In 1981, Stuart McAllister was part of a mission team whose primary task was to help the church in Eastern Europe transport Bibles, hymn books and Christian literature to believers behind the Iron Curtain.
On one occasion, while attempting to cross the border from Austria into what was then Communist-ruled Czechoslovakia, Stuart and his colleague were arrested and thrown into prison after guards discovered their concealed cargo.
In the recesses of his mind without any idea of when or if he might be released—in what would be a two-week confinement—questions and doubts began to surface in Stuart’s mind.
“In such circumstances,” Stuart writes [in retrospect], “we are forced to face what we mean when we speak of faith. Do we believe, in spite of evidence to the contrary? Do we believe no matter what?
How do we handle the deep and pressing questions our own minds bring when our expectations and reality do not match?
“During my time in prison, I expected God to do certain things, and to do them in a sensible way and time. I expected God to act quickly, and that I would sense his intervention.
My reading of Scripture, my grasp of God’s promises, my trust in the reliability of God’s Word, the teaching I had received, and the message I had embraced, led me to expect certain things. When this did not occur in the way I expected, or in the timing that I thought, I was both confused and angry.”
“Since I had never given any conscious thought to worldviews in general, or mine in particular, I was unaware how many unexamined assumptions I was living by. I did not realise how little change had penetrated my heart, and under pressure the gaps were painfully revealed and felt.
From the perspective of time, I can now answer these questions meaningfully, but I needed the experience of doubt and hardship to show me how much I did not know or was not rooted in the biblical answers to these core questions. A worldview that merely answers questions intellectually is insufficient; it must also meet us existentially where we have to live.” (Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend, Thomas Nelson, 2007)
McAllister’s encounter with doubt is not unique. When faced with life- threatening situations like McAllister, everyone is forced to re-evaluate their world view. This is one of life’s most difficult struggles—what do we do when our beliefs system seems to fail us? How do you move forward?
If this describes you, be assured you are not alone in this struggle. The experience, however, raises key questions of what to do with doubt when it arises?
We need to realise that there are many things that cannot be explained. Should we be surprised to find that some things in the spiritual world are difficult to explain or understand. While our minds might be too narrow to reach these higher thoughts, God invites us to draw near to Him and reason with Him (see Isaiah 1:18). This act provides a framework that will help us deal with fears and doubt.