Tag Archive: faith and doubt


SITTING ON THE EDGE OF THE TUB – by brett “Fish” anderson

 

sitting here

perched on the edge of this hot tub

half in, half out

struggling to rationalise my body’s capability

with the extreme temperature that is bubbling back at me

but i’ve been here for a while

and this water sure ain’t getting any cooler

am i getting any braver?

and will i finally slide all the way in?

 

hold that thought.

 

the water doesn’t let up.

taunting me, bubbling back at me

throwing questions like tiny little glass phials of acid

that smash against me, burning new scars down my world-weary body

as they slowly trace new lines into my deeply-weathered skin

who will risk travelling those paths with me?

 

“Just believe!” they hiss

and the bubbling starts up once more

“Remember when believing was just as simple as returning to that half-chewed saddle

on your daddy’s ancient bicycle?”

 

i want to believe.

oh i so desperately crying-out-loud want to believe

and like a desperate father

who has reached the end of his hangman’s rope

and has run out of practical, make-sensical

acceptable ideas

[at least in the eyes of the crowd,

always present, always following him with their eyes]

like a man with no hope

besides hoping to find a hope

that is worth hoping in

[i hope that makes hope?]

i throw myself once again

at the feet of Jesus

and dare to dredge out the almost insubstantial remains

of my battered hope one more time…

 

“i believe!”…

 

and…

nothing.

 

no joyful celebration as the missing coin is found

caught inside the underbelly strands

of the hundredth sheep’s ragged and dirt-filled wool

no trumpet sounds

announcing the upcoming party

as i feel the warmth and tenderness

of the new robe being carefully pulled across my shoulders

no pronouncement of how my story will be told

even as all these other stories will continue to be passed on

 

and not even the yes but no but yes

of a gently spoken, “Go. And sin no more.”

 

as much as i lie gazing up

hoping,

waiting,

and the fiery bubbles continue streaming

eagerly away from me

as i contemplate once more

whether the heat this time has come too close

to completely overwhelming me

and will i finally decide to

drag myself out and away?

to gently dry my feet of this matter…

 

and as all of that and more

happens as a thirteen hour conversation

within the fraction of a second

i am forced to blink.

 

and i see you.

 

and i realise you too are waiting

and that you have always been waiting

as if there is something more to come

as if you have still not found what you’re looking for?

 

the water cries out to me for a commitment…

 

“Help me…” I finally manage to splutter out

with what feels like my last breath

in this moment anyway

and as i direct my weak attention to

the cascading compassion i see

unequivocally raining down from your eyes

and hear the ‘Jesus looked and loved him’

as the poverty-stricken young ruler

lifted himself out of his own diamond-encrusted tub o’ gold

i finally tune into what was missing

and what is still to one more time be said

and as i smile the biggest world-beaten

faith-ravaged hope-seeking half smile

i can barely bring myself to muster

i let go of the sides

and slide into the almost overbearing life-draining scald-like heat of the tub

as my lips carve out the words

“with my unbelief…”

 

i am in once more.

or is that still?

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]

doubt

A while back someone asked me to write a blog post or series about Doubt and i already had this post’s heading sitting in my draft box waiting to be written.

So today i try to write it…

…and was doing really well…

…at least until i Uncle Googled what the bible had to say about doubt which totally threw my argument on its head.

But let me share it anyway – maybe you’re smarter than me in terms of joining the dots… or maybe this is just messy and worth wrestling with and it’s okay if we don’t reach a definitive result [gasp!]

 

doubtdoesnotequalunbelief

 

What is the opposite of Faith? It’s Doubt.

Was the mantra we had growing up. And it kinda sounds like it makes sense, right? If faith is believing, then doubt which is not believing, must be the opposite.

Until some smug christian-type got up to the mic and boldly declared that, ‘No! The opposite of faith is certainty!’

WAIT? WHAT???

Think about it for a moment. If you are required to have faith, then you can’t be certain about something, and so there must be some measure of doubt present, right?

