Without a Doubt?

Am I without a doubt? Not quite, yet. But, my doubts are not quite as strong as they were. 

It is really odd for me to pray and not be entirely sure that there’s someone on the other end of the line. I have been encouraged to hear from many folks who struggle with doubt. It seems to come with the territory of maturing in the faith.

Two things have been rattling around in my mind the last week.

First, I keep coming back to Jesus Christ. What set me off in church last week (Doubting Less)? It was singing hymns about Jesus, his death for me, his majesty, his beauty, his love.

It is very hard for me to buy into the unbeliever’s view (if the unbeliever even thinks about these things) that the Bible’s version of Jesus’ life and words is totally fabricated. It seems like history would have more evidence if this were the case. Instead, we hear of disciples and followers dying for their belief in Him.

And if the Bible accurately records Jesus’ words, then He was either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord.

And considering the amazing positive impact Jesus had on history: Lord is more like it. No matter how Christianity is slammed (and often with good reason), people have a hard time criticizing Jesus Himself.

So, one thing I keep thinking about is Jesus. I realize how little I know Him, how distant He is in some ways. And I sense a yearning (returning now, and deeper) to know Him more.

I’ve been having an email conversation with an athiest about these matters. He points up all the atrocities Christians have committed and the fact that when those kids called Elijah “you old bald head,” a bunch of bears came and ate them up (2 Kings 2:22-24). What kind of God does such things?

Well, I am realizing that if Jesus is the “image of the invisible God,” then His life is the lens through which we must see all of Scripture – and the lens through which we must see our faith (when, instead, we often judge it by the lives of other Christians).

We see Jesus as compassionate, yet challenging, kind, yet convicting, the sharer of our yokes, yet the revealer of our sins.  He told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23), and wept over Jerusalem (“Oh, Jerusalem, oh, Jerusalem… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings… Matthew 23:37).

If God (who we now see through Jesus) kills a bunch of kids because they taunted Elijah, it’s not a cartoon (which it has always seemed to me, like on Roadrunner where no one REALLY dies), but a horrific event. Because we know from the cross that Jesus is fully loving and fully just, one who would suffer for us, we know that God must have had a really good reason to kill those kids. We just don’t know the details. And, of course, we know because of Jesus’ resurrection, that death isn’t the end of the story for the kids, either.

Then there’s the way that a mention of His death touches me so deeply I tear up.

That’s the second thing I think about: those darned feelings and experiences. I’ve talked to my husband alot about how we Christians JUST KNOW this is true, how we KNOW He is God, died for us, and rose again. The experiences and feelings I referred to in my first post on doubting (Doubting at Last) must be something more.

They must be the touch of God.

Virtually anyone I have ever known who has a real relationship with Jesus knows what I am talking about: that sense of His presence, His conviction, His leading. Yes, it’s experienced as a feeling (and I am still uneasy about that: it seems so subjective and of course we all know folks who confuse their own impulses and desires with God’s leading).

But we KNOW it’s something more. Which, of course, is why I believe in God’s electing choice of believers. Something amazing comes from outside of us that compels us to believe. We are SURE that conviction, that feeling, is from God.

Well, despite my reticence to rely on these “feelings,” I keep coming back to the person of Jesus.

I emailed a friend of mine who has been through many, many trials. I asked if she had ever doubted during the difficulties. She said no, but she felt she sometimes lacked the intimacy, the comfort, that was available from Jesus. She told me a friend of hers “suggested I quit praying ‘God, I can’t find you, help me find you’ and start praying ‘God, please come and find me. I’m your lost sheep and it’s your job to come get me.’

I’ve started praying that. I hope He hears.

Ok. I know He hears.

Sort of.

Come, Lord Jesus, find your sheep and bring me closer than I have ever been. Amen. 

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4 thoughts on “Without a Doubt?

  1. E. B. makes a valid point about feelings and intellect. For example, we’re to love God with our hearts, minds & souls (Matthew 22:37).

    In those times where I was perplexed about a biblical subject, my relationship with Christ, or my attitude, I found that relying on God’s Word offered insight to the answers I sought. Sometimes it’s a quick revelation or understanding, sometimes not so quickly.

    Hebrews 11:1
    1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

    On a closing and side note for Tracie, I add this Biblical idea concerning reconciling actions by God that don’t seem to fit our definition of “loving”. In light of our limited understanding of these instances, we should remember and measure with God’s ruler (if at all possible) that He does chastise His children to produce righteousness in them (Hebrews 12:1-12).

    Grace and peace be with you all.

  2. I don’t think God ever intended for us to be ruled solely by our intellect or solely by our feelings. I think he intended that they be used together, in balance, to help keep us moving toward him.

    After all, we are created in his image, and he is clearly a God both of the mind and of emotion.

    So just because you (or anyone else) is relying more on “feelings” at the moment, that doesn’t mean your faith is somehow less important or valued. Sometimes living in a broken world means that all we can do is “feel” our way to God. Just as sometimes it means that we have to rely on our knowledge of who he is to believe.

