Isaac Crockett: Hello. I’m Isaac Crockett, and I’m filling in for the honorable Sam Rohrer. We do have Gary Dull with us. Gary, I guess you’re pretty honorable too, but Pastor Gary Dull from Faith Baptist Church in Altoona, Pennsylvania. If you’re a regular listener and you haven’t heard Gary for a little bit, he’s been out for a little while, and now Sam is out with some different ministry things, and Dave is out with some different ministries things, but you will hear throughout the week, you’ll hear all of them. Gary is Wednesday when all three of you three amigos will be back in the saddle together again or when will here be all together?
Gary Dull: I don’t think it’s Wednesday.
Isaac Crockett: That’s right. Thursday. That’s right, Thursday, but we have a lot of great things planned for this week. Today, Gary and I are co-hosting together, so thanks Gary for coming back for this. We’ll be talking with a special guest in a little bit, Abigail Crockett, who’s the executive events coordinator down at Bob Jones University. She actually happens to be married to my brother as well. We’ll be getting into that.
I want to start out, Gary. I don’t know if you ever heard a little Sunday school song that I used to sing in Sunday school, and the first part of it, I’m not going to sing it, but it used to go: A Christian always smiles. He never wears a frown. He’s always up in victory. You cannot keep him down. I have a question and that is, what happens when as a Christian, we do hit a valley or rock bottom? What happens when something hard happens? What happens when we can’t smile or what if we have questions or even doubts about our faith? Gary, you’ve probably experienced things like this with folks at your church as well.
I remember a very godly lady at a church I was pastoring in. She was in her 90s, terminally ill, had been very gracious. Her testimony had been through so many things. She wanted me to talk to her in the nursing home because she was having doubts and fears about her salvation, about all sorts of things. She was coming to the end of her life. We read some passages, and I prayed, and we sang, and the Lord started to bring peace and bring comfort to her at that time, but it didn’t clear up necessarily immediately, but the Lord did bring that peace back to her and her faith remained solid, but it was interesting. The Lord actually gave her a couple more years longer to live than she thought she had at the time.
Gary, I don’t know what experience you have in helping people who maybe are doubting their salvation or questioning doctrines of the faith, but it seems maybe a pretty common thing we’ve seen, for example, Josh Harris, who was a pastor and had written a lot of books and had a lot of people following him. We’ve seen him step away from his family and from his faith as he would describe it. We’ve seen some other high profile people doing things like this recently. I’m wondering. Is this something that you think is pretty common? Also, it seems to me, just from my experience, that I haven’t seen a lot of pastors and teachers necessarily address this issue very often. I don’t know what you think about that, Gary.
Gary Dull: Well, Isaac, I think it happens a lot more than what it should. Of course, I’ve pastoring for going on 46 years now. Down through the years, I’ve come across a lot of people within my churches and otherwise who are really struggling with all sorts of doubts about their relationship with the Lord, about their faith, about doctrine and so forth and so on. Isaac, I think that one of the things that Satan does as the accuser of the brother, and he is our accuser not only before God but before others and even before ourselves, he will do what he can to get us to doubt. I think that one of the greatest things he can do is to get a Christian to doubt his relationship with the Lord and his walk with the Lord. That happens not only with people in the pew but people in the pulpit.
I think that it is something that pastors ought to emphasize more. I fully believe, Isaac, that when a person has reached that point of doubt in one way, shape or form or at some point in time, they’ve gotten away from the truth of the word of God. The more we are in the word of God, the more our doubts will be turned into confidence. Whether it’s a person in the pew or a person in the pulpit, my encouragement is to stay in the word of God in the face of those doubts and watch God give you the strength and the stability that you need.
Isaac Crockett: I do think that there were times when I read, especially some of the pastors of many years ago, that these things were addressed quite often. It almost feels like sometimes now people are afraid to address that or to talk about it. I know in my own life, when you start to doubt, it doesn’t matter how much scripture you have memorized, if you don’t even know if you can believe that that’s true, it really undermines everything and it definitely squashes your opportunity to be a testimony because it’s hard to witness to other people if you’re not even sure where you are yourself. I want to introduce Abigail to the program now.
