This is Ali’s story, a friend and recent graduate of Texas A&M- It has been such a joy getting to know Ali over the last several years. I appreciate her depth, and her courage to ask the hard questions.
I was sitting at home by myself several months ago, wrestling with God, talking to Him out loud as I often do. I’d like to say that I was whispering to Jesus how much I love him or singing praises at the top of my lungs. But that would be a downright – although awfully righteous sounding – lie.
Wrestling really is the best way to describe what was actually going on between God and me in that moment. I was messy, confused, emotional, and desperate. Once again, that “big bad wolf of doubt” had crept into my heart and mind and was both preying on my weakness as well as wearing down my strength. I was left asking God those scary, off-limits, dark questions that I didn’t feel like I was supposed to ask. YES THOSE.
- “Do You even exist?”
- “Are You really there?”
- “How do I explain You?”
- “How can I reconcile things I read or study with what the Bible says?”
- “What even IS faith? Why is it so hard for me? Will I ever have more of it?”
- “Can I really be a Christian and can You really love me if I struggle with these kinds of questions?”
I know right? Heavy stuff. Let’s just say I wasn’t putting forth my best “Reading my Bible at the coffee shop, been on 20 mission trips, keep calm and trust God” Christian face that day. And honestly I’m glad I wasn’t. As if it would have fooled God anyway…
So before I tell you just how this wrestling match of doubt ended, let me back up a little bit.
As you may well know, doubt doesn’t usually ring the doorbell with flowers in hand asking politely to come inside. It sneaks in through the window like the bad news teenage boyfriend who is oh so mysterious and intriguing, but only wants something for himself. This wasn’t my first encounter with him; I had faced this bad boy before.
Although I had not felt it much before, I felt the weight of intellectual doubt periodically once I was in college. As an anthropology major with an analytical mind, I immediately faced things and people that challenged what I believed. I never really admitted to those around me that I asked the kinds of questions mentioned above, but they definitely crossed my mind. Even when I wasn’t struggling with believing that God existed or the Bible was true, I often questioned if God would really care about me, hear me, answer me, or show up for me.
I have a friend named Reagan who is one of the most faithful people I know. Faith is her strongest spiritual gift by a long shot. She is absolutely beyond the shadow of a doubt convinced that God is with her and that He can do ANYTHING. When she says she’ll pray for you, she means it. And not just that, she believes God will answer. And He will answer in big, mighty, supernatural, nothing-is-impossible-with-God sort of ways. When we would meet at Spoons for frozen yogurt, I would always tell her that I wanted what she had. That I wish I could have faith like she did, but I just didn’t know how. That in fact, I wasn’t even sure what faith really was. Over and over she would graciously but truthfully tell me that I couldn’t just have more on my own, but I needed to ask God to give me faith. My response? “I know you’re right, but it still feels unattainable for me. It’s a little hard to believe that God will give you faith when you struggle with belief and faith. Plus I feel like a terrible person for having trouble with these things when it seems to come so easily to you and everyone else.”
But I prayed for it anyway. I asked God to show me what faith is and to give me more of it. Mostly because conjuring it up out of my own laughable efforts was getting me, well…nowhere. Even when I didn’t really think He would answer that prayer, I prayed it. That, plus continually reading God’s Word and surrounding myself with Christian community allowed me to escape college still clutching onto and even having grown in my relationship with Jesus. But the journey wasn’t over.
Fast forward to the night I was being honest with God about my doubts. As each question was thought and then spoken, some words came from my mouth that I will never forget. I slowly and desperately declared to the Lord, “God, this is hard for me. I don’t have all the answers, but You know what? I’m going to choose to trust and believe You anyway.”
Like a ton of bricks.
As quickly as those words reached my very own ears, it hit me. Or rather God whispered it to me with His characteristic strength and gentleness. “Ali, that’s faith. That is exactly what it means and exactly what I want from you.” It’s choosing to believe and trust and follow even when it’s hard, it doesn’t make sense, or I just plain don’t feel like it.
It may sound dramatic, but I can honestly say that having this realization has changed my life. One of the most incredible things that God has taught me through it is that He is not scared of my doubts. When we seek truth, we will ultimately and unfailingly arrive at Jesus Christ. God is always waiting right there to fill in my doubts, which makes the hard questions much less terrifying. I don’t have to leave my intelligence at the door to believe in the God of the Bible. There is also nothing shameful about grappling with doubt from time to time.
When I admit that I’m not believing or trusting the Lord, I allow both the Father and others around me to encourage me and remind me of truth.
Faith is not easy. We have to fight for it, choose it, and ask God for it. And He’ll give it to us, because He is the most faithful of all.
The following verses have been helpful for me:
“And have mercy on those who doubt” – Jude 1:22
“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” – Mark 9:24
“…that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:5
“…for we walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7
This week I got my first glimpse of the season of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. Let me just tell you that there aren’t many things in life that make my heart overflow with joy quite like some warm sunshine and those breathtaking Texas wildflowers that blanket the sides of the highway with their vivid hues. As I drove past a patch yesterday morning, it struck me what a beautiful picture they are of faith. There is no way for me to know for certain if they’ll show up come springtime or not. All I know is that they have been faithful every year before. But I have faith that these flowers I love so much will bloom.
And bloom they do.
My name is Ali Ebner. I am a follow of Jesus, I’m married to a tall bearded man named Graham, and I’m a Cru intern here at Texas A&M. This is my first year as an intern and then Graham and I plan to go on STINT to East Asia next year. Some of my favorite things in the world include, but are not limited to: coffee (if you want to meet for coffee the answer is always yes), cooking, motorcycles, my dog, witty humor, and deep conversation.