The Opposite of Faith Isn't Doubt

The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty.

Anne Lamott

Somewhere in the pursuit of truth and light, the Protestant reformation embraced at least one of the very practices it sought to discard.

I absolutely believe that by the time Martin Luther tacked his theses to the door the church needed reforming.

Men’s traditions and human “wisdom” had adulterated the pure truth and freedom of Christ’s Good News. No longer a source of liberation, it had been transformed by those in power into a form of bondage.

But humans are a stubborn and prideful lot and it wasn’t long before the liberators became slave drivers.

“Sola Scriptura” didn’t allow for any deviation from the accepted interpretation of those Scriptures. And the interpretation often went past the text and included making absolute assertions about how God works in the world.

Men began to once again place God in a box.

My intentions are not always yours,

        and I do not go about things as you do.

    My thoughts and My ways are above and beyond you,

        just as heaven is far from your reach here on earth.

Isaiah 55:8-9 VOICE

So much of the “faith” handed down today through Sunday School lessons and sermons is one that simply doesn’t leave room for mystery or for doubt or, honestly, for many of the actual Bible stories if you read them straight from the Book and not get them second hand from a loose retelling .

Jesus Himself-the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3)-didn’t greet skeptics with absolute proof. He pointed to the work He was doing, the truth He was telling and the miracles He performed but He left it to the audience to decide if that qualified Him as the Christ.

Yet we treat those who bring questions to the table of grace at best as immature and at worst as apostates or faithless wannabes.

How far we have fallen from Paul’s declaration: “We walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Worse, we often condemn those who want desperately to come trembling to their church to seek other people and spaces outside the community of faith where their questions will be tolerated.

I love how Philip Yancey spoke of this in a recent blog titled, “A Time To Doubt”:

Jesus had the opportunity to subdue doubts for all time. He could have appeared with a choir of angels on Pilate’s porch the Monday after his resurrection and triumphantly declared, “I’m back!” Or, he could have staged a spectacular display before thousands in the Roman Forum. Instead, he limited his appearances to small groups of people who had already demonstrated some faith in him—which tells me something about the kind of uncoerced faith that God values.

In one of those small gatherings, the apostle who would earn the nickname “doubting Thomas” confronted Jesus. I love that scene, for two reasons. First, it shows the gentle way Jesus treated a doubter, when he had a perfect chance to scold him or pile on the guilt. Listen to Jesus’ approach: “What proof do you need, Thomas? Want to touch my wounds? Shall I eat something for you?”

Second, I note the poignant fact that the other disciples, who had already encountered the risen Jesus, included Thomas in their midst. To them, Thomas was a heretic: he defiantly refused to believe in the Resurrection, the cornerstone of Christian faith. Even so, they welcomed him to join them behind closed doors. Had they not, Thomas may never have met the resurrected Jesus.

Perhaps that gives a model for how the church should handle doubters now. Can we provide a safe, welcoming place for those who need more light?

Philip Yancey, “A Time to Doubt”
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I know so, so many people who suffer greatly-often through no fault of their own and sometimes due to the fault and sin of others-who struggle to square their experience with all the declarations they’ve heard about “how God works”.

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I know others who have crossed every “t” and dotted every “i” on the long list of “what good Christians do and God rewards” and are living a life of desperation and sadness because life hasn’t turned out anything like what they thought they were promised.

Is it any wonder they are trying to figure things out?

Doubt is not denial.

If someone is asking questions, they are still seeking.

John Drummond points out that Jesus consistently made a distinction between doubt and unbelief. “Doubt is can’t believe; unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with darkness.” (quoted by Philip Yancey, A Time to Doubt)

Jesus invited honest questions.

He only chastised the religious leaders who thought they knew it all.

Perhaps we could do the same and make space for those who are walking through a desert place to refresh themselves, renew their hope and restore their faith.

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**If anyone is honestly searching, they are welcome to use the “contact” option to send me an email and begin a dialogue. ❤**

My Faithful God

As a little girl, temptation looked like cheating on a spelling test or sneaking a cookie from a tray that was supposed to be for after supper.

As a young adult temptation looked like going places and doing things I knew weren’t wholesome or savory.

As a middle-aged wife and mother of four temptation looks like blaming God and forsaking my faith because one of my children is dead.

But God is faithful.

At every step of my life, when tempted to do what I knew in my heart was wrong, He has provided a way out even when I refused to take it.

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Gord is (에aa He WILL NOT ALLOW THE TEMPTATION TO BE MORE THAN YOU CAN STAND. WHEN YOU ARE TEMPTED, He WILL SHOW YOU A WAY OUT so THAT YOU CAN ENDURE / Crmatnne 10:13'

Little children are often constrained by the thought that their parents might find out and punish them. Teens and young adults might be afraid they will get a ticket or get kicked out of school or end up needing bail. By the time you get as old as I am, you’ve figured out that there are lots of things you can get away with and no one but you will know.

