Doubtful Faith

One of the hardest things about being a Christian is, for me, struggling with doubt. 

Other Christians tell you the cliches that seem to be bred into our Sunday School faith. “God has a plan,” “God never gives us more than we can handle,” “Everything happens for a reason.” In other words: how dare you be in doubt! If you believe in God, you can’t doubt! It’s un-Christian!

Non-believers who know you are a believer, jump on you. They make the doubt stronger and more uncomfortable because they are looking for a reason not to follow this “Jesus thing.” You are an example/ experiment that is being played out in real time in front of them. You are the reality star in their Survivor: Faith edition.  

I want to hazard a thought. 

I think doubt is good for a strong faith. 

It’s taken me a long time to come to this conclusion and feel comfortable enough to share it. 

Doubt can make my faith stronger.

Doubt comes in many flavors. 

Strangely though, when one believer hears that another believer is doubting, they seem to always think it means doubting in God. Like I doubt He truly exists. That soon I’m going to be one of those missing-link-believers-big-bang freaks they are afraid of who is killing God.

At least that’s what I feel like they think the few times I have voiced the burden of doubt on my shoulders.

I know people who have gone through this doubt. I understand it. You watch the horrible things happening in the world and possibly the own pain you are going through and wonder: Why? If you believed and loved well…why would a good God allow so much pain? 

So the doubt you struggle with, the doubt other believers don’t help you carry, wears you down. Some of you might tentatively cling to your beliefs, but maybe not necessarily your faith. You keep the good things of the ‘religion,’ by helping others and attempting to live well, but you don’t give credence to the heart changing soul saving aspects of the faith anymore. It hasn’t changed the world for the better, so if there is a God out there, He is no longer involved with His creation. 

Others throw the baby out with the bathwater. God is not real. He can’t be. A loving God would never allow this, so He doesn’t exist. You were brainwashed. 

I have never questioned if God was real since I placed my trust in Him. I also have never questioned His grace or love. That is not a burden I have been forced to struggle with yet, thankfully. I truly feel for those who have to. It is an extremely difficult burden to unload. 

God has always been very real to me. Things have happened to the good, that there was absolutely no way it would have happened by human hands. I have been greatly comforted in heartwrenching sorrow, by an unexplainable peace.

Instead, what my doubt is, is my worthiness. Its not necessarily my worthiness of God’s grace and Jesus’s sacrifice, though on rare dark nights of the soul I find myself wrestling with that question. 

Rather, I doubt my worthiness to be a part of God’s plan. 

I see myself as too insignificant to be a gear in His plan. I’ve always have had this weird vision of the Book of Life open in front of the throne at Judgment Day, turned to my name. There isn’t anything written under it. There is no accounting for what I’ve done or haven’t done. Simply my name, written in Christ’s blood. Proof that I loved Him, but no proof that I lived for Him. 

Some days that snapshot of a daydream haunts me. It fuels a discontentment in my present day environment that I struggle with. 

And I ask myself: What am I doing for God? 

>>I want to take a moment here and make myself abundantly clear: I believe that according to what the Bible has taught me, salvation is not based on my good works. There is absolutely nothing I can do to earn my salvation. It is a gift freely given by Christ when He took my punishment for my sins and died on the cross. The only thing required of me to receive that unearned blessing is to ask for it. Even if it is on my death bed, I still can ask for it. And I will receive it. Because its a gift waiting for me to unwrap it.<<

I am surrounded by some on-fire people with the vision of what God demands of them. They see a chunk of His plan so clearly that it seems that their mission field is so ripe that the fish are jumping in the boat and the fruit is falling from the trees. They have that brilliant passion that just drives them forward. 

I know that what I perceive isn’t always what is happening. I know that they all have their own fears and struggles. But my very human doubting mind wonders. 

Have I missed God’s call? 

But, then again, why would He want me when He has her? She gathers people without trying, she’s so energetic that people line up to help. 

I can’t do that. 

Did you know that Mother Teresa, a woman well known for her faithful service, had doubts? In 2007 a book came out with letters to her confessor that poured out the pain of doubt. 

It rocked the world in many ways. The media of course used it to show how fruitless faith in God was. If a woman as sacrificial as Mother Teresa wondered about a loving God, how can He be real? Some people even labeled her a Christian Atheist.

Supposedly, when she first reached out for comfort and guidance in her “dark night of the soul,” one priest urged her to keep quiet and confess her sins. He did nothing to help her understand her doubts or to strengthen her faith so those dark nights didn’t become dark years. He was fearful the impact it would have on other people’s faith.

