Henry arrived early for his next session with Pastor Jenkins. “Come on in, Henry. I had a cancellation, so we can get started now.”

Henry found the familiar overstuffed chair, which had become a comforting presence in itself.

“I can’t believe that I really told you that I doubted God’s existence last week. I was afraid that you would think that I was a spiritual failure … that you would think badly of me. Then I was really surprised when you asked me what kind of God I didn’t believe in. It seems like every week when I come in to tell you about my doubts I expect that you will blame me for not being strong in my faith, but you just listen and help me think more about my spiritual life, or lack of it.”

“I am glad that you understand that I am not here to judge you, that I want to understand what you are struggling with and that I want to be helpful.”

“But why haven’t you said I was wrong for doubting myself, for doubting others, and even doubting the existence of God? I feel guilty and ashamed of having these thoughts, so why don’t you blame me?”

“I think I understand doubts differently than you do. I don’t think that having doubts means that you or I lack faith; I think that doubts are a doorway through which our faith can grow. If we didn’t doubt then we wouldn’t explore what seems unreasonable or what doesn’t make sense to us. I believe our faith needs to be examined, explored and embraced through our doubts.”

“I never thought about it that way … and as long as we are talking about faith, that is another thing I have doubted. I am not sure that I have faith in God.”

“Hmm, well I wonder…”

“Are you going to say you wonder what kind of faith I might not have in God, just like you asked me what kind of God I didn’t believe in? I did think about the God question and I did study the Scriptures and I did pray.”

“Did you find any answers for yourself?”

“Yes, some. I think I understand that you didn’t tell me who God is because I have to find out for myself – so many people in the Bible have different understandings, so I have to develop my own understanding. I don’t like that, I would rather that somebody just tell me what’s right to believe, someone with more spiritual insight.”

“Yes, it is tempting to ask someone else to do our spiritual work, then we wouldn’t have to be responsible. You can find spiritual leaders who are willing to tell you what you should believe and what you shouldn’t. But tell me, did you begin to find a God you could believe in as you did your study this week?”

“Kind of. I mean I saw that most of the writers of Scripture see God as loving and many of them think that God would like us to help other people.”

“Is that a God that you could believe exists?”


“Well, you said earlier that you were not sure that you had faith in God. Could you have faith in a God who loves us and asks you to help other people?”

“I think so, but that leaves so many unanswered questions. Like how can I have faith in a God who loves us and wants us to help others, but still lets people suffer, especially children?”

“I suppose that depends on what kind of faith you are talking about.”

“See, I knew you were going to raise that question!”

“It is an important question. I think you are saying you don’t have faith in a God who is going to protect innocent people from harm. And I think you are implying that God should be doing that. Perhaps you are feeling a bit like Job, whose children died, whose property and livestock were destroyed, who was afflicted with loathsome sores. He certainly felt what was happening to him was unjust, that he didn’t deserve it, that God should step in and do something about it.”

“You bet. There is so much injustice in the world, wars, people taking advantage of each other, crime.”

“I have just one question: who is causing all that?”

“Well, I suppose people are causing all of that.”

“Then why are you blaming God for not stopping it. Stopping it sounds like it is up to us.”

“You know, I am beginning to hear a theme from you, Pastor.”

“What’s that?”

“That we are responsible for what we believe and for each other.”

“Yes, I believe that.”

“Then if faith isn’t that God is going to put an end to our doing harm to each other, what is it?”

“I believe you have said that faith for you is believing that God loves you and that God wants you to help others.”

“But I thought there was so much more to God, so much more to have faith in.”

“I am not saying there isn’t a lot more, and I think you will discover more in the Scripture readings for this week. What I am saying is that you seem to have found out for yourself that your faith can begin by trusting that God loves you and that God wants you to help others.”

“So you are saying faith is not just believing, but also trusting?”

“Anyone can choose to believe that God exists, just like anyone can believe that the chair you are sitting in exists. You can look at the chair, you can describe its shape, you can speak of its fabric and the year in which it was made. In all these ways you can state your belief in the chair’s existence and in its characteristics. But it’s not until you have sat in that chair that you have trusted it.”

“So I can believe in the existence of God as I understand him, but it’s not until I put my life in his hands that I trust him, that I have faith in him?”

“Well said. It’s the difference between believing that the ocean is water miles deep that will let you float and daring to put yourself in the middle of that ocean and actually floating, the difference between belief and trust is life changing.”

“But what would it mean for me to trust God, to have faith in God, in the God who loves and the God who wants us to help others?”

“I’ll invite you to answer that question.”

“O.K. I know I am responsible for my own spiritual growth, I’m getting that. So if God is the one who loves me and wants me to have faith, despite all that I have seen, I suppose it would mean for me to let myself be loved by God. And if God wants us to help others, I suppose my having faith would mean for me to stop isolating myself and find a way to help others.”

“That sounds like two very concrete ways of defining what having faith would mean for you.”

“O.K., but is that right?”

“Would you be willing to explore more Scripture, address a few more questions, and stay in prayer daily as a way to explore your question?

“Yeah, yeah, I guess.”

“Good. I am also going to suggest that you think about coming to worship and visiting one of our adult Sunday School classes. I think you will find other people who are seriously addressing their spiritual growth just like you are. In worship, I think you may also find God’s Spirit very much at work to address the very important questions you are raising.”

“I don’t know if I am ready for either one of those yet.”

“Maybe, maybe not. I am just suggesting that you consider these options prayerfully, as opportunities for your spiritual growth. Would you be willing to consider doing that?”


“Good. And I will plan to see you next week at the same time.”

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