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.

Advertisements

You will know them by their love

 Brant Hansen (Air1 Christian Alternative’s DJ) really got me thinking the other day when he was commenting on a church that was picketing a Skillet concert. 
I’ve looked for the quote because I don’t want to misquote him, but sadly I was unable to find it. (So if anyone else heard it, please let me know!)
So from my memory: he was talking about how the leader of the group was yelling at those who were lined up to get into this Skillet concert. Skillet is a well known Christian rock band that has a rather large fan base. The leader was being downright cruel from my understanding. He was supposedly saying something about if you believe in a merciful God you don’t believe in the real God. That he is above the need for grace. 
I’m not even going to comment on how bad his theology is there, because that isn’t what caught my attention, or obviously Mr. Hansen’s since he is the one who was talking about it. 
This leader was raging against the people who were going into the concert and the people who were preforming. Numerous concert goers tried to stop the group by telling them how badly they were representing Christ to those who walked by, which just made the leader get even more belligerent. The lead singer John Cooper came outside and walked up to the group, and started passing out water. As Mr. Hansen reported, the leader asked what are you doing? 
Supposedly, Mr. Cooper said, “Well, I’m supposed to love my enemies and since you want to make yourself my enemy…” 
Mr. Hansen (as well as many of his listeners who called in) was struck by the grace that Mr. Cooper showed at the moment of tension. 
Mr. Hansen then put forth a question that has really struck me and I’ve been forced to mulled over it for the last week. “Why do we assume this ‘church’ is Christian? I saw no representation of Christ shown during their protest. So how do we know they were Christian?”
It was an interesting idea. We too often assume that when we hear ‘church’ that the people consider themselves affiliated with the Christian religion. Yes, they might truly have called themselves Christian, but the issue here is were they acting as representatives of Christ? No. 
There is a hymn written in 1968 called “They’ll Know We Are Christians” where they echo an oft repeated thought through out the Scriptures. They will know we are Christians- followers of a loving sacrificial God- by our love. By our own actions we will be known. 
With the recent death of Westboro Baptist Church’s former leader, Christians seem to be rejoicing over his passing. Another Air1 DJ commented on this by saying, “Here’s the dichotomy; By celebrating his death like, “Woohoo! He’s gone!” we’ve just reduced him to a symbol versus of what God created in His image! And by celebrating it, we’re actually participating in the very same thing that made him infamous!”– Ashton (from Air1’s Facebook page) 
We become no better than those we mock when we rejoice over a sinner’s death. We become no better than those very people who rejoiced over a solider’s death and picketed over it to make a political/religious stand, and who seemed to enjoy the family’s tears and anger. 
I saw it play out on Facebook during the Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein’s captures and deaths. We rejoiced over the death of a sinner, who as far as we know, never became right with God. How can we participate in that misplaced joy?
I need to keep my mind on what Christ said- Luke 6:27-36 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
Or like Mr. Cooper did, love them enough to give them water when their throats are dry from ridiculing you and your own actions.
How are my actions today representing Christ in his loving sacrificial glory to a world that does not know him? Maybe not as well as they should be. 
Do I act like a Christ follower when I react to people I don’t agree with? 

“Beautiful Blogger Award”

Today I was nominated by definingmydash for the Beautiful Blogger Award. Thank you so much Leslie Brennan for the honor and with great humbleness I accept.

Image

This is a relatively new project for me, and I’m trying to write only things that are truly affecting my heart because it means that God is truly working on me and my understanding of him. I am so happy to know that someone else is getting to see a glimpse of the God I worship. I am working through life one step at a time and God is continually revealing himself to me. Thank you for taking this walk with me. God bless!

Please, take the time to be inspired by some of my fellow bloggers and how God is working in their lives.

Dear “Beautiful Blogger” Award Winners:  You inspire me.  Your words are beautiful, thus the reason you’re receiving this award.  It is now your job to pass this award on to seven (or less) other bloggers along with links to their blogs.  Post the award and provide a link back to the person who nominated you. Thank you for making a difference in my life.  Keep writing!

definingmydash (The daily life of a woman who is on a new journey)

Into a Marvelous Light (The amazing walk that God has a young woman on as well as her up and coming missionary trip)

Scott Fillmer (Life in Faith and Photos- Some amazing photos and very thought provoking discussions– as well as some great how-to’s on working with wordpress.com)

Jonathan Stone (this is the new blog that is combining Jonathan’s and his wife’s Emily’s blogs- some very thought provoking discussions here)

There are so many others I’d love to mention, so look to my blogroll and start clicking to find something that might touch your life! Thank you again for the nomination and keep writing friends!

1 Thessalonians 5:11– Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact as you are doing.

Icy Road Faith (a different look at a believer in crisis)

The northwest coast has been getting hit with some very weird weather lately. Just this Sunday I was driving back to school from a weekend at home. Through the short hour and a half drive I hit all kinds of weather- sunshine, gentle drizzle, heavy rain, monsoon rain, snow and hail, then through sunshine again.

I’m a Washingtonian- I know how to drive in the rain, I even can handle snow to some extent. But, since an accident a few years ago, snow makes me tense up. If I have to be out on the road and I see snow on the side of the road, every muscle tenses up, I become hyper aware, adrenaline runs throughout my whole body. My car made it abundantly clear a few years ago that it DID NOT like snow (nor ice)- when I spun out and ended trunk first in a flooded country ditch. God protected me by popping my tire, which dug the rim into the gravel of the ditch, saving me from flipping over into the water. Ever since that day, I am extremely careful when the white stuff starts to fall upon the road.

Today, while I was driving through that white stuff passing a car that had met it’s match with the snow, “Please Father, please Father” fell from my lips. Through three exits worth of miles, I prayed for safety. As soon as I hit the dry patch, my fingers loosened and the prayer stopped.

Suddenly, it clicked. That is how we go through life- that is how I go through life. In the midst of crisis, all that one who believes in Christ and his saving grace talks about is God. We pray, we praise, we see God in everything, we tell everyone that we are leaning on God’s grace and love. Then when it is smooth sailing and the crisis is long behind; the Bible reading stops, the prayers become more self-centered, crude jokes intrude, and righteousness takes a back seat.

I have an Icy Road Faith. I want a faith that doesn’t go in and out of season. I want a faith that stands so firm that the stormiest day doesn’t make it break nor the most beautiful day of the year makes me forget it.

Take a moment. Be honest with yourself. Do you have an icy road faith? Or do you have the faith that will move mountains and change the world?

Psalm 31:24- Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.                              Matthew 24:42- Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.