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

Provisions… Provided

This summer has been a summer of learning how to trust God to fulfill His promises to me.
As I said previously in Letting God Guide, it was time to walk away from a job I had had for 6 years, as a custodian on campus. A job that I still know I could walk back to if I decided to chicken out on trusting God. A sure job in an economy that is not the best bet for finding another job. Not only was I walking away from it during summer (very hard to find a three month long job, because about the time you are trained for the new job it’s time to leave), but I’m walking away from that sure job during Fall as well.
I’m a student. I have to be focused on school work and all the hassle that comes with that. I am way to close to graduating to start messing that up now. So not only do I have to find a job for summer, but I have to find a job that is willing to work with a student whose schedule shifts every four or so months.
Also, on top of this, I along with a former roommate, set about finding an off campus apartment. This will be my first ‘true’ living experience that is not tied to home or school. (It is a family joke because I insist that campus living is NOT ‘home’- because if I can’t choose where I live or whom I live with it can’t be home). It is time to start making where I live home.
So, obviously a lot of things were up in the air. Any other year, I’d probably be freaking out over the fact that there was no set job to go to, that there was so much money needed and no way of getting it, but this year… I took a different approach.
Because of a calmness in my heart and soul about the idea of moving off of campus— which I think is directly linked to my willingness to let God guide me– I decided to keep that feeling when looking for work.
The first week I was home, I was not looking hard, because I had to get settled again (in other words figure out what box I packed what I needed). Monday morning of that first week, a church friend who’d had a heart attack asked if I’d be willing to chauffeur him for awhile. I agreed.
Two days later, my pastor mentioned another church friend (my prayer warrior actually) needing help with her ailing husband. Now, I have 12 years care-giving experience, so of course I jumped on that! Because of who it was, no matter where I had been- I would have come home to help her. But, because God urged me to come home for the summer, I was where I needed to be when I need to be there. I helped M.A. with her husband for two and a half weeks. P.A. passed away peacefully. In the week following his death, I was able to put my internship learning into action. I meet with the family nearly everyday until the funeral and helped them set up the memorial pamphlet. I also helped serve food to over 250 people who came out in the pouring rain to pay their respects to the A. family. It was wonderful to see.
So once again I was without a job.
My Mom though had to stay off of her foot- it is in a boot- so she couldn’t drive for at least three weeks. When I was free, I became her chauffeur, getting her to numerous doctor visits and other errands. Things she wouldn’t have been able to do if I wasn’t there.
Now, we’re on the back end of her restrictions with her foot, so I was suddenly offered another care-giving job by ANOTHER church member. (Remember, my church is small! Less than 50 people on a good day) They need someone to look in on their mom a few hours a day. So it’ll be more of a companion job than actual care-giving. While not a lot of hours, it’s more than I had. And this offer comes when I only have less than a month and half up here at home before school starts!
Also, this last week (2 days before the job offer) my roommate and I found a wonderful apartment. It is a slight stretch financially, but I am confidant that it will work- why? Because God lined things up for us. It is in a safe area, actually above our campus. Nicer, newer, and bigger, than the apartments we were previously hoping we could get into. It also is on a defunct Christian college campus, so the people we deal with are actually Christian. It was purely a God thing we even heard about it, because they aren’t advertising it and they are looking for a very certain type of person to move in. If we hadn’t ran into someone who had looked at it, we’d never have gone over there! We get an renovated apartment with two big bedrooms and two full size bathrooms, a brand new kitchen as well as a large living area and dining room. All for a reasonable amount.
How amazing is this God I follow?! He has continually shown me that His plans are so much bigger than mine are for myself. If I just allow Him to take the lead in my life, my struggles will lessen immensely!
Sure, there are still a lot of unknowns around the corner. But, I have a God who has proved Himself even when He never had too. I think I can take these next few steps in faith, because I know that He’ll catch me if I fall.

Promises of God:
 “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”
~~Matthew 6:31-33
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”   ~~Proverbs 16:9

“The life of faith is a daily exploration of the constant and countless ways in which God’s grace and love are experienced”  ( Eugene Peterson )