Tag Archives: doubt

Will I Get Struck By Lightning?

Progressive 33So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Genesis 32:24-28

Jacob was a difficult man. He lied to his dad and he cheated his twin brother (Esau) of his birthright. And when he fought with God (or an angel), God not only blessed him but renamed him Israel—”He who struggles with God!”

If there was hope for Jacob (and there was a lot), there’s hope for me. Like Jacob, I struggle with things I don’t like. I get mad at God when things don’t go my way! And, more than anything else, I struggle with the “Why” questions: “If God is all powerful and all loving, why does He allow suffering?” I still haven’t found an answer that fully satisfies me, and I won’t pretend the answers I’ve heard do satisfy me. They don’t. And that leads to doubt.

In Bible studies, I think I make people uncomfortable. When everyone has agreed how meaningful a passage is and how wonderfully God has worked in their lives, I’m the one who ruins that moment of bliss with “But what about…”

Yes, I am familiar with the verse, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6) Some churches teach that if we doubt at all, even a little, that leads to the “slippery slope” of disbelief. But here’s the thing. I doubt. I question. I CAN’T NOT question, and I’m not satisfied with pat answers. I think too many people believe that “doubt=sin” and must be squelched. And certainly, letting your doubt drag you down is not good. But pretending we have no doubt is worse. If we don’t face it straight on, it sits there like that moldy tub of “something” in the fridge, and we have to keep pushing it to the back and ignoring the funky smell. I’ve chosen to accept my doubt, keep reading and praying, and admit that God will, in time, answer all our questions.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

Advertisements

Who Does God Want to Save?

Progressive 21I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. 1 Timothy 2:1-6

There was a time when I was really messed up.

I’ve been a Christian forever it seems–I grew up going to Sunday school–but religion didn’t insulate me from the world’s problems. When I went down, I went down hard. (I’ll spare you the details, but it involved a lot of alcohol.) I haven’t forgotten it, and I haven’t forgotten what it felt like: lost, lonely, rudderless. I stopped going to church after sitting, week after week, next to people who appeared to be happy. Why? Because I thought I wasn’t “good enough.” Instead I turned to twelve step groups, support groups, and counseling. I found God in rag-tag groups of broken people who clung together for sanity. Now I know that I was always good enough for God, even if I wasn’t good enough for some Christians.

I think many Christians have divided the world into two camps: Christians, and those who will never be Christians. And they’ve constricted the definition of Christian to “those who believe exactly the same things I do.”

Some people love the passage about the narrow gate (“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Matthew 7:13) even as they ignore the first line of the same chapter (Do not judge… Matthew 7:1) and the verses leading up to it.

It’s up to each person if they want to walk through the narrow gate. But let’s not push people off the road. Let’s invite them on, even if they seem beyond hope to our myopic vision. God knows their hearts and, for all we know, He might have great plans for them.

Every Christian has a before: a time when they weren’t Christians, or they weren’t walking with God, or they just didn’t understand. Every person has hope.

Will God save everyone? I don’t know. But I won’t stop Him if He tries.

Do You Have to “Believe Right” to be a Christian?

Progressive 39

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17

[Jesus] answered … For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. … and now something greater than Jonah is here. Matthew 12:39-41

How old is the earth? How many animals fit in an ark? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Did Adam have a belly button? Can a fish swallow a man?

Hermeneutics. Substitutionary atonement. Dispensationalism. Supersessionism. Orthogenesis.

Does God love gay people? What about homeless people? Single moms? Does God love me if I love gay people, homeless people, and single moms?

 

These are the things my friends discuss, and they talk as if it’s very important to their salvation.

If I know the right answers, will I get into heaven? If I don’t, will I be turned away at the gates?

I’ve heard of Biblical inerrancy, infallibility, integrity, and literalism. Sometimes it leaves me scratching my head. Which do I believe? A little of each, maybe? According to Wikipedia, “‘inerrant’ means there are no errors and ‘infallible’ means there can be no errors.” *sigh*

I lean toward allegorical interpretations of the Old Testament stories, as opposed to literal. (In the story of Jonah, there was no fish: the story is an allegory, the fish is a literary device; maybe the story was a vision or a dream. Maybe Jonah was a real man, and his story was embellished (in much the same way Santa Claus—who may have been a real person—gained a supernatural ability to circle the earth in a flying sleigh), or… for all I know, there was no Jonah at all.

Here’s my confession: I’m just not sure.

Thankfully, my faith is not in Jonah, or Noah, or Adam. It’s in Jesus. For the time being, I choose to believe that Jesus really did die on the cross for my sins, but I don’t know whether to call it “substitutionary atonement” or not. I just believe. Yes, I “believe” science. And yes, I know coming alive after three days is not explained by science. Call it “willing suspension of disbelief,” if you like. Science explains a lot, but it doesn’t explain everything, and I still leave room for miracles.

What science doesn’t explain is the inner working of the soul. That, to me, is where God fills in the gaps. Sometimes I have a flash of understanding. I usually can’t put it into words: it’s (sort of) a feeling that everything is alright and God is in control (but that is far from adequate). This, I believe, is the Holy Spirit (God) speaking directly to my soul. Words would only muddle it up.

There is one thing about God that can move me to tears. Sometimes, when I strip away all the theology, when I think of Jesus allowing Himself to be executed by His own people; His choice to go through that kind of pain—for me—knowing that I don’t deserve anything like that at all…

Then I just believe.