, my culture, my comfort zone. My faith is weaved into my family gatherings, holidays, and traditions. Most of us who have grown up in the Christian faith tradition could repeat the sinner’s prayer, answer theological questions, explain our understanding of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, recite creeds, and explain what it means to be saved by grace through faith, etc. We’ve been taught the beautiful foundations of our faith and the lens through which we see the world from the time we were young. Praise God for this beautiful foundation and the faith of our parents.
But I personally didn’t realize how much I depended on the faith, strength and stability of my father until he passed suddenly and tragically. His death shook my faith to the core. At first I felt strong. I leaned on the faith of my family. When the memorial was over and everyone went home and life got back to normal, my father’s absence really began to be felt. Our family dynamics began to change. My faith questions and even my doubts could no longer be brushed away with a phone call to my father.
My curious mind still wondered about the great questions of life and the meaning of it all. God has clearly stated His love for us through the Word, but I still found myself asking the questions of why? and how? My husband says I get the “thinky thinks.” I go down a rabbit trail of thoughts and curiosity. It has in the past lead me to cynicism and unbelief. Some within the church might even call my philosophical thoughts and questions dangerous.
My questioning used to go like this: Read something in the Bible or have a thought that doesn’t seem to make sense to me. Talk to my dad or someone I trust. They would then give me a thoughtful answer rooted in their own prayers and faith discoveries and the faith traditions of our church history, and I would move on, doubts and questions answered with their belief. It is different when my questions no longer go to my earthly father but my Heavenly Father. There is more wrestling. There are more rabbit trails. But I have found great joy in realizing that this has strengthened my faith and not left it weakened. My Heavenly Father was teaching me in a new way through His Word and the excitement that comes with the mystery. Our God is a great mystery. I am slowly discovering more about God as I wrestle through the Word and in prayer. I have come to experience great joy in bringing my questionings and wonderings to Him and have found a more intimate relationship with Him.
The faith of our fathers can be a source of great encouragement and strength to us. If you come from a tradition of faith, be thankful. But also, be merciful to the doubters, as stated in Jude 1:22.
Cindy Wang Brandt mentions the doubters in her book, Outside In: 10 Christian Voices that We Can’t Ignore and states, “we don’t need to fear doubt, as if expressing it would prevent people from belief. Most of us have chosen to follow God, or join a community of faith, not because of a lack of doubt, but because we’ve committed in spite of working through doubt. God is big enough to handle our big questions, and God’s love is certainly wide enough to include every person regardless of where they are intellectually in their faith. The church must rigorously welcome doubters into our midst, not just because it’s the loving thing to do, but because they will make us better believers: a community that is honest, open to critique, and always values people over their ideas.”
I am not trying to encourage people to just give up on their faith but to be honest with themselves intellectually and lean on God with their questions, not stray from Him. Many people live in communities where their beliefs are more shaped by fear than faith. Fear leads to cultures where sincere questions are not welcome and you risk losing relationships if you speak up. If you completely disagree with this post, I commend you. I have always had a slight envy for those who stand resolute and unwavering in their belief. I tend to vacillate but I ask God to stay near to me as I draw to near to Him.
Here are some of the things I have learned through my experience with the curious mind.
- Seek Him earnestly. This can be a beautiful exploration of the nature of God and the love of Jesus if our desire is to learn more about Him and understand Him more fully. If your motivation is distrust that quickly leads to cynicism. Believe me, I’ve been there but learning to trust is a beautiful act of faith.
- Stay connected to the community. Whether people have the same temperament and questioning minds or an assured certainty, you can both learn from one another and appreciate one another. Don’t let this drive a wedge between you and a community of believers.
- Still your heart. Those of us with questioning minds are also given the instant gratification of the mass amounts of resources available to us. We are privy to a wealth of information. Podcast addict, anyone? OK, maybe its just me. I’m not saying to stop thinking, I’m saying we can bring health and wellness to ourselves when we learn to slow down our hearts and minds and focus on stillness in the Lord. We live in a consumer driven world with a variety of choices and distractions. Consider the benefit to your mind from taking little breaks from the constant flow of info. Study the practice of fasting and consider applying it to the things currently distracting you.
- Keep looking to the future in faith. When you wrestle with the questions of old you can actually find yourself in a place of new, fresh faith and trust. Many have done this throughout the history of time. This is a completely normal experience. What we do with it is what makes a huge difference in our lives. Do something with your beautiful God discoveries and let your motivation be love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tiffany Huffman has been married for 9 years and has 3 young children. She spent her childhood traveling wherever the Air Force sent her family and feels most at home while exploring new places. She taught second grade before having children and is hoping to get back to that once the timing is right. She loves country music, sweet tea, fish tacos and the ocean.