Abigail, I think some people listening, sometimes there are people who maybe haven’t heard a lot about their faith. Maybe they’re new Christians and they’re having some doubts. Satan brings things up. I’ve seen in even some of the great preachers of the past and even you can look at biblical examples of people who start to doubt things, even doubting God’s goodness to them at times perhaps. These are people who did know about God’s faithfulness to them. Abigail, I think we can say that you had seen God’s work. You grew up in a home where you are not a first generation Christian. You had a lot of godly influences. Maybe could you just tell us a little bit about your testimony as far as the environment you grew up in and coming to know the Lord at an early age? We’ll talk later about you coming to a time in your adult life where you really began to be plagued I guess you could say with doubts and questions.
Abigail Crocket: Right. Well, thank you, Isaac, for having me today. Like you said, I grew up in a thoroughly Christian home. My dad was a pastor, and I had parents who loved God and who loved me. I went to a Christian school and had many, many Christian teachers over the years who invested their lives in me and tried to share their faith with me. I grew up in an active God loving church and my whole life really was totally Bible saturated. I remember memorizing catechisms starting in kindergarten and have lots of Bible memory programs growing up in elementary school. Through my teen years, my youth pastor had a fantastic teen program for all the teens in our church, and we memorized large passages of scripture all through high school, many of which have stuck with me. Of course, I grew up singing the greatest hymns of the faith at church every week and in our home.
Yes, the home that I came from, the environment that I came from was completely filled with the gospel and with the word of God, and that was a wonderful thing and such an incredible privilege. I think the takeaway for me and maybe for others is to realize that growing up in a Bible saturated environment does not inoculate us against the three enemies of the Christian.
Isaac Crockett: That’s so true. Just because we’ve grown up with it, it doesn’t mean that Satan can’t try to tempt us and try to attack us.
Isaac Crockett: Welcome back to the program. This is Isaac Crockett. I’m filling in for Sam Rohr. We have Dr. Gary Dull with us as one of our regular co-hosts. We’re interviewing Abigail Crockett, who is actually married to one of my brothers, who grew up in a pastor’s home, grew up in a Christian school, grew up in ministry, saved at an early age.
We’re talking today about what happens when we face questions, when we’re plagued with doubts maybe about our beliefs and whether it’s the loss of someone or something in your life. Maybe a person passes away or a friendship or a relationship is terminated for one reason or another. Maybe you lose a job. Maybe even you lose a job because you were doing what was right. Maybe just a different change of circumstances or the realization that somebody you looked up to as maybe a godly example is not who you thought he or she really was. You get these deep questions in your heart from whatever is bringing this up, and Satan can use this to really plague us with doubts. Many Christians will face these doubts and questions.
I love the book, Pilgrim’s Progress. It’s one of the books I read a lot in my middle school and high school years. Much of the journey for Pilgrim is battling against what we might describe as a crisis of faith, despondency and despair and these questions. My children were just watching a new version of it, an animated version of it that Kristyn Getty and Keith Getty helped with. They were watching it. It’s interesting to see their reactions when Christian is told to stay on the straight and narrow. He easily can be talked into these other things where he can end up in the Giant Despairs dungeon or things like this. Yet, that happens to us as Christians very easily as well.
Abigail, I want to ask you about your testimony about what happened in your life growing up in a Christian environment where your parents and those around you were trying to help support a biblical worldview. Yet, we can’t force our children. We can’t force our friends or family members to do exactly what we always want. Many times in middle school and high school, it’s common for young people to start searching for answers about the worldview in which they grew up in. Did you ever experience that as you were younger as a teenager maybe?
Abigail Crocket: I did. I think you’re right that that’s extremely common for someone to go through a period of doubting and questions, particularly in high school. Like you said, growing up in a Christian home, I was five years old when the light of the gospel first really pierced my heart and my mind. I did have what we call a conversion experience, which not everyone has a super clear conversion experience, but I did have a day when it was like the light turned on in my head and I really realized for the first time that I was a sinner and everything I had been hearing about the gospel was personally for me. I didn’t fully understand the gospel at that time as a five-year-old. Of course not, but I still accepted the light that I did get at that time. I accepted it and did not reject it.