That made a lot of sense to me. And i stole it and used it in a whole bunch of talks and preaches since then.

It’s not not believing, but more not being absolutely sure that what you are believing in is right.

Faith comes from a place of not being certain and so you need to hold on to something, or express something – that is, faith – to move towards that place.

Which means that Faith and Doubt are like conjoined twins. Or a koeksuster.

koeksuster

Yes, you heard it here first. The Koeksuster of Faith. [An analogy, that if successful enough, will have people bringing koeksusters to camps for me when i speak, you know “so that i can use it for an illustration”]

For those foreigners who don’t know what a koeksuster is, the graphic is pretty self explanatory – sweet crunchy doughy goodness, folded around itself like a braid. It’s hard to tell where one piece ends and the next begins [or is it all just one piece?]

The point i was hoping to make is that doubt it okay. It is normal and natural and okay to have.

That is, until i started reading the book:

From James 1:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

In Matthew 21:

21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

And in Matthew 14 when Peter joins Jesus on the water:

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Hokay, so wow, this is where it gets a little complicated. Or maybe simple? Because the strong instruction here seems to be to not doubt.

Not doubting seems to be quite closely tied to the miraculous here [water walking and mountain moving] which i definitely have not personally observed all that much of.

URGH, SO WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE ME?

faithdoubtdig

i did find that on the Internets and i do like that as an idea to consider and wrestle with and maybe hold on to. Your thoughts?

That when doubt strikes or in times of struggling faith, don’t throw out everything that you planted or held to when your faith was there. Because doubt can be something that strikes for a moment or season and sometimes when you’re doubting it can be uber helpful to look back to the times when your faith was strong and remember what sustained you in those times.

i think i would rewrite this as, ‘Be slow to dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.’ Because some things do need to go. Especially if your faith proves to have been misguided or in the wrong thing. But the point is don’t rush to break down things that used to make a lot of sense to you – so important to critique, challenge and question in a healthy way [which, sadly, the church has too often been a little scared to let us do because we might lose all faith and leave the building] but to do so positively and in a way that is healthy and helpful for all concerned.

Then i discovered this short verse in the book of Jude right at the end of the bible, which also brought me some hope:

And in Jude 1:

20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

 The instruction to be merciful to those who doubt. Phew! So doubting is not the ideal situation to be in, but provision is given for me at least.

i have a whole lot more to say on a more personal experiential note, but i will keep that for a follow-up post – in the meantime i will leave you with this inspirational piece of writing to see if you agree with it or not. And i would really love for you to share some thoughts you have on doubt.

Do you think Doubt is always good or always bad? Or do you see there being a helpful relationship between them? And if so, how do you balance that with the verses above? Do they suggest to us that all Doubt is always bad? Tell us what you think.

[For the next part, looking at a more personal wrestling of the faith and doubt question, click here]

faithdoubt

Bruce Collins is one of my best friends in the category of ‘people i have hardly spent any time with at all’ – our spirits seem to connect strongly when it comes to God and life and relationships and things and i just love his passion and wrestling and honesty… he has a great gift for writing too which is why i am reblogging this post of his which feels like something i could have written… so much doubt and wrestling combined with so much of knowing…

i believe… help me overcome my unbelief…

Barista Bruce's Brews

I’ve read so much lately that challenges the central tenets of what I believe: mostly articles and posts ranging from the horrors perpetuated in the name of “Christianity” to the rational short falling of what we hold to be true a followers of Jesus.

I must contextualise this post a little, too: on a purely cerebral level, there are many things that potentially bother me about faith in Jesus. There are many “so-called logical” arguments that challenge Christianity that seem to make perfect sense to me; when viewed in isolation, of course. Furthermore, I don’t believe that the church has always allowed us to engage with our doubt. Doubt, in my experience, has always been frowned upon. Guilt has ensued. I think, however, that doubt is an integral part of authentic belief.

I digress.

Despite all this, I believe now more than ever before in the reality of Jesus: God…

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