02 March 2010

"Why am I so uncomfortable with doubts?" by CD Baker

A young woman I know recently remarked that her life is made miserable by doubts. She said that her unhappiness started when she began to doubt a few points of her church's doctrines. She began to panic. She thought if she doubted a few things, she would soon doubt everything, and that would leave her in a place of disbelief.

I told her I doubted that would happen. She didn't appreciate that.

Another friend doubted her salvation to the point of depression. Her church insisted that "knowing" was to be the source of her assurance.

I invited her to doubt her church. She was too afraid.

I wonder: Are doubts the bane of faith or faith's driving edge?

In the examples above, healthy doubts and hard questions could have been doorways for many to know God more deeply. Instead, a desperate need for certainty prevented authentic encounters with God.

Doubts threaten our sense of control, don't they?

As church communities and as individuals we prefer to be sure about things, but doubts have a way fo disrupting our confidence -- our control. They lead to worry, fear, and insecurity. But here's an idea to consider:

What if our discomfort with doubt is really a symptom of an addiction to control?

Doubts also threaten our foundations. We think we must be absolutely certain about the things we believe. Otherwise, how could we survive? We've come to trust our knowing. So, what about this:

What if our discomfort with doubt is a symptom of misplaced faith?

Maybe we should look at doubting a different way. After all, who said doubting must always be a bad thing? Jesus instructed Thomas to "stop doubting and blieve" (John 20.27, NIV). Does that mean that all doubt is bad? What if doubt and faith are sometimes related?

Martin Luther observed that the opposite of faith is not doubt or unbelief but rather self-reliance. Healthy doubt can actually drive us to faith by putting us beyond ourselves.

Most of us see doubting Thomas in an unfair light. Few of us want to be like him, do we But, if we're honest, most of us are like him. We do secretly wonder about the things we say we believe. That's reality.

At least Thomas had the courage to admit his doubts.

Did that make him a bad disciple? What did Jesus do when he learned of Thomas's doubts?

Did he rebuke him? No.

Did he shame him? No.

Jesus invited Thomas to explore his doubts... to come close to him and touch him so that he might believe.

Healthy, humble doubt simply wants to know Truth (Jesus) better.
So what if we gave ourselves permission to doubt, at least once, the spiritual ideas we've been taught to believe? Now, I'm not talking about close-minded cynicism like Zacharias's dismissal of the angel's promise (see Luke 1.18). That earned him a pretty stiff rebuke.

I am talking about sincere, yearning doubt like Mary revealed to the angel who foretold her virgin birth (see Luke 1.34). This is not scoffing dismissal; this is the kind of humble doubt that longs to believe. This is the kind of doubt we find in Matthew 28 when some of Jesus's disciples came to worship the risen Lord... while still doubting.

Humble doubt offered in a spirit of honest suspicion invites the Holy Spirit to teach and to inspire deeper and deeper faith within us. It liberates us to cry, "I do believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24).

from 40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with the Master, by CD Baker

1 comment:

  1. It all boils down to how we are taught to handle doubt. A person who learns only the basics without being taught what to do when those truths are questioned, is like a large building with a small foundation. When that building is shaken, it will crumble and fall. Teach that same person how to regain their stability when doubt arises, and the building's foundation grows larger. Shake that building, and it will become more settled and strong.


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