God knows.

And He cares.

When the enemy of my soul whispers, “What good is serving a God who didn’t save your son?” the Holy Spirit answers, “Eternal good, even in temporary pain”.

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When doubts creep up and flood my mind, truth steps in and pushes them back.

When I feel the pain of loss in every cell of my body, overwhelmed by the weight of it, undone by the thought of years and years to carry it, my Shepherd King reminds me that He bore it all-the sin, the pain, the shame and the awful separation from the Father-so that I could stand.

Am I tempted?

Yes.

Often.

Am I doomed to give into that temptation and turn away from the only Source of strength and hope I have?

No.

Absolutely not.

I can reach out (it’s really just a short distance because He’s never far), grab hold (He’s already holding on to me) and lean in to my Father’s arms as He carries me past the doubts, the fears, the worry and brings me Home.

This Is What It Means To Be Held

Music has been an important part of my healing.

Not always, or even often, because it makes me feel better.

Rather, like poetry, music distills deep emotions into few words that resonate in my soul.

This isn’t a new song and I have heard it many times. But just the other day someone posted it in a group where we were praying desperately for a baby with profound health issues. Barring a touch from the Father’s hand, there was little hope.

The precious little warrior went home to rest, healed and whole, in the arms of Jesus.

So I listened again. And I realized how unbearably true the lyrics are.

Two months is too little

They let him go

They had no sudden healing

To think that providence would

Take a child from his mother while she prays

Is appalling

Who told us we’d be rescued?

What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?

We’re asking why this happens

To us who have died to live?

It’s unfair

Natalie Grant, This is What it Means to be Held

Appalling, unfair, why did this happen?

Oh, how those questions still rattle around in my heart and mind on some days. When Dominic first left for Heaven they were my constant companion.

“Who told us we’d be rescued?”

Who indeed.

Certainly not Jesus.

He said we’d have trouble in this world. He never sugar coated how hard life could be.

But He left us with the promise that He would be with us no matter what. We would never be alone in the flood or the fire or the deep, deep pit of child loss.

This is what it means to be held

How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life

And you survive

This is what it is to be loved

And to know that the promise was

When everything fell we’d be held

Natalie Grant

Child loss shattered everything-my heart, my world and my understanding of how God works in it. The sacred was most certainly “torn from my life”.

My struggle with the God I thought I knew was as painful as the devastation of burying my son.

This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it, let the hatred numb our sorrow
The wise hands opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow

Natalie Grant

It’s so tempting to swallow bitterness when unending despair seems like the only alternative.

But it doesn’t numb the sorrow. Bitterness turns a heart so hard it can’t feel anything-not even love.

The wise hand does open slowly-oh, so slowly-to the beauty and promise of tomorrow.

This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held

Natalie Grant

When we received the news that Dominic left us that early, still-dark morning, I looked over to a sculpture of upturned hands on my living room table and said, “I can’t open my hands to receive blessings if I don’t also leave them open for the bruisings.”

It’s true.

God is holding me still. He is blessing me still.

I will, undoubtedly, be bruised again in some way.

I know His faithful love will see me through.

Repost: When You Just Don’t Feel Thankful

It’s all well and good when things are going just dandy to post a daily, “I’m thankful for [whatever]”.

It’s another thing entirely when the bottom has fallen out or your world is turned upside down or your heart is shattered and you can’t find even the tiniest spark of gratitude in your dark world.

Yet the Bible clearly states I am to “give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/11/12/when-you-just-dont-feel-thankful/

Repost: When You Feel Like You Can’t Breathe-Setting Living Children Free

I wrote this last year just before my son deployed for a lengthy overseas assignment.

So much has happened in the months since then including the birth of HIS son, way too early but mercifully safe and sound.

This tiny fella is now a round little six-month-old.

I returned yesterday from another quick visit with his now-larger family at my parents’ home halfway between my little farm and my son’s house.

I had forgotten all about my musings from a year ago but they are still the cry of my heart:

A couple weeks ago I walked away from my son’s house, after kissing him goodbye and prayed under my breath that it won’t be the last time I see his bright eyes and lively smile.

Because when you’ve mistakenly waved a cheery “see you later” to your child, ignorant that it’s the LAST time, your heart never takes these moments for granted again.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/09/19/when-you-feel-like-you-cant-breathe-setting-living-children-free/

Scripture Journal Challenge: Closing Argument

I was a debater and raised my kids as debaters.

There’s unique beauty in crafting an argument so it crescendos to an irrefutable conclusion.

For the the master orator, nothing is more satisfying than watching her audience lean in and anticipate the glorious finale.

Paul has been leading us to these verses since he began laying the foundation in chapter one of Romans.

So what should we say about all of this? If God is on our side, then tell me: whom should we fear? 32 If He did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over on our account, then don’t you think that He will graciously give us all things with Him? 33 Can anyone be so bold as to level a charge against God’s chosen? Especially since God’s “not guilty”verdict is already declared. 34 Who has the authority to condemn? Jesus the Anointed who died, but more importantly, conquered death when He was raised to sit at the right hand of God where He pleads on our behalf. 35 So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing.