I believe that my walk with God really started at that point. However, when I got to high school, of course the big questions start coming into your mind as a high schooler and you’re wondering, well, what about kids who grew up in another country and their parents have been teaching them about other gods? Of course, they believe their parents just like I believe my parents, so how do I really know? I definitely went through some of the common doubts that people experience in high school. My dad really, God really used my dad to help me at that time work through some of those doubts on … He was able to help me with the doubts that I had at that time, but then it was actually later on that I really started to experience some more significant and deep levels of doubt.
Gary Dull: Abigail, it’s great to hear that you had that experience at the age of five. I think, well, I know a lot of young people who came to Christ at that age. We’ve got three boys, my wife and I, and all three of them were saved under the age of six. I have often said that it’s important when a child of that age gets saved that the parents do all that they can to solidify that faith even as your dad did with you. Yet, we realize that many times, people come to these crises in their lives. Let’s take you for an example. You grew up in a pastor’s home. You graduated from a Christian school. You graduated from a Christian university, and yet you had what many would refer to as a crisis of faith.
I’ve got a twofold question to ask you on that. Number one, what led up to that crisis? Secondly, what do you think can prevent others from facing that type of a crisis?
Abigail Crocket: Well, for me, what led up to the crisis was basically I experienced a broken relationship in college. That’s very normal experience for that time of life. Really honestly for all times of life that we’re constantly dealing with relationship struggles and there’s disappointment all throughout life. I experienced a significant relationship that basically went bad and broke my heart. I think I let bitterness towards God really creep into my heart at that time. I started developing a deep distrust of God because I was thinking, well, if God has allowed this to happen in his providence, he could have prevented this. He could have worked out the trouble in this relationship. He could have made things turn out differently because he’s in control of all things. The fact that he didn’t do that, I just could hardly deal with that in my heart.
I was just so brokenhearted. I went into somewhat of a depression over a Christmas break, my junior year of college. I just could not hardly accept that God was doing this for my good. I think that’s a pretty common way that our doubts start, is that our experience is something that doesn’t match up with God’s character. We know that God is loving and that he is good and that he’s all powerful. When our experience doesn’t seem to verify that, that’s a super common way for doubt to start.
I let a distrust of God really creep into my heart and take over. A couple of years later as I’m in this place of distrust towards God, when I start seeing hypocrisy, I start seeing hypocrisy in people that I’ve known my whole life. I start questioning then everything that I’ve been told from the time of the child and wondering, okay, has my whole life been a lie? Has everything that I’ve been told a lie?
I think hypocrisy is another huge trigger for doubt, especially for kids who grow up in Christian homes because you start looking at the people that you’ve grown up with and you had a certain impression of them and of their walk with God and their spiritual life. Then, you find out that they’re basically just humans, and it sends you for a spiral. I think because I was already in a place of distrust towards the Lord, I just couldn’t handle seeing the humanness and maybe even the hypocrisy of people around me. That’s what really led me into a deep despair and a real questioning of everything I had ever known and really asking the big questions like is God even real? Does he even exist?
Isaac Crockett: It’s so interesting how Satan can take truth about God that he is sovereign and yet he’ll twist it then in a way to make us then doubt God to doubt his goodness. We don’t have a lot of time left before our break, but Abigail, would you say that as you came out of this, you came out, this actually increased your faith and brought you closer to God then as a result of going through this? If so, is there hope for other people who may be right now are listening and going through that same thing?
Abigail Crocket: Yes, absolutely. I think that in looking back, I realized that God is so kind and so gracious because even as I was distrusting him and bitter towards him and he was using all of that to almost reboot my faith. It was almost like he just took my old computer and let it shut down and restarted it. The result of that was that I started almost a new fresh relationship with him that has just blossomed into something that I treasure more than anything else in the world. I could just never express all the thankfulness that I have to the Lord for allowing me to go through that dark time and using it to bring me to a whole new understanding of him and what faith is. That’s just a precious thing and such a wonderful way that God works in our lives.
