Doubt is often looked on with the gravest suspicion. When you consider the passage in James 1 you can understand why some would doubt that doubt has any place in the Christian life. But when we think about the development of faith so as to be grounded in the faith as it is in Jesus, we must be willing to grapple with the doubts that are surely to come our way.
Again, I love L.L.'s honesty and vulnerability in this chapter. Here's how she prayed in those days of grappling with her doubt that the faith in Jesus is true:
I love the fact that we have such a God who lets us be who we are, lets us struggle through to find our footing in him, to find that there really is something to this faith that is in Jesus, after all.
"If you exist, I don't want to know you. You send people to hell. You let people suffer. You think you're so great that everyone should worship you - how arrogant." (p. 54)
I am not one who sails through life without doubts, though I can't recall ever seriously being on the edge of losing my faith. I think my doubts had more to do with not believing that things would really work out in certain situations. Or thinking somehow I don't fit in, though I still in my mind believed the faith itself. I was maybe more like one of the disciples who remained in the boat while Peter ventured towards the Lord, walking on the water.
Peter's faith grew from that incident- his was a bold faith, and such a faith can be readily assailed with doubts. In my case my doubts did often come right before big events, like preaching times. I remember one time I was to preach at a church I wasn't that familiar with, and I studied ahead of time. But I was assailed with doubts and felt entirely lost and poured out my heart to God, over and over again in prayers. And the Lord seemed to pour out his Spirit at least on me- as I boldly preached the word. In that case my doubts drove me to the Lord in desperation and the Lord answered in full. And I wondered later when I was to give a talk at my parents' church why the same thing didn't happen all over again. I wasn't assailed with doubts at all that time! I was just drifing along, but probably not with my eyes much on Jesus.
Of course we can have doubts of all kinds, but the question becomes do we seek the Lord and his ways for us, in the midst of those doubts? For me Jesus is the key. Without him I would have abandoned Christianity long ago, but that should be no surprise, since- after all Jesus is Christianity, the faith is in him.
L.L. includes reference to the memoir, Jesus Land, by Julia Scheeres. Julia tells her story of growing up in a rigidly ruled fundamentalist family and reform school which taught, "'Faith is blind,' 'What leaders do in Jesus' name is done with Jesus' approval,' and 'Never question.'" (p. 58). Julia went through the motions of memorizing Bible verses and praising Jesus, but faith was forced on her- and I'll venture to say, not the true faith, but a caricature of it, because it's not only what we say (and I'd question even that with them), but how we live which demonstrates our faith. She now believes in trusting no one and subverting all rules. How do we look at this in raising our children, or with reference to our own faith?
L.L. looks at King Saul's defection from faith, Paul's incident of walking on the water towards Jesus then sinking, and mentions Jacob's wrestling with God in this thought provoking chapter (but true of all the chapters!).
L.L.'s book is truly a treasure. It's right up their with my favorite books, period. Of course it helps that Deb and I were able to meet L.L., even for a brief hour; it was fun. But get your own copy, and read as slowly as you can!
From the "discussion questions" in the back of L.L.'s book:
"1. What is doubt?
2. Is it possible to have a faith free of doubt? Is it desirable?
3. If you meet someone who's doubting his faith, how might you handle his concerns?
4. Why do people sometimes keep doubts to themselves? Are there dangers in doing so? Are there dangers in sharing our doubts?
5. What kinds of real things nudge you into doubting your faith? What kinds of equally real things about God pull you out of doubt?
6. Why do you think Jesus lets us experience moments of doubt? What criticisms might be leveled at him for doing so? Does the grace of Jesus help us meet our doubts?"
1. Stepping Stones - conversion
2. Christmas Coal - shame
3. Tossed Treasures - messiness
4. Heron Road - suffering
5. Sword in the Stone - resistance
6. Howe's Cave - baptism
Next week: chapter 8: "Holding Pfaltzgraff - inclusion"