Where is my Faith–even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness–My God–how painful is this unknown pain–I have no Faith–I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart–& make me suffer untold agony….Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?— Mother Teresa, Saint of Calcutta. Undated Letter, quoted in “Mother Teresa: Come be my light” (2007) 

How heartwrenching. If only this woman had someone to walk with her in her dark nights. To hold her faith until such a time as she was ready to carry it again. Not to condemn her for wrestling with her questions, but to love her until she could feel God’s love again.

Isn’t that what the Body of Christ is for? We are called to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep for those who weep (Romans 12:15).” Those who are doubting are weeping. Do not be Job’s friends who tell the man he must have sinned for everything that happened to him. It isn’t a sin to doubt. 

We live in a very broken sin-filled world. Bad things happen. Any believer who says they don’t question it has to be lying or hasn’t read their Bible.

We do such a great disservice to other believers when we don’t ask for prayer and guidance when we struggle.

Church has too often become a building where you come to show off your perfect mask of peace and contentment, rather than the raw honesty of broken tears and uncomfortable anger. There is an unspoken law that we must not make other people uncomfortable because then we can’t win their souls. So we peddle the Prosperity Gospel lie. “When you become a Christian everything become perfect. You no longer struggle, you no longer cry, and you always win.” If mature Christians can’t handle hard times of doubt and bad things happening, how can we expect brand new believers to?

And the first time a new believer stumbles, they beat themselves up. They are a failure. They either run from God, thinking they are unworthy, or they no longer advance of in a deeper relationship with other Christians and God. 

We will stumble. 

We all have our trip ups, our temptations, our trials. We will make mistakes. You are human. God knows that. 

If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, himself wondered if God could let the heavy burden pass from him, or voiced His concern of His Father forsaking him– HE UNDERSTANDS. (Matthew 26:39, 27:46)

God never created us to be mindless followers of Him. He wants a relationship between us. He knows that questions will come, arguments will happen, tears and laughter will be shared. He knows that we will have doubt. This world breeds it like cockroaches. 

He just asks us keep the communication channels open. 

We could totally be Jonah. And God will still use us. I think He’d prefer us to be willing though. 

Jonah questioned God’s justice. He questioned it so hard–because he knew God was just and forgiving– that Jonah ran! He tried to get away from God’s sight even though he knew it was impossible. He got swallowed by a large fish as a disciplinary action. The prophet finally went to Nineveh, dragging his feet. When he told the town about the judgment God was getting ready to mete out, it wasn’t with a passionate cry to listen. It was “God is going to kill you, so repent. Or not. I don’t care.” Then when God actually did forgive the people- like He said He would- Jonah basically said “Kill me now.” Then got another lesson from God.  

Jonah spoke to God and heard His voice. And still he doubted.

Abraham and Sarah, the very beginning of the faith of Israelites questioned God’s plan. They tried to make God’s promise work because they could simply not see how they were to have a child in their advanced years (Genesis). And Abraham is still considered a Hero of the Faith  (Hebrews 11). 

Peter denied knowing Christ three times– even when Jesus told His disciple that he was going to do so. And he lived with that regret even as he worked his mission. (Luke 22:54-62)

All the twelve men with Christ’s inner circle struggled with great doubt when they saw Jesus die. How can this man die? He says he’s the Son of God. How can he die? 

Thomas doubted so strongly the story of the Resurrection, that he said he wouldn’t believe until his fingers were within the wounds on Christ’s body. (John 20:24-25)

Doubt is real.

It isn’t a sin.

Jesus didn’t reprimand His disciples beyond telling them that He said this was going to happen.

Don’t let anyone shame you for your doubt. And don’t shame anyone for their’s. 

I urge you, as someone who doubts, to speak about it. Do what you need to do to move through your dark night of the soul. 

Pray. Get into nature and feel God’s power. Read the Scripture. Listen to music, read devotions. Find the stories of missionaries that speak to you. Find the prayer warriors in your church and ask them to pray. 

God gives us ways to work through those moments/ years of doubt. We just need to learn how to use them.

I doubt. My heart and mind go to battle and I doubt. I wonder how God can use me. But I still move forward.

Find a way to keep walking until your doubt doesn’t cling to you anymore. And help someone else when they start to doubt.

