In my youth I was convinced that when I was ‘mature’ (whatever that means) all my questions would disappear, replaced by utter certainties! I’m 65, have lived the Christian life for 5 decades, and still find myself wrestling with many why’s and what’s and how’s. Ah yes, there is a foundation of faith that is solid but God’s ways still defy my understanding. That is as it should be for He is God – “Whose ways are higher than my ways.”
A person who never deals with some doubt is probably not engaging with life, not processing God’s Word into his own experience. The deeper a person delves into faith, if we trust God radically, we find increased possibilities of experiencing doubt. Why? Because a life given to God, that seeks to be aligned with His will, leaves behind the safe and the tested, venturing to the world of the impractical, the realm in which we are ‘walking in the Spirit.’
Questions are not terrible. They can lead us to an examined and tested faith that is able to withstand the stormy times of life that will come to us all. Timothy Keller, author and pastor, says that “a faith without some doubt is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.” (Reason for God, Riverhead, 2008) I love that analogy to antibodies. We can live without them, but we are much more resistant to sickness because of them. Each time our bodies fight off some virus, we gain strength for the next assault.
Doubts are disturbing! But, they also can help us to clarify our beliefs which, in turn, deepens our ability to trust God. Doubt and faith need not be adversaries. As we deal with our questions it is important to consider the vastness of the wisdom of God, to reckon honestly with our own preconceptions, and to accept the limits of our experience. That person who demands iron-clad proofs that fit within their ability to see, touch, smell, or hear will suffer from a type of doubt that turns destructive, bitter, and cynical. That person who is humble, who will acknowledge that we cannot reduce all things to the simplicity of our own understanding is able to arrive at a position where he is prepared to live with the mystery and – at the same time- choose to trust God in those things that he can understand.
In my spiritual experience, doubt is ultimately defeated by building from the broad issues of faith to the more defined ones. I believe in the existence of God because, for me, the balance of evidence in this world points to a Supreme Being, a Creator. That is a broad statement that then allows me to take the step of considering the Scripture which reveals that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this world to reveal His grace and Himself to us. This leads me to trust Him and thus; I am a Christian. That choice leads to consider the ways of life He taught and seeing how authentic Christians bring know personal peace, I choose to respond to His offer of grace and follow Him as a disciple. Do you see the pattern?
John closes his Gospel, which is a long argument for Christian faith, with a story of doubt overcome. As you read it, take note that Jesus did not condemn the doubter. Instead, he invited him to examine the evidence and make a choice!
“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:27-31, NIV)
Are your prayers hindered by doubts about something that happened to you for which you have no explanation?
Are you angry at God at some deep level which hinders faith?
Are you unwilling to admit to your questions, thus avoiding intimately dealing with the Lord?
God loves that person who has an honest faith, whose mind is alive, who will wrestle Him. Ask the questions, not as accusations but as real inquiries. Allow for mystery. Be a good student of the world, the Scripture, and yourself.
And, listen for the Spirit’s invitation to faith.
Faith must focus on God. He is greater than all our questions.
Here is a word from the Word. “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NLT) “So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NLT)
My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary,
Now hear me while I pray;
Take all my guilt away.
Oh let me from this day
Be wholly Thine!
May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart,
My zeal inspire.
As Thou hast died for me,
Oh may my love to Thee
Pure, warm and changeless be,
A living fire.
While life’s dark maze I tread,
And grief around me spreads
Be Thou my Guide.
Bid darkness turn to day;
Wipe sorrow’s tears away;
Nor let me ever stray
From Thee aside!
When ends life’s transient dream,
When death’s cold sullen stream
Shall o’er me roll,
Blest Savior, then in love,
Fear and distrust remove.
Oh bear me safe above,
A ransomed soul.
Palmer, Ray / Mason, Lowell © Public Domain