Isaac Crockett: It’s about time for a break. I want to, when we come back, just hear a little bit of what God used in your life to get you out of that crisis of faith as we’re calling it. I also want to talk to you about as years later, years after this, you started to share this testimony, this thing that’s so common for so many people. You started to share this with other people, college age students and others. I want to talk to you about that and the response you’ve had.
Isaac Crockett: Welcome. I’m Isaac Crockett filling in for Sam Rohr. Dr. Gary Dull is on with us today, one of our regular co-hosts. We’re talking to Abigail Crockett, who is the executive events coordinator at Bob Jones University and very familiar with the BJU Press that you hear a lot about on our program. We’re talking to hear about growing up in a home and an environment where she had a good biblical worldview given to her and yet Satan was still able to take even truths that she knew about God and try to twist it to try to tempt her into questioning and doubting God, just like in Pilgrim’s Progress or just like so many old hymns of the faith. Remind us that these are easy to get into these doubts and then to despair and yet just like in the Psalms, we can turn back to the Lord and he will hear us and he will set our feet on a solid rock.
Abigail, we heard about how Satan started sowing really seeds of bitterness in your life at times because of what other professing Christians had done. It really came full force when you were faced with confronting some hypocrisy with people that you knew for your whole life. I would just be interested because this is a topic that I think we want to talk about to other people because they’re going through it. I think important for us to talk about. I want to talk to you about how you started using this to talk to people about what you went through to help others. Could you maybe just share with us in a nutshell here what steps God led you through to bring you out of the haze of the question, so to speak, into the light of God’s goodness and give you real hope in God again, even in a time of seemingly spiritual turmoil going on in your life?
Abigail Crocket: I love looking back and just remembering the storyline of how God brought me out of real darkness and struggle and depression. I would say first and foremost, the thing that he used was the prayers of my godly parents. I did not know it at the time, but my parents were more aware of my struggle than I even was. Of course, they were very concerned. My parents had talked to me a lot and tried to share a lot of the word of God with me, but they also recognized that at some point, the Holy Spirit needed to do a great work in my heart. They started praying for me.
I don’t know what prompted my dad this way, but he told my mom that he felt like they really needed to pray that God would bring a godly young man into my life. I was in grad school at the time, working on a master’s degree in music, and my parents started praying every night that God would bring someone into my life, a godly young man, who would really encourage me in the things of the Lord. It was only two weeks later that my now husband asked me out for the first time. His name is Nathan. He is one of Isaac’s older brothers, Nathan Crockett. Nathan and I did not know each other well at all at the time. We were mainly just acquaintances. For whatever reason, Nathan was compelled, I mean really at the hand of God, he was compelled to ask me out as an answer to my parents’ prayers. Nathan had no idea where I was spiritually. On the outside, I looked like the perfect Christian girl, but I was struggling on the inside. I hadn’t told anybody about it really, and especially not Nathan.
I just started observing Nathan and his walk with God as we started to become friends and started to do things together. That was the first inspiration that the Lord gave me. I watched Nathan and his own walk with the Lord, and it was so inspiring to me, the relationship that he had with God, the trust that he had in the Lord. I remember thinking, if I could be like that, if I could be a Christian like him, I’m in. I want to do this. I really want to have a relationship with the Lord.
After that, I started to grow a little bit in the Lord, and I eventually did share with Nathan the struggles that I was having. He was a theology student at the time. He was also very quick to help me on a very … He was able to share with me some real facts and apologetics and talk me through very specifically some of the doubts that I was struggling with. That was a huge help.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I really had a big turnaround, and it really came … God really used the story of creation because I came to a point where I felt like I had to really decide, okay, do I really believe that God is the creator of the world? I was at the point where I could not believe evolution. I could not believe that everything happened. I’ve always loved creation. I’ve always loved nature. When I got to a point where I just said to the Lord, I believe that you’re the creator and there is a lot about you that I feel confused about, and there’s a lot about you that I don’t understand that doesn’t make sense to me. No matter what, I believe that you are the creator of this world and the creator of me. That’s where it started for me, the reboot of my faith and my relationship with the Lord.
