Micha Boyett describes herself as “a lover of Jesus and a keeper of questions.” A former youth minister and now a writer and mom of two, Micha is the author of Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer (Worthy Publishing). TCW editor Kelli Trujillo spoke with Micha about the power of questions to strengthen (rather than weaken) one’s faith.
What role has doubt, skepticism, or questioning played in your faith journey?
As a college student, I was confronted with experiences and beliefs that challenged my understanding of God and of his character. That was the beginning of a long journey for me of learning to be brave enough to ask questions and coming to realize that my asking questions was not the end of my pleasing God. I started to learn that God wanted to go with me into the questions because there was something better for me there.
What power did you find in giving voice to your questions?
There can be so much pressure in some church traditions to appear holy, to appear to have God all figured out, and to be living life just the way God wants us to live. It can leave us afraid to say when we feel alone, or when we feel broken, or when we feel like we don’t have answers, or when we just don’t know what God is doing.
Writing poetry was the beginning for me, allowing me to feel the freedom to not have the perfect persona, to not be the “good Christian girl” that I thought the world expected me to be. As soon as I started to tear down that façade, the more I felt brave enough to say to people that there were some things I wasn’t sure about in my faith.
As I grew into adulthood and went into ministry with students, there were so many conversations where someone was afraid to say, “I’m not sure.” But as soon as they could say it, I could respond by saying, “Me neither. We’re together—we’re in this together. Having uncertainty doesn’t end everything for you. This, too, is part of faith.”
In your book, you write,
Of all the followers of Jesus who encounter the resurrected Christ, it’s Thomas’s response that makes the most sense to me. . . . The difference between Thomas and me is that I would have done my best to tidy up that disbelief. I would have been a lot more polite about it.
I like Thomas for his bravery, for his willingness to demand something from his friend Jesus. And I love Jesus for giving him exactly what he needed.
Why do you relate so much to ?
So many of the sermons about Thomas that I heard as a young person had the same basic message: Thomas didn’t please Jesus, so don’t be like Thomas. Look at all the rest of the disciples who believed—but Thomas missed out on so much because of his skepticism.
I’m not really sure when it occurred to me, but I remember later reading the story of Thomas as an adult and realizing that the Holy Spirit was giving me a beautiful gift. I’d spent my whole life thinking that Thomas really screwed things up, but all of a sudden in adulthood I realized, This is for me. This is something Jesus wants me to realize, to see, and to know. This act of questioning didn’t end things for Thomas. This wasn’t a scenario in which Thomas walked away sad and he didn’t continue to follow Christ. No, this was a moment where Christ met him—it was a moment when exactly what Thomas needed, Christ offered to him.
I started to see this as an act of faith on Thomas’s part. He was willing to say, “I won’t believe unless I see this.” And Jesus met him there—he knew what he needed to see, and let him touch his wounds.
I remember seeing Caravaggio’s painting for the first time and I was so moved by it. The thing that moves me the most is the grotesqueness of Thomas’s finger stuck right into Jesus’ side. It captures the compassion that Jesus shows to us; he doesn’t deny us because we need more, but it’s as if he says, Of course you need more! It can be difficult to follow a God that sometimes feels close and sometimes seems far, that sometimes makes sense and sometimes is incredibly mysterious.
We can go into our own questions and believe that, just like with Thomas, Jesus wants to offer us his side. God wants us to believe, but we’re not alone in trying to believe. God is helping us believe. That is the gift of the Thomas story for me: belief isn’t simply all up to Thomas—Christ has loads of grace for him.
In Found, you go on to say, “Jesus essentially says this: Believe or don’t believe, Thomas. Only experience me first before you make your choice. What I have come to embrace about my own skepticism is that it forces me into the same daily choice.” We can’t actually put our finger into Jesus’ side like Thomas did, so what does it mean for us today to experience Jesus during seasons of questioning?
At one point when I was struggling in faith, I was also in full-time ministry. Yet I never felt like I needed to quit my job because I was struggling. The moments when I needed to be present for those I was ministering to, I knew deeply that I needed God’s presence, I needed God to be at work, I needed something bigger than what I could offer. That was what I held onto: even in the midst of having a ton of intellectual questions, I was still able to experience God’s movement in and through me and in the lives of the people I was ministering to.
I learned that God was bigger than what was going in on my own head. I was able to watch and see God change people’s lives! I was able to see God’s movement in their lives even as I had moments of grappling with my own faith questions. I’ve learned that faith is not only intellectual, and that if I am willing to look for God at work around me, I will see God and his work every time, pointing me toward the realest and truest thing. And I’ve learned that the realest and truest thing is not always what’s going on in my head (praise the Lord!).
What encouragement would you offer to someone who is currently in a season of questioning and doubt?
The first thing I would say is that this path of question-asking isn’t a straight line that, if you follow it to the end, will relieve everything. It’s not a bargain in which, if you just get all your questions answered, you can suddenly believe in God again. There is not going to be a point in this life in which every single question gets answered.
My encouragement would be not to ignore the questions but, instead, to lean into them and to lean in with all your heart. To lean into the mystery with all of the longing that you have for God—that is still there and hasn’t left you, despite the questions and fears and doubts. You have not lost the longing you have to know God, and that’s why you’re struggling through this stuff.
The solution doesn’t have to be reading every intellectual book you can get your hands on to answer all your questions. Instead, I think, it’s about asking, Am I willing to be completely vulnerable with God about what I fear? And, Am I willing to be vulnerable with the people I trust?
This isn’t about a quick fix. There is so much goodness there in the questions and there is so much of God’s character that is waiting to be revealed to us. Because we’re willing to ask the questions, we get to go to a harder and more difficult—but also a more beautiful—place with God.
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