beliefanddoubt

So yesterday i took a bit of a look at the idea of doubt from the perspective of being someone who is a follower of Jesus.

Is it okay to doubt? Is doubt helpful? Should we be overly worried if there is a lot of doubt in our lives?

Sadly, i was not able to arrive at a simple tick-the-box solution. This area seems to be a bit of a complex one.

Which is okay. Wrestling is good. Don’t give up hope just yet and go running away. Let’s try dig a little deeper.

In my first post, i shared a couple of verses i found in the bible about doubt. But this passage in Mark 9 has always been the most helpful one for me. It is the story of a father with a demon-possessed son who Jesus’ disciples were not able to help and so he appealed to Jesus:

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Two things stand out for me in this story:

[1] The whole ‘If you can’ exchange which speaks loudly into the question of faith.

Once again, there is the presence of doubt [otherwise faith would not be needed, correct?] and the question of where are you going to place your trust? Do you really believe that I am who I say I am and can do what you need Me to do? Well, do you?

[2] The father’s response which is something i cling to often in life, feels so raw and real and just honest.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

And i think Jesus appreciated that. Because He seemed to be pretty big on real [not a big fan of the Pharisees who projected one thing while secretly being another]

And this is a statement that describes my faith probably more often than not. And especially over the last three years during our Americaland trip which was a great experience but really tough and difficult in many ways.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

When i look at that phrase, i see it as two very different things. i see the ‘i believe’ as being a bigger picture thing. “Yes, Jesus, I have heard that you can do miracles and yes I do believe that you have the ability to heal my son. In the bigger picture, I absolutely believe that you can do this.”

“But I have also lived in the reality of my son not being healed despite much prayer and hope and medical treatment and even taking him to Your very disciples. In the fact of the present moment and circumstances, I really do want this to be true and hope that it will be. But I need your help in overcoming everything in me that says this is not going to happen for me today.”

Does that sound familiar? Or is it just me?[and this guy!]

Is doubt good? Yesterday would seem to suggest no.

Is doubt okay? Today would seem to suggest yes.

WAIT, WHAT? How can something be not good and okay at the same time?

It’s called holding things in tension. Seemingly opposing ideas or traits.

Like can God be a God of Love and a God of Justice at the same time? Sometimes those feel contradictory.

It is God’s love that accepts us just the way we are. It is His justice that refuses to let us remain there.

It is God’s justice that demands the cost of death as a punishment for the sin we all have in our lives. It is His love that sees Him step forward and take the punishment in our place. His Love and Justice are not contradictory – but sometimes we need to hold them in tension to be able to better understand.

In an ideal situation, doubt is not good. But it is real. And it is likely. And as long as when it is there, it causes you to reach towards Jesus and not step away from Him, then i think you will be okay.

faithdoubtdig

Psalm 34.18 reminds us that ‘The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ 

To me those are the lowest of places you can possibly be – to have your heart broken, or to see your spirit crushed – both places which will create huge space for the temptation of doubt to appear and bring with it the questions and the accusations and the tantalising possibilities of an alternate path.

When you are faced with that doubt [and i really do believe it is more likely a question of WHEN than IF], be slow to dig up the things you planted in faith and the beliefs you once held firmly to. Remember again why you held strongly to them when you did. Remember when you did experience God’s presence, when you clearly heard Him speak, when you saw Him work and the testimony of a changed life.

Then make sure you head towards God. As you are. Not pretending to have it all together but rather, in the desperation you are in, choking out a prayer of, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Because sometimes that is all you can manage.

And trust that big mighty universal and loving God, creator and Father, who Loves you so incredibly much, will be able to deal with that and will be able to engage with and encounter you in such a way that your doubt can be dealt with and restored to faith and belief.

That is the tension i live with anyways – “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” – sometimes it feels like a soothing mantra to me. But i would love to hear your thoughts on Doubt – where they are the same and where they are different.

Where have you presently arrived in terms of how you think about and respond to Doubt?

[One of my favourite Twitterer people, @NatePyle79 wrote this piece last year on confronting the lie – ‘God won’t give you more than you can handle’ – worth a read]

[To return to part I of the Koeksuster of Faith, click here]

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