Gary Dull: Sure. Abigail, we mentioned this before, but I want to reiterate it because we’ve got listeners who come and go throughout the course of the hour. Many people face this. In fact, I think that most of us are familiar with the old hymn, Come Thou Fount. In the third verse of that particular song, the writer says, “Prone to wander, Lord. I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” It’s interesting that later on in his life, the author of this song did wander away from the Lord. These things do happen.
I’m thankful though that God gave you the victory in what you went through. You really kept it quiet for quite some time, but just a couple of years ago, you shared your testimony in front of a large group of college students. Can you tell us about that and how they responded to it, please?
Abigail Crocket: Yes. Well, that was an interesting situation. There was someone else scheduled to speak at the university that we have a daily chapel. They were going to have a split chapel for girls and guys on a particular day. The president’s wife was supposed to speak for the chapel and she got stranded and wasn’t able to fly back in time. Less than 24 hours before the chapel, I found out that I was going to be the substitute speaker. I decided that the thing that would be easiest to prepare for in that short amount of time would just to share some of the way that God has worked in my life and had really re-inspired my faith. I basically shared the story in a little bit more detail in that chapel session.
I had no idea if it would even connect with a single soul out there. I really didn’t know what the response would be. I was just really hoping that the whole chapel wouldn’t be a complete flop. The reality was that I ended up having quite a few girls reach out to me afterwards. The response was overwhelming as girl, after girl, after girl called, texted, emailed, stopped by my office and said, “This is exactly where I am. What you’re sharing, the questions that you were experiencing, the fear, the doubt, the confusion, that’s exactly where I am.” I heard from so many group leaders that the girls were discussing in the dorms the things that I had shared with them.
I realized that what I experienced was super common. I think I was afraid to talk about it because at the time, I felt like I was the only one. I felt like, what’s wrong with me that I’m struggling with these doubts? How could I, a pastor’s daughter, growing up in this environment, be having these kinds of questions and these kinds of doubts? I realized after sharing my testimony with so many that this is an extremely common I guess situation for people to go through. I found so many girls who were seeking help and seeking encouragement because they were in a similar place.
Isaac Crockett: Gary, as you hear and you’ve shared that with many people who either doubted their salvation or doubted their faith before the break, do you have any verses or passages that you would suggest somebody look at if they’re struggling with this issue?
Gary Dull: Well, Isaac, this is a great testimony that Abigail is sharing with us, and I think it’s touching the hearts of many of our listeners today. I just encourage people to read through the Psalms because like she said, many people face this. I wouldn’t doubt that there are people today right now facing this and they’ve not told a soul. They’re struggling within. The Psalmist David, for instance, and others struggled with this, and they just altered when they turned to the Lord. God will bring a person through by his grace when they turn to him. Maybe we can talk more about that as time goes on.
Isaac Crockett: Well, thanks again for listening to this program. We wouldn’t have a program if it wasn’t for people listening. I also want to thank all of the station managers and station owners and different ones out there in radio land, so to speak, who have picked us up or maybe you’re listening online or through our smartphone app. Again, I want to thank you for listening to that as well and to remind you that these are archived and you can share this with somebody you know part of it or all of it if you would like.
We’ve been discussing the importance of what to do as Christians when we face … Gary, you brought up with the hymn, Come Thou Fount, of every blessing that we are prone to wander and sometimes to follow after our feelings rather than the theology that we know and have accepted in our heart. We’re prone to despair when we get discouraged from what other people have done. Many times, the sins of others affect us as well and in our Christian life. We want to look at focusing our hope on Christ, not on people. No matter how good a group of people might be, they’re going to have problems. They’re going to have issues.
Isaac Crockett: We’ve been talking with Abigail Crockett. She’s married to my much older brother who’s almost a year and a half older than me but I always like to think of myself as much younger somehow. You’re married to my brother. You were just giving this testimony, much of which I never really knew myself. You shared this testimony then of how you went through a time where there was discouragement and there was really some could look at it as a crisis of faith. You shared this then years later with a group of college students, and so many of them responded saying, “I’ve had those kinds of questions. I’ve been in that position.” I think there are listeners right now saying … Maybe even pastors out there, who are thinking of quitting the ministry or their ministry isn’t very fruitful because they themselves are struggling with doubts, or listeners who are having a hard time.
