I love this question. It always helps me to think about my questions within a larger narrative when I encounter them, and it gives me compassion for other people asking questions because I realize that everyone’s questions are situated within a narrative of his or her life.
I do think that calling our search for answers as “faith seeking understanding” is helpful for unbelievers. It shows that our faith is dynamic, growing as we learn and see more of God’s love and goodness to us. It shows that faith isn’t something stamped on us by our parents, our environment, or peers, but instead, something that we wrestle with daily as we walk with God. It shows that we don’t have to understand everything to have faith, but that we take it seriously enough that we want to challenge it (and, also, are self-aware enough to challenge it!).
When I was a freshman in college, I had a professor who deeply challenged what I believed about God. I was a little nervous as I began to read Bertrand Russell’s Religion and Science, among other required texts. I felt a tinge of fear that the God I loved would turn out to be something I’d conjured up. So I wrote something scary in an essay to my professor: If I’m wrong, and God isn’t real, I haven’t lost anything but an illusion in the first place (what was my god). If my Christian beliefs aren’t true, I want to know. I began to investigate my doubts, accepting that the only way to get over my fear would be to face it. As I studied, I saw that Christianity makes sense and follows logic and, it seems, is the very bedrock of questions that people sometimes pose to disprove it (e.g. anything on the problem of evil). Eventually, the pattern – whatever my question, God was far ahead of me in answering it – became so evident to me that I stopped worrying so much about answers to my questions and more about knowing my God.
Even now, when I have questions and doubts, I try to go back to my original motive for all my questions, which is that, If this isn’t true, I want to know. This helps me have the courage to reckon with doubts. However, after several years of searching for answers, I’ve realized that God and truth are synonymous. He is truth. When I have questions that I can’t answer easily, or at all, I’ve realized that I can always go back to the ultimate truth, which is that God loves me infinitely more than I’ll ever understand and that he’s with me in every moment of suffering, joy, and all of the ordinary days in between.
So, today, I like to think of my questions as moments for me to understand more about God. I remember that for as many doubts I have, I have examples of God being overly and abundantly faithful to me. Thus, in the same way, that my doubts made me realize to a far greater extent his faithfulness to me as a freshman, I like to see today’s doubts as opportunities for God to show me more of himself and his ways.