4 Ways to Deal With Doubts As You Grow Your Faith
Today I want to write about a topic that's hit close to home for me. I am so grateful for Aubry of Hello Maypole for collaborating with me to create a beautiful print to go with today's message for you to download for free after the post! I’m sure it comes as no surprise to any of you when I say that our societal beliefs and norms are being turned on their heads, and values that were once commonplace are now questioned, criticized and mocked. This pressure has caused some to doubt and lose faith, including some close to me. It’s made me think long and hard about what, and how, I know. When the world confronts us with new ideas about morality, the family, and God, how can we be sure that what we believe is true and will lead to our happiness? Perhaps more importantly, how can we hold on to the truth we have been given, while finding answers to the questions we aren't yet sure about?
In my life there is one sure way of recognizing truth that has brought me peace in the unknown, and answers in time. It is probably best explained by the analogy the scriptures use—by planting the seed.
Often the scriptures liken truth and faith to a seed. To know whether a seed is good we must plant it, nurture it, and then exercise patience as we wait to see if it will grow. This process is often called testing or questioning, or as the scriptures put it, “experimenting upon the word” or “exercising faith”. To know we must do. As the Savior said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).
In my life the surest way to recognize truth is by nurturing the seed, and then seeing the fruits of the seeds that are planted. I have gone through this process often, in the beginning awkwardly and hesitantly, and now boldly and expectantly. I remember one of the first times I did this experiment, I must have been around 12 or 13, and I wanted to know for myself whether God was real and if He cared about me. I prayed about it and asked the question, planting the seed in my heart. I discussed it in church, I talked to my parents about it, and then, I waited...for a while not feeling anything. I don’t remember how much time passed between my asking and my answer, but it came. I was singing with a group of girls in my church in front of a large congregation. The song was about God’s love and our leaders had translated parts of the song into different languages to represent God’s love for His children all over the world. As we sang the words something warm burned in my heart and tears came to my eyes, and I felt for the first time that God knew me and loved me. I knew.
From that time until now I have tried this experiment again and again, paying attention when the same burning feeling in my heart from years ago returns. Though I’m still far from an expert, I've found a few things that have been helpful in the process that I thought I would share here.
Don’t focus on your doubts. There is a fine line between experimenting upon the word and doubting. Experimenting on the word requires planting a seed and nurturing it, and having hope and faith and patience even when you don’t see the flowers. Doubting on the other hand is pulling up the flowers to check on the roots. As Elisabeth Elliot said, “Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.” Pulling up the flowers because you don’t think they’re growing will surely lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy! Dieter F. Uchdorf said, "First doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." (See his full talk talk here.)
Have integrity about what you do know and what you don’t. In stating that we shouldn't focus on our doubts, this is different than saying we shouldn't take an honest inventory of the things that we know and feel, and the things about which we still aren't sure. Again from Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding." Being honest with where we are in our faith can motivate us to ask the right questions which lead to our spiritual growth. It is like the man who came to the Savior asking for Him to heal his son. He came forward first with his belief, “Lord I believe” and then candidly said, “help thou my unbelief.” He held to the faith he had, and then admitted where he still lacked, and the Savior healed his son because of the faith he had.
Trust in the answers that have already come. When society presents us with new theories and doctrines, measure them against the answers you have already received. If the new knowledge would cause you to chop down your redwood to plant weeds, you may want to think twice! “Cast not away therefore thy confidence” in the answers that God has already been so good to give you, and view the new information through their lens.
Trust God when He says that some seeds aren't worth planting. God has already given us some answers to things that would be too painful and detrimental for us to experiment with. There is safety in the commandments, and though we are free to experiment on them, hopefully our faith can grow to the point where we don’t need to. He’s told us that stealing, committing adultery, pornography, lying, cheating, not keeping the Sabbath day holy, as well as other commandments are things we don’t need to experiment on. Commandments are seeds we can trust every time, and breaking them will only sow disappointment and heartache!
No matter where we are in our faith, whether we are planting our first seeds of faith or deepening our roots, whether we are a tiny sapling or a great oak, each of us must continue to nurture our faith by seeking answers in faith.
This is what we hope The Small Seed is all about.