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Course Correction with God at the Helm

In the last week I have been accepted into the newly made Master’s of Divinity in Chaplaincy program at my school.
I can hear God laughing.
You see, I’m very excited about the new program and I have the knowledge that this will be extremely helpful in my career. But, I was SO close to graduating with my Master’s of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS). So close! I could see the finish line.
Now…that finish line is yet another year away.
It’s a blessing that this program is even being offered- especially before I graduate, thus causing me to have to pay for a whole new degree, rather than just switching and adding a couple more classes. Which, believe me, graduating THEN finding out about the new program? That would have so depressing and annoying.
Even the idea of the program being offered while I was still here in school? Totally a God thing.
I had started out my Seminary career as a Master’s of Divinity in Pastoral Studies (M.Div) with an emphasis on Chaplaincy student, but had to change programs midway through the first semester. My arch nemesis, i. e. the Greek language, was winning the battle.
God gave me a little bit of hard earned clarity during that semester. When two professors come to talk to you, at different times in the same day, without discussing it; to tell you to get out of Greek now, you listen.
Both professors, one of them being my Greek teacher, told me to get out while the getting was good. My stubbornness was starting to bring down my grades in my other classes. Because I was so stressed out and working so hard to finish my Greek homework, my other classes were bearing the brunt of it.
So, with a disheartened attitude I withdrew from the class and changed my program.
While technically the MAPS program is a better program for the Chaplain training, hospitals prefer the M.Div. If two people were applying for the same degree, most hospitals choose the M.Div. Even though the MAPS is technically better due to all the counseling classes (The language requirement for the M.Div shows perseverance supposedly).
I started to question my understanding of God’s will for my life. I started to question if I was reading His leading right. So many questions that I struggled with that first year! I loved the classes I was attending, classes that I wouldn’t have been able to go to in the M.Div., but still, I wondered.
Now, a total of three years later, I am at the end of my MAPS program and just needing to do my internship. And God shows me the course correction that I was unaware of. So many things lined up when they shouldn’t have! All because God has his hands on my life.
I came in on the Advanced Track- I should have graduated within 2 years.
• I had to stay full time, but classes I needed weren’t being held until a different semester, than the one I was presently on.
• Classes that I took as electives- to stay full time- worked perfectly into my new M.Div Chaplaincy program.
• The very fact that because it took me 3 years to finish a 2 year program, I am still in a place to do the new degree.
• The fact that a professor mentioned it in passing.
• That it had just been passed through committee and they were allowing people to switch that very day.
• That I was accepted into the program so quickly and easily.
Because I had allowed God to steer my life as He saw fit, He lined everything up for me. Even though I was still disheartened over not getting the M.Div I thought I had to have, he was guiding me to something so much better!
He knew the plans He had for me. He kept me from so much stress and heartache, as well as failure, so that I would be ready for His next step.
How amazing is my God?!
I’m eager to see where this new M. Div will take me, I’m eager to learn and put into practice what I’m learning.
I can make it one more year to stay in accordance with God’s plan for me. This is what I was waiting for. These where the signs that I needed to have my eyes opened.
God gave me what I thought I needed, but the way I needed it.
And the best thing?
The new Master’s of Divinity for Chaplaincy doesn’t have Greek!

Opportunities

God has plans for me. He has plans for you. God has plans for each person that has, is,  and will be walking on this earth. We were made for a purpose, something that only we can do, at that perfectly designed time. They might be world changing moments or moments that change one person. Each person has an extremely important  thing they must do, sometimes we complete that purpose and sometimes we do not.

God continually sets us into places where we can live out our purpose. I am in the process of trying to figure out if the opportunities that are being placed before me are truly what and how God wants me to work in fulfilling my own purpose. I know WHAT God wants me to do, just not the HOW of doing it. My concern with this is that I do everything in line with God’s will, no matter my own fear. In the last three weeks possibilities have been thrown at me and I am in a daze.

I am desperately seeking prayer right now, from anyone who is willing to pray for me.

Trying to explain the concern I have to others who know me makes it seem as if I’m afraid- which I admit I am in some ways. But the true concern I have is that the opportunities that are being presented are truly what God has planned for me.

He has given me the passion for a topic that is rarely talked about. Now he is presenting me with the ways to get that topic out into the mainstream of communication.

God has plans for me. I just pray that I am truly hearing his leading and not others’ promptings.I am praying also that I work pass my own fear so that I don’t ‘refuse’ to hear God’s voice and what he is telling me to do.

Please join me in praying for this opportunity that has been presented to me. Pray that I hear God’s promptings clearly with no confusion and that others don’t play on my fear, making me question his promptings.

When more information is available and things are put in stone, I will let you know more.

Thanks for praying!

Psalm 32:8– I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.