Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Know doubt

Questions. Lots and lots of questions. My mind has been bombarded with them recently. There's an expression, "All roads lead to Rome". Lately, it seems more appropriate for me to say, "All questions lead to doubt". Perhaps I'm not the only one that feels that way. The good thing is, IT'S OK. I would never pretend to have a perfectly unshakable faith. If we profess to, we leave no room for spiritual growth. The beauty of God lies in His amazing grace, His acceptance of us despite imperfection.

I've been asking a lot of questions as a result of my current situation and the confusion I feel. This tells me I need to trust more. I pray earnestly but give no time for God to answer. This tells me I have zero patience. When we face challenges in life that cause us to question what we know of God's character, we ask God "Why?" and start to doubt Him. But doubt won't get any of us through challenges, so how should we respond?

This has been a really difficult post for me to write. I don't claim to know all the answers and have struggled with how to approach this topic. The other day, I read the transcript of an online sermon called "The Suffering Elephant". The speaker, Heather Zempel, said, "It is ok for us to come and say, 'God, I'm second guessing your perfect will here just a little bit,' and I know it is ok because Jesus did it." This is true. On His way to the cross, Jesus prayed to God asking Him to "remove this cup" (Luke 22:42). I think this is Jesus' eloquent way of being unsure about whether the road to the cross is really the only plan. Now focus on how Jesus handles his doubt. Christ follows up with, "Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." This clearly defines a difference between doubt and unbelief. As Zempel said, "Doubt is the thing that causes you to question, and to wrestle, and to seek out, and to fight...which means that you are still coming to God. Unbelief is when you just walk away from God." Even in Christ's doubt, He held on to His belief that it is ultimately all about God's will.

If you find yourself doubting the execution of God's plans for you, know that that does not make you a bad or ungrateful person. Do not be troubled; doubt does not mean you lack faith, nor does it mean you are testing God. In fact, doubt allows you to search within your own heart to examine why you believe what you believe. Embrace it as an opportunity to grow and get to where God wants you to be. Again, it's not about unbelief. I find comfort in 2 Corinthians 13:5-7 (NIV): "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you failed the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed." So we should pray. I cannot recall often receiving an answer to my "Whys". According to Zempel, this is because, "God doesn't speak to us in these situations necessarily in the language of logic for our brains to be healed. He speaks to us in the language of the heart [through love] so that our souls can be healed." The proper response to challenges contradictory to God's character, is to come into His presence and ask Him to speak to our hearts.

Pastor John Ortberg wrote a book titled, Faith & Doubt. Apparently the two are surprisingly alike and necessary. According to Pastor Ortberg, faith is important in our walk with the Lord because evidence is not sufficient without belief. Doubt is necessary to grow and exercise our ability to discern between truth and error. The conclusion is: doubt is part of faith because uncertainty can lead to trust. Now hope is something many of us cling to. Pastor Ortberg writes about how we cannot hope without faith, and doubt can strengthen our faith. But hope is not found in anything or anyone other than Christ Himself.

I cannot reiterate enough that no matter how hard we try, you and I will never be perfect. Sorry to break it to you. We will have our good days and our bad days. God expects this. There will be moments where we seem to have all the faith in the world. These are moments when we can muster up the courage to declare His goodness even in the most trying times and say, "God help me. I am going through something that doesn't make sense, but I still trust You to bring me through it. You are forever good, even when everything around me is not. So God help me." Then there will be days where we throw tantrums and demand God to answer, "What are You doing in me? What are You doing in the lives of the people I love? Why can't I hear You?" It is my prayer for all of us to seek the Lord when we doubt (and know that it is ok to doubt!), find answers in The Bible, and be assured that He wants the best for you and those you love. Keep on praying and never give up hoping, for as long as it may take. Press on--I trust you will find the strength to live with eternity in focus.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Hi Jollene, you have wonderful insights and an amazing ability to articulate them in writing. May God fill your heart with faith and trust, even as you face your doubts.'

Much love, AUnt Amy