Craig Groeschel knows what it’s like to experience real doubt in God, and he’s realized losing faith is not the only option. Here’s an excerpt from Pastor Craig’s book, Hope in the Dark: Believing God Is Good When Life Is Not. Used by permission from Zondervan.
It wasn’t until college, when most people are losing faith, that I truly understood the gospel and what it means to follow Jesus. And for the first time in my life, I started reading the Bible. I was shocked to find that some of the people in the Bible had doubts, just like I did. Thankfully, many of the Bible stories and teachings addressed a bunch of the questions I’d silently wondered about for years. It wasn’t as though suddenly I had found a giant flyswatter I could use to bat them all down. It was more like discovering new paths through a familiar forest. I still saw the trees—all of those bad things in the world—but now I also saw a trail leading to the clearing before me. The trees were still all around me, but they no longer stopped me from moving forward.
Until I ran smack into a giant redwood in seminary.
“Here’s what I think of this book!” exclaimed my New Testament professor as he threw the Bible across the classroom in contempt. “It’s time you learned the truth about the fairy tales you’ve been basing your faith on.”
You may find that hard to believe, but it’s true. While I had some awesome, faith-filled seminary professors, men and women who helped prepare me to be an effective pastor, I had others who were shockingly hostile not only toward all that I’d been raised to believe but even toward God. Just like life itself, my seminary experience was a rollercoaster ride of faith and doubt, despair and hope.
My decision to go there was amazing enough already.
When I felt God calling me into ministry, I was as surprised as anyone. It’s not that I was unwilling; it was simply that as a former wild frat-guy-jock-business-major turned Christian, I didn’t exactly fit the stereotype I had in my head of what a pastor should look like. By the grace of God, my pastor invited me to join the church staff to help reach some of the younger people the church was missing. My newlywed wife, Amy, and I felt overwhelmed with excitement, honored to be serving God full-time in our church.
When it became obvious that a seminary degree would be an important step in my development—and necessary for my future—I enrolled while still working full-time. Even though the thought of all that extra work and studying intimidated me, I was excited at the prospect of strengthening my faith and becoming better equipped to fulfill all that I felt God leading me to do.
So imagine my shock when I discovered a jaded, cynical attitude among some of my professors and some of the other students. The way they talked, only someone naive or uneducated could really believe in and accept the Bible literally as God’s Word.
Watch Pastor Craig talk about finding Hope in the Dark.
Without a doubt, my New Testament professor was the worst offender. He didn’t believe that Jesus had said or done most of what we find recorded in the Gospels. According to this teacher, Paul wrote only a few of the letters that we attribute to him, and John was most likely coming off a bad drug trip when he wrote Revelation.
I was stunned. Devastated. This guy had more degrees than I had tennis trophies. He was brilliant and even revered in certain theological circles. Someone with his credentials had to know what he was talking about, right? Suddenly the questions that I’d thought were dead and gone sprang back to life. Could what he said be true? Was it possible that the Bible wasn’t really the timeless, inspired Word of God? Was God real? Was I losing faith? What if none of it was true? All my previous doubts came flooding back into my mind. As a child, I hadn’t told anyone because I was afraid of what they might think. As an adult—and a pastor—I was paralyzed with fear. No one could know. What would they think? Nothing could be worse than a pastor unsure of his faith.
So I struggled uphill with my doubts for a while, painfully aware of the many tall trees blocking my path. Eventually, though, I mustered the courage to open up to two people: my pastor and another professor. These wise and mature mentors didn’t criticize me or disparage my questions; they gave me permission to wrestle. Then they helped guide me back to truth. What meant the most to me was when they talked openly about their own faith struggles and explained how God had sustained them through their doubts. Their living example taught me that honestly facing my doubts could strengthen my faith and that God would show himself faithful through the process.
My faith may have been on life support, but it didn’t just survive; it grew and strengthened. It was as if God made a path through a forest of doubts.
Do you feel like you’re losing faith? Who can you talk to about it?