The Godliness of Doubt

Although the scriptures repeatedly emphasize the need for faith, many of us are failing miserably.  One minute, people see us joyfully professing our love for Christ, and the next, frantically questioning our core beliefs & affirmations about Him.  Oftentimes, individuals in the Church will reassure others of God's existence, His word, and so on, while inwardly, they are wondering just how much truth is to those things.  Still others declare the importance of obedience to chastity, the Word of Wisdom, and so on - and then these same people, behind closed doors, struggle with sins of immorality, pornography addiction, drug abuse, alcoholism, and so forth.  But amid the reality of all this, I must ask you a rather blunt question:

How much does all this concern God, really?

I mean, seriously - stop and think about it for just a moment.  It would seem to me that God really concerns Himself with where His children are going, not where they currently are.  Consider it for a minute.  Is God in the business of changing people's pasts, or transforming who they are in the present to alter where they'll end up?  If you contend that God is all about the past - changing our pasts, erasing our previous sins, etc. - then it would make sense that God cares about where we've been with so-called "hypocrisy" and personal doubts.  From a logical & doctrinal standpoint, however, it most resounds with me to state that God is concerned most with where we're headed.  Why?  Because as He empowers us in the now, we are better prepared to handle what is yet to come.  You and I are not beings who exist in the past.  We exist in the present.

This is why we typically view grace as a power that carries us from moment to moment.  We also interpret is as a power which erases our past by changing our present, and, subsequently, our future.  It is like a giant rock which God purposefully drops into the moss-covered, dirty waters of our lives, generating enormous waves that clear up all that gross covering and murky unpleasantness.  The rock of His grace collides with our oceanic existence, and a sort of "accentuated ripple effect" spreads rapidly over everything, changing the nature of it all. 

Now, what's the point of bringing all this up?  It is to illustrate what timeframe of life bears the greatest significance.  A Saint who doubts, and yet keeps moving forward, shows how much weight the future holds.  For, in truth, doubts, disputations, sins, weaknesses, addictions, etc. all are but a transient blip on the radar of life.  Some last longer than others, but time holds some sort of cure to every doubt, even if it's not deliverance from it.  Some ignorant people, though, naively suppose that the doubts concerning religion and God (or other things, for that matter) pass with time.  Insofar as I am aware, however, such doubts only tend to dissipate for precious few reasons.  Primarily, they are:

1. The burden of proof exceeds the reason for doubt.
2. Conflicts that engendered said doubts simply resolve themselves by happenstance.
3. The individual doubting subscribes to a different set of beliefs and/or philosophies that no longer created a need for said doubt.

It is likely, though, that either none of those is happening but you wish it would, or it is and you wish it wouldn't be.  Whatever the case, doubt bothers you in some form.  So you're reading this.  I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but you may be stuck with chronic doubting for a lifetime.  But what is truly curious is that although you doubt, you cannot un-believe all that you doubt.  You question, disbelieve, wonder, get mad at God, and despair, even,  but never can you bring yourself to place it out of the questioning space you hold it in.  And that is something you've got to find out the reason for.  Why?  Because therein lies the key to your faith, to your fight for staying in some kind of hopeful, spiritual state.  Though it produces an imperfect, shaky, desperately inconvenient sort of faith, still it is something, you tell yourself.  Let's be honest, though - you wish the truth or falsehood would just announce itself.  You yearn for that shouting proclamation, like a spouse arriving home from work, of "I'm here!!!" to the home of your human heart.

Let me tell you some of the reasons, despite the absence of such a thunderbolt of knowledge, as to why I keep going when I face grueling doubts.  My primary reason is because a feeling deeper than my actual heart has pierced my soul multiple times when in church, nature, family events, activities with friends, and on other spiritual occasions.  It is a God-presence that transcends the boundaries of human emotion and logical explanation, resounding with what many call "the soul".  Such a "deeper" feeling has come even when logic ought to dictate otherwise, indeed, a feeling that is the exact opposite of what I should be feeling by normal standards.  For example, in facing financial disaster, I've felt total calm and peace.  Call that optimism or self-assurance if you will, but dark conflicts still plague the minds of even the most optimistic and self-assured of people, if there is sufficient cause for it.  So where is God in all of this, then?

If I profess to know the God of the holy scriptures, then I must conclude that He is a merciful, perfectly truthful, and all-loving divine being.  That being said, if God weren't real or if He didn't want me, or whatever doubt I am entertaining in my head - then why am I clinging to a belief that hardly, if at all, serves me?  Why hold to some inconvenient, fanciful notion that causes more pain than personal fulfillment and gratification?  It would appear that, beyond the veil of present suffering, something higher than myself clings to God's truth.  But, in the midst of all the anguish, why?  Why hold so fiercely onto a burning coal?  Maybe, pondering this, it's because I'm trying to start a fire of faith, one that can give me warmth in an otherwise cold world.  Perhaps, with that fire of my passionate, desperately flawed faith, this world is a little brighter and less harsh upon the human spirit.  After all, if God is real, at least He's a constant in this damn confusing, lost, and delusion world of darkness.  With the price of pain that I hold onto in my hand, that burning coal I spoke of, I can hope for something more.  Maybe I don't know what precisely that "something more" is, or even it exists to begin with.  So, what my point?  With God, I can hope again amid my doubtful darkness.  Without Him, I sink into that horrific blackness I so fear and dread to become acquainted with.

Maybe, just maybe this is a generic explanation of your personal reason (s) for clinging to such an inconvenient pain in the ass.  Though God might feel like a bruise or a hemorrhoid you have to sit on, at least your doubt reminds you that, being representative of "sitting down", you can always count on a constant reminder of why life can suck.  You "sit down", or doubt, in life because you have to, not because you want to or because it's somehow pleasant to, watching the other runners in God's test race on by, telling you that there is a finish line ahead.  And you know, I'd rather God remind me of why I need Him by being a pain in the ass than sit down comfortably in a stupor to forget why I'm even here on earth in the first place.

Doubt is godly because God is in it.  Though a hundred questions may rack your soul to no end, at least you're asking to begin with!  You doubt because your spirit cannot relinquish hope, and because you cannot bear the thought of sinking into the darkness of atheistic confusion, or something similar to it.  Or, you cannot handle the hopeless state of not knowing who you are, where you came from, and where you're going in life.  No, you're a child of God who wants to believe but cannot always conjure up that "deeper reason" for believing.  But that is OK.  God didn't say in His word, "...having a perfect brightness of faith."  Nope.  He said, "...having a perfect brightness of hope."  If you can but use that brightness of hope to light your way, I know with all my heart that you'll have enough light to find your way.  And that's enough, for Him.

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