  3. Great thoughts in this post –very well expressed. I totally relate to and understand everything you’re saying here.

    I notice the same thing is at the root of your experiences as I’ve had in my own — that basically, it comes down to a deep longing for Jesus. We’re no longer satisfied with just the “things of God” or “a form of godliness” or “knowing the answers to theological questions” or whatever. It’s the real, living person of Jesus we long for. When you find Him (or He finds you), you have acquired the most precious thing of all, and can face any circumstance — no matter how bad or how hard it is. Without Him, it doesn’t matter how great life is going or how well circumstances turn out — it just seems empty.

    Like you, I’m uneasy telling people that it’s just a “feeling” or “knowing” that what we believe in is real and true. But I think that’s because we lack adequate words to really describe what faith is. People who don’t have it assume that we are “trusting blindly” in something we’ve been told. Or are working up emotions within ourselves based on some fantasy or whatever. And we’re not. It’s sort of frustrating to try and convince someone of this. I think this is where the trust in God to reveal Himself and convict others comes in. Nothing I can say, no argument or reasoning I can offer, is ultimately compelling to someone who just doesn’t “get it”.

    I should admit that I’m sort of puzzled, and more than a little scared, by the notion of somebody being a true, full-blown, honest-to-God atheist. If I were one, and I mean was really, really convinced beyond all doubt that we’re random biological mutations clinging to a rock amidst a chaos-storm in a universe without intelligence, I honestly would see no use whatsoever for morality or decency or mercy or compassion or anything even remotely resembling those things. I know atheists would argue that the idea is supposed to be that we have an innate sense of community and mutual respect as a function of species propagation, but man. I think I’d cut every corner and cheat on every little thing I could, and look out for the well-being only of myself and a few select others, and heartlessly exterminate anyone who was a hindrance or drag to my idea of how things should be. I’m not saying that to be mean or controversial or anything (and definitely not hoping to attract an argument with any atheists who happen upon the comments here). If anything, I guess I’m saying that I’m sort of impressed that people who really are atheists don’t generally seem to conduct themselves in that manner. They seem civil and decent and thoughtful and intelligent, and do behave with a sort of “innate morality”. Of course, my explanation for this is Common Grace, but that’s a whole other discussion. 🙂

    Anyway, sorry to ramble in your comments. I’ve enjoyed your recent posts and have been reading with great interest and praying for you, but haven’t been on my computer much or had a chance to comment in the last week, so I have a lot of pent-up yammering to get out. Thanks!

  4. Regarding the God-sends-bears-to-eat-kids thing.

    This is one of the conclusions I’ve been reaching lately. It makes me squirm, but I think I’m growing more comfortable with being uncomfortable around God. So here it is:

    God isn’t the warm fuzzy snuggle-bunny so many Christians says He is.

    I mean, I used to purposely put things away from my mind … like the time the guy died because he tried to catch the Ark before it fell. Or the time God sent an evil spirit to haunt Saul. Or the time the guy said he loved God so much he’d sacrifice the first to come out the door, and it was his beloved daughter.

    Et cetera.

    These stories are tough to reconcile with a God who is presented to us as loving, who doesn’t know evil. Because we have our own ideas of what love looks like, and that ain’t it! These stories are unexplainable. They can leave us gaping like fish if we feel compelled to “answer for God.”

    I used to ignore those stories. I used to be afraid of them, not just if anyone else asked me, but if I asked myself. But I’m getting away from that, because there are some things I don’t understand and cannot reconcile, but they don’t blot out the other things. The good, amazing, loving things.

    Like the time God said he was tired of the Israelites, but after they’d been crying out for a time, he relented because he couldn’t bear for them to suffer anymore. And the time the leper said, “You can heal me if you want to,” and Jesus said, “I want to.” And the time Moses was whining that he couldn’t go to pharaoh, and God finally relented and said he could take his big brother. (Maybe those stories don’t sound loving to anyone else, but they do to me. And there are tons more.)

    He is loving.

    He’s also done things we often construe as unloving.

    But He’s God. I mean, why do I feel like I have to justify Him? Why can’t I just be uncomfortable with that aspect of Him and let that be that? There are things He’s done that I can’t reconcile, and frankly I don’t like. But am I going to let those things outweigh the great and beautiful truth of the gospel, and of His obvious great love for us? I can’t!

    Sorry to take up so much room here Lorraine.

    Longing: No problem, Trey. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I am with you totally. The one thing that I’ve been pondering this last week is that if we look at these events through the lens of Jesus, we realize that we must interpret them in line with who He is. Jesus is a humble, suffering, servant – who also called a spade a spade. He never does anything unjust. And so, when we look at the OT stuff, we realize that nothing happens that would contradict what we see in Jesus, who was/is the ULTIMATE revelation of God.

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