Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Palisade Cliffs - doubt" from L.L. Barkat

We continue our journey with L.L. into her college days. Going to a Bible college she expected to grow her faith, but instead she found her faith slipping away. Fortunately for her she went to a professor who listened well, and helped her struggle through this crisis of faith, so that in the end she came out with a stronger faith. Important in healing her past and preparing her for her future.

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:

"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 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.

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?"
(pp. 155-156)

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"


Anonymous said...

i also love LL's book.
it was wonderful that she was brave
and kind enough
to share her life experiences.

doubt is such a part of our earthly life.
little wisps that flutter through our thoughts
like a butterfly
up to doubts that can be as persistent as a
bee on meat in august.

it is amazing how even a doubt that we are unaware of can keep us from doing certain things in faith.

it has taken my daughter's faith. i am just hoping that someday her faith will return to her.

imac said...

I think Doubts come into everyones mind as some point.Interesting reading.

Thanks for visiting my blog and your kind comments.
The butterflies were in a hothouse in Skegness Nature Land, they were very friendly and landing on quite a lot of people, hence the good photos as I could get close ups without them flying off.

preacherman said...

Wonderful post Ted.
I am waiting for the book and can't wait to read it.
I appreciate you sharing it with us.
You do a fantastic job as always. So does L.L. Barkat.

Martin Stickland said...

Howdy doody Ted!

Wish Jesus would help me right now but I think there are far more deserving people out there and times are tough all around!

As long as I have my beer though ... hic!

Bye mate!

Rachel Mc said...

I have had many seasons of doubt, but I never doubted God's love or faithfulness. I doubted my ability to understand, my "importance" in the grand scheme of things, my understanding of the grand scheme of things, and my most difficult doubt to overcome is wondering if I make God proud. Through out all the doubts and my 40+ years on Earth, I have never doubted God and I cling even tighter to God. I usually don't share with a lot of people, I haven't really found christian friends who would understand. But my moments spent alone with God and writing seem to put the doubts into perspective. For me, God allowing doubts in my life helps me to build trust. I have a hard time with that word - trust. And I think trust can be seen as a cure for doubts.
God pulls me out of doubt by calmly and quietly putting people into my life, even briefly, who have been where I have been and made it through. I am amzed at how God works thru people in my life. God also helps me with doubt by my writings. What I can't seem to think thru or talk about, I can work thru writing it out.

Every Square Inch said...

I'd like to say that doubt is not a bad thing for a Christian...that to some degree it is "normal". I think of it as different from unbelief which is opposite of faith.

Yet, I'm not sure scripture supports my position since Jesus corrects his disciples at different points for I'm not sure.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Interesting, good words to describe doubt. And you're right that some doubts are not good in stopping us acting in faith.

So sorry to hear of your daughter. Sometimes the young go through that though for a period of time before eventually finding their own faith. Maybe that's what it's about for many of them; they need to find the faith for themselves.

But your faith can speak volumes to her, Nancy. Even in the midst of all your doubt. Real faith that is meaningful is often through times, events and problems that make faith all the more meaningful both to the person of faith and the people who know them.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, true. Thanks for visiting. And those aren't the only nice photos on your blog. But I certainly enjoyed seeing those butterflies, and miss seeing them where we live.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks. You'll love it. L.L. is an exceptional writer, just a gift she has. And she's helping me to enjoy the more poetic side which you find all over in that book.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Good to hear from you again!

You're just as deserving as I am, Martin. We're all on the same plane that way, equally undeserving as sinners. But God is for us in his "amazing grace" in Jesus.

You're right, times are tough. I did enjoy a little beer myself this week on my vacation, a stay at home one, and I have my immediate childhood family (minus my father, who is gone) coming tomorrow (today already where you live).

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks for all your good words.

Writing seems to help me, too, in sorting through issues.

I appreciate your testimony of faith, and how God has brought you through some most difficult times, bringing people into your life.

In a real sense, that is my life as well, though different, I'm learning to trust in God more and more as well, in Jesus. Trust and obey, as the hymn goes, and I'm learning more and more of what all that means, in the hard places of life myself, have learned, but still learing.

But doubting myself is certainly a major one I share with you. Doubting that God would be proud of me is a tough one, as I wrongly think- automatically- that God could never be proud of me! Yet it is a good thought you bring here (and I've read before from you), and I appreciate it, and I think in Jesus and in God's grace, why not? I'm after all his child. Why couldn't my life of faith in and obedience to him make him proud. A good thought for me. Thanks!

Ted M. Gossard said...

I think the right kind of doubts is just a development of faith. We have to work through certain things depending on who we are as we grow into the authentic faith God wants for us as followers of Jesus. Of course beginning from that basic faith in Jesus, in which we first hear God's call and respond in faith to the gospel.

But we're going to have to work through fears, wrong ideas that have been ingrained in us, all sorts of things, in our growth in grace and faith.

And some doubts are probably directly good, because they may help us get rid of ways that stand in the way of faith. For example if I doubt that God can make a difference in an area of my life in which I need God's help, that becomes a crisis of faith that I need to meet. Like Jacob wrestling with the angel. Afterwards I'm hopefully a different person with a faith or quality of faith I did not have before. Something like that.

Just my thoughts here. Good thought you bring up to make us ponder.