Abigail, as these people are listening today and they relate to what you’re sharing, and I think we can all relate either personally or we know people very close to us who are going through something like this, what words of encouragement would you like to share with those who are maybe struggling with a similar situation in their life right now?
Abigail Crocket: Well, I would say I would say three things. Number one, to remember that faith, having faith, the important thing about having faith is not the quality or the quantity of our faith. The really important thing is the object of our faith. Even if you’re questioning and doubting, if you can look at Christ and you can say there’s a whole lot that I don’t understand. There’s a whole lot that doesn’t make sense to me, but I can believe that Christ is the answer, or I can go to God and say, God, I believe you but help my unbelief. I think that is a great starting point, and to remember that just because you doubt, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have faith. Because we see in scripture that so many people went through times of despair and doubt.
Like Dr. Dull said, the Psalms, the Psalms are full of questions to God, questions about experience and about life and about where is he when we really need him? I think to recognize that even if you’re in a place of doubt and discouragement and despair, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have faith and it doesn’t mean that you can’t have faith.
Number two, I would say keep seeking answers because there are answers out there. There are answers to be found. There are people who have given their whole lives to explaining the word of God, studying the word of God and making those answers available to us. I would say to keep seeking the Lord in his word and keep seeking answers for the big questions that you’re looking for.
Third, as far as on a more relational side, as far as relationship with God, you can read apologetics and you can find answers for your faith and that’s super important. There’s also the secondary aspect … not secondary but a second additional side to faith in God, and that’s relationship with him. That’s really where it’s all going because there are a lot of people who believe, who might know or recognize that there’s a God but they don’t actually have a relationship with him.
The advice that my husband gave me that really transformed my life was he said … I was just struggling so much. He said, “Do you feel like you love me more than God?” I said, “Absolutely, I do because you’re my husband and I know that you love me and you’re right here, and I can touch you, and I can see you, and I can talk to you. God seems so far away, and it’s really hard to love someone if you don’t feel like they love you. I know from the word of God that he says he loves me, but I don’t actually experience that, hardly ever and definitely not on a daily basis.”
My husband said, “Well, is there anything about God that you really do believe or that you really love about him?” I said, “Yes, I love that he’s the creator. I love that he created the world.” My husband said, “Start with that. If that’s something that you love about him, start with that. Go to Genesis 1. Meditate on God as creator and see where that takes you.” That was just a brilliant piece of advice for me because that’s what I did and that’s where I really started to feel the flame of relationship start to grow. As I meditated on creation and what it meant about God that he’s incredible and that the power and the beauty and the artistic side of God that he’s the greatest artist of all time, all of that just started to foster and really nurtured the relationship in my heart with him. I started to actually experience the love of God and understand it in my life, not just as a fact that I had been taught all of my life.
Yes, I would say for people who are struggling to, number one, remember that just because you’re doubting, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have faith. The important thing is the object of your faith, not the quality or the quantity of your faith. Number two, to keep seeking answers, to keep seeking the Lord.
A good way to do that, number three, is to actually think about God and try to identify something in particular that is helpful to you. I’ve done this with girls that have come and had questions for me about the Lord. I said, “Is there anything about God that you love or that you feel really confident about? I know if nothing else, I know that God is this or I know that God does this.” I’ve had people talk about the promises of God. One girl said, “The mercy of God. I just love the idea that God is a merciful God.” We start with that and we go to passages of scripture where it talks about God’s mercy. I just try to encourage them to start meditating on that concept of really growing in their understanding of that facet of God’s character.
I think those are all practical ways that you can start moving forward in relationship with God. That hopefully will help draw you out of the dark places that you are. I would encourage parents because I know as a parent now, I look at my children and think my parents gave me such a great home. How could I possibly improve on that? What am I going to do for my own children?
Isaac Crockett: These are so helpful, these tips and for these parents to take these and to help strengthen yourself and pass it on to your children.