Shannon Stewart Testimony: from doubt to faithBy Trillia Newbell | March 3rd, 2012 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Shannon Stewart Testimony: from doubt to faith
By Shannon Stewart
I was blessed to grow up in a Christian family with strong involvement in an evangelical church. As a child, I quickly absorbed not only what I learned in school but also what I learned in church, and as I grew older, I became more and more passionate about spiritual growth. I was a “good kid” who rarely got in trouble, and other church members often complimented me about how “spiritually mature” I was. I still remember my last day in eighth grade Sunday School, when one of the teachers patted me on the shoulder and said, “I know we don’t need to worry about you.”
Despite my knowledge of Scripture and my good behavior—or perhaps in part because of them—I was a very proud and self-righteous teenager. I was confident in my ability to do everything right, from academics to the Christian walk. It was with this ill-placed confidence that I left home and enrolled at a Christian college.
My freshman year had barely begun when it became apparent that my “Christian” college wasn’t a healthy environment for my soul. All freshmen were required to take classes on the Old and New Testament, and the religion professors at the college taught that parts of Scripture were not true. Though many of my friends had no trouble believing the Bible anyway, my mind was filled with doubt. If some parts of Scripture weren’t true, how could I be sure that any of it was true? I had been taught all my life that Scripture was as accurate as any textbook, but my professors suggested that my parents and Sunday School teachers were deceiving me, trying to keep me sheltered from the real truth. In the end, I believed my professors instead of God’s Word.
I began by just questioning certain parts of Scripture, but the doubt quickly spread to other areas, such as whether God was good in a world full of suffering. Eventually, I wasn’t even sure if God existed at all—and if He did exist, I wasn’t sure I liked Him. By the end of my second year in college, the doubt had progressed so far that I refused to read my Bible, and if I prayed, I only did so to challenge God to prove that He was real. I remember feeling superior to my friends who showed simple faith in Scripture and speaking unkindly to my mom when she gently tried to correct me. More than once, I sat on my bed with my arms crossed and glared at my Bible with hatred.
Though I didn’t believe in the Bible, I also realized that if the Bible wasn’t true, then life was meaningless. This realization made me angry, cynical, and depressed. Still, I demanded answers to my questions—and I had many questions—before I would accept God as Lord of my life again.
I was in the worst phase of this hostile doubt when my brother and sister-in-law first visited a new church. They came to my house after church that day to try to convince me to join them there the next week, but I declined. When I had lunch with my brother later that week, he talked about it again. Finally, I agreed to go, knowing that visiting once was the only way he would leave me alone.
The Sunday I first visited, I was not in the mood to participate. I avoided the Greeting Team, and I didn’t raise my hand to identify myself as a first-time guest. But I was struck by a pre-teen boy sitting in front of me who was dancing around and singing passionately during the music. I had never seen any pre-teen boy that excited about praising God before. As I looked around the church during the music, I saw that this boy was no special case: other people exhibited the same delight in worship. Watching them sing, I realized that I was miserable and that these people were joyful—and that I wanted whatever they had. I started to attend to see if I could have it, too.
Going to church helped me desire faith again. The pastors exhibited a firm belief in the truth and the power of Scripture, and instead of being offended, I found the teaching refreshing and challenging—partially because it was so boldly countercultural. I began to grow spiritually again, but I was still often crippled with fears that the Bible was a lie made by men and that I was wasting my time and life by believing what it said. On top of that, my classes at college still bombarded me with falsehoods, making it difficult for me to hold on to my faltering faith.
This pattern continued for about a year, until my church offered a class on the doctrine of Scripture. The homework load they assigned was pretty intense, and by the end of the class, attendance had dwindled. But my mom and I agree that God ordained this specific class, at this specific time, for my good. One day, as one of the instructors were talking through one of the homework readings, I realized that if the Bible was true, then my doubt and accusations against a Holy God, along with the skepticism that had been so encouraged at my college, were wicked atrocities in God’s sight. But if the Bible was true, then that also meant that God, though He had just reason to crush me for despising His Word and Way, had mercifully provided His Son to absorb the full wrath for all the anger and hostility I had shown toward Him. And even as I raged against Him, He had patiently and gently brought me to a church where I could see the height of my folly and the depths of his grace, where He had been planning all along to restore me to Himself. Hallelujah!
That morning, as I sat in the Scripture class quietly, nobody there knew that a drastic change was taking place in my soul. God was restoring my trust in Scripture in what felt like a flood of faith. I was amazed as I tried to recall the questions I had long demanded answers to—and found them now powerless against the rush of joyful assurance that God had given me.
The changes in my soul and disposition were sweeping; where once had been cynicism and misery were overflowing faith and joy. I
began the Discipleship Journal Bible-in-a-year plan, and every morning I eagerly picked up the same Bible I had often glared at angrily just a year before. I read the warnings in Scripture about false teachers and being wise in my own sight, and I was amazed that God’s Word predicted the exact lies I had fallen for at college. And I treasured the mercy of God that would give me the gift of faith even though I had shaken my fist at Him and at His Word in hostility.
I still have the sinful tendency to struggle with doubt, but God has consistently and graciously provided me with support for the fight of faith. My husband, whom I met at church, daily leads me to apply Scripture to every situation, and I can see its powerful effects in my life. I now know experientially that Scripture’s promises are true, and I praise God for the power of His living Word and for bringing me to a church where His truth is prized.