When I was deep in the Evangelical fold, doubt was sometimes discussed as a temporary and seasonal necessity. Doubt was talked about as a period of testing, in which we just had to lean in to prayer and trust, even in the face of an insurmountable void of evidence. Inevitably, they said, this season would come to an end, the winter would turn to spring, and you would know without a doubt that God is real. In other words, doubt was understood as a sort of spiritual flu — a seasonal disruption that builds our immune systems.
Now that I’ve undergone my own painful deconstruction of faith, I can’t help but feel that the doubt I experienced was very different from the sort my Christian community spoke about. My doubt was terminal. My doubt was cancer — eating away the life of my faith over many years. I think I always knew it would kill my faith in the end, but I put my head down and tried not to think about it. I could learn to cope with it, to ignore it, to medicate it, but I could never get rid of it.
I tried everything: every apologetic, every immersive form of prayer, and leaning into Christian community, but my doubt simply lived on. I wanted desperately to believe that it was a season, like my friends and mentors said — a time of testing. But no matter how much I wanted it to live on, I couldn’t keep it alive. It finally died in 2017, and by that point I was so exhausted from the fight that I simply let it die.
I now understand that the evangelical world had no remedy for my terminal doubt. They spoke of doubt as a season because that was the only sort of challenge they could handle. They had no way to treat my dying faith, and they had no way to talk about it or contextualize it.
Now, I’m on the outside. I’m still figuring out life out here, and it’s hard. Yes, it’s lonely, and yes, I’m presented with existential questions which previously didn’t trouble me. I’m uncertain of my place, now, as someone who used to communicate the life of faith to thousands of people a week at the height of my blogging days. I’m having to rebuild a lot, but I can only say this: the relief of not having to carry the dying body of my faith is worth it.
What is your experience with doubt? Is your doubt terminal? If you are still a believer, how would you respond to terminal doubt? Let me know in the comments below.
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