You ever have something you want to say, but you know you probably shouldn’t? I know the feeling. Truth be told, I’ve written this blog post a dozen times, and never hit “Publish.”
Why? Well, it’s pretty simple. See, right or wrong, when you spend enough time around churches and Christians, you start to get the impression that there are some things you aren’t really supposed to say. Certain things just aren’t acceptable. And to go a step further, I’m a pastor. So I mean, double the pressure, right? Like if it’s not ok for a Christian to say something, then it’s REALLY not ok for a Pastor to say that thing.
But for as long as I’ve sat with some form of this or another in my “drafts” folder, I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that it needs to be said. And there are fortunately others speaking out, but in case this can mean something to someone who needs to hear it, here you go:
I doubt my faith all the time.
Some people seem to just effortlessly have faith. I’m not one of them (as much as I wish I was). So it may not seem like a big deal to you but writing those words and putting them out there – well that’s a big deal to me. But it’s true. I wrestle with my faith constantly. There have been days that I’ve had so many questions and the doubt weighs so heavily on me that I leave my office and wonder if I should pack it up and move on so that a better Christian can step in. Things happen all the time that I just can’t wrap my head around.
For example, this morning, I was leading our weekly staff team meeting and at the end I asked if there was anything anybody wanted to put out there for our team to be praying about. One of our staff shared about a 5-year-old boy from our church who has been battling cancer, and was recently told by doctors that there’s nothing more they can do for him. And I don’t understand that. It doesn’t compute. Why does that happen?
Now maybe you have a spiritual answer for that, but if I’m being brutally honest, I don’t. I don’t understand. I can’t reason why a five-year-old kid should have any incurable disease. I can’t rationalize why an all-powerful God doesn’t heal that kid and the thousands of others who die every day. I know the “right answer” in my head, but I still don’t know the right answer in my heart…know what I mean?
So sometimes, I just sit here in my office, in the quiet, and I wonder. Sometimes I get off the phone with a family who’s in the middle of a tragedy and I’m torn between wanting to say the “right thing” and not wanting to say anything and wanting to yell at God. And I feel like a failure as a Christian, and a pastor, and a friend.
But recently, I’ve been processing a couple of things that I want to share with any of you who understand doubt or live with the kind of unanswerable questions I’m describing.
First, it’s ok to doubt. Jesus isn’t mad about your doubt. He’s not put off by your questions. He’s not even offended by your anger or frustration. In John 20, when Thomas didn’t believe Jesus had resurrected, Jesus wasn’t ticked. He didn’t chew Thomas out or scold him. You won’t find the words “What’s wrong with you” anywhere in there. Instead, He said, “Hey, Thomas, come here. Really, come over here. Look, feel the scars on my hands.” He didn’t send Thomas away because of his doubt. Jesus called him closer.
Second, Jesus isn’t intimidated by your fear. We would have to be some kind of arrogant to think that the God of the universe would be insecure enough to be scared off when we don’t understand something. He won’t run from you. He won’t turn His back on you. When Jesus was asleep in the boat in Mark 4 and a storm kicked up, Jesus didn’t yell at the others in the boat and tell them to get their crap together when they were afraid. When the first thought that came to mind wasn’t, “Jesus can save us,” but rather, “We’re all going to die,” he could have said, “Ok, if that’s how little you trust me, have it your way” and left them there. But he didn’t. And Jesus won’t leave you alone in a storm either. He’s bigger than the waves, and He’s bigger than your doubt or fear.
Finally, Jesus isn’t surprised by your questions. He’s not shocked by your insecurity or your reservations. He knew you’d have them. He knew what He was talking about when He said, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.” Have you ever moved a mountain? Me either. Ever seen a really, really, really religious, spiritual person move one? Me either. That tiny little mustard-seed-sized bit of faith is a whole freaking lot of faith. So don’t think that when you’re in a moment where your faith is shaken, Jesus is hurt. He already acknowledged that it’s normal – yes, normal – to wrestle with faith.
So here’s where this leaves me. Some days, I feel like I’m ready to storm the gates of Hell all by myself. Some days, I feel useless and like a fraud. But on those days, I’m trying to do a better job of reminding myself that it isn’t God’s voice pointing out my weaknesses. You see, Satan knows your name but calls you by your weakness. Jesus knows your weakness but calls you by your name. And you are not defined by your sin, or your fear, or your doubt, or your struggle. You are defined by the fact that God loved you enough to redeem you and call you His child. And like any good parent, He won’t disown you from the family over a little doubt or moment of questioning your faith.
In John 16, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” What does that mean? Jimmy the Pastor says it means you have nothing to worry about because Jesus went to the cross and paid your sin debt and thanks to Him you have eternity to look forward to, no matter what tragedy happens in this life, no matter how bad things get.
But Jimmy the occasional doubter (frequent, maybe?) says, you know what? Some things are just never going to make sense in this world. But I have faith that one day I’ll get to sit down next to Jesus, and He’ll put His hand on my shoulder – the same nail-scarred hand that He invited Thomas the doubter to touch – and say, “Let me walk you through this.”
So in the meantime, I offer this to you. A while back – shortly after my best friend died of cancer – I came across this song. Probably one of my top 10 favorite songs of all time…every time I listen, it’s like they took the words out of my mouth all over again. There’s a line in the chorus that says, simply, “It will all make sense when I go to live with God.” On the days when doubt creeps in, that’s the hope that I live for. That’s the hope I offer up to others. And I truly believe, that’s all the faith God needs.