Romans 8: 31-35 VOICE

In today’s vernacular (Melanie’s paraphrase):

“So here’s the deal, guys. What else is there to say? If God has provided for our salvation through His own Son-bought and paid for us-who else can make a claim? And if He was willing to pay that high a price for us, what is He going to withhold from us? No one can overrule God. No one can deny the evidence that the sin debt has been paid. The only thing that could separate us from God’s love is sin and that’s been handled. So, yeah, life can be really hard. We might even have to face death before we come into our full inheritance. But we don’t have to worry. It’s handled. It’s settled. It’s done.”

Paul’s closing argument is simple.

Remember, this is no contest of equals. There is no yin/yang dual universe where darkness has power enough to overcome the light. God has the devil on a chain. Sin mars creation and wreaks havoc but even all that awful is being woven together into a tapestry of beauty and usefulness that one day will display the glory of God and His love for us.

God is for us. REALLY for us.

So who can be against us? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.)

No one.

QUESTIONS:

  • What does it mean to you that “God is on your side”?
  • Are you ever afraid? Why or why not?
  • What do you do with that fear?
  • Consider writing these (and any other verses we’ve looked at) in your own words. When we make them personal, they are easier to remember.
  • Do you agree that Paul has made an iron-clad case for the supreme authority of God? Why or why not?
  • What makes it hard for you to believe that nothing separates us from the love of God? Can you bring that to the Throne of Grace and lay it down?

PRAYER:

Father God,

Too often I think the world is like a giant tug-of-war and I can only hope and pray You win. It’s hard to remember that You are still in control when so many things seem out of control.

Help my heart rest on the rock of Your sovereignty and goodness. Open my spiritual eyes to see how You are working all these things-the good, the bad and the heartbreaking-into Your plan of redemption and restoration. Give me strength to believe when my own is fading. Make Your Word my guide. Thwart the schemes of the enemy to tear down my faith and breach my wall of hope.

Thank You for grace, mercy, love and courage.

Amen

Scripture Journal Challenge: Keep Me Near

I have definitely felt besieged in this grief journey.

I imagined myself holed up in a castle turret, hoping against hope that heartache would stop battering the gates below.

For a long while I was afraid.

I was fearful that if the onslaught didn’t stop my heart would give in to despair, I’d let go of hope, I’d lay down and give up.

I don’t believe for one minute that David was never scared.

Instead, I believe that the words he used when his brothers mocked his step forward to take on Goliath were words God burned in his soul:

The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.

I Samuel 17:37 NIV

David was courageous IN SPITE of the fear because he knew the God he served. He had prior experience with God’s faithfulness. He was confident that the Lord would not allow him to fail.

So we come to today’s verses. They were penned a good while after Goliath, after being anointed king but before he gained the throne.

He was running for his life, fighting enemies on every side.

David had to remind himself of truth, just like me. He needed to sing aloud so his heart could be brave.

When the armies of the enemy surround me,
    I will not be afraid.
When death calls for me in the midst of war,
    my soul is confident and unmoved.
I am pleading with the Eternal for this one thing,
    my soul’s desire:
To live with Him all of my days—
    in the shadow of His temple,
To behold His beauty and ponder His ways
    in the company of His people.
His house is my shelter and secret retreat.
    It is there I find peace in the midst of storm and turmoil.
Safety sits with me in the hiding place of God.
    He will set me on a rock, high above the fray.
God lifts me high above those with thoughts
    of death and deceit that call for my life.
I will enter His presence, offering sacrifices and praise.
    In His house, I am overcome with joy
As I sing, yes, and play music for the Eternal alone.

Psalm 27:3-6 VOICE

His soul was confident and unmoved in the midst of danger because he threw himself on the mercy of the Lord.

His plea was not, “Keep me safe” it was “Keep me near”.

Jesus told the disciples not to fear the one who could kill the body but fear the One who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. (Matthew 1:28)

David got it.

He knew that no matter what happened-if he lived or died-his true shelter and his true life was in the Lord.

He was focused on Who walked with him not what might happen to him.

Truth is, we don’t always experience miraculous deliverance from life’s troubles or dangers. People we love die. People we care about are cast down, carried through hard times and come out the other side battered, bruised and barely holding on.

If I can only praise a God who spares me, I have no songs to sing.

But if I can praise the God who loves me, who offers eternal security through the blood of Christ, the God who will weave ALL the threads of my life-the dark, the light, the ugly and the beautiful-into a masterpiece declaring His glory for all eternity, then I have a song as long as I have breath.

And when breath leaves this body and I am free of my earthly tent, I’ll sing a new song for ever and ever and ever.

This was David’s God.

This was the God of Moses, Isaac, Jacob. Peter and Paul.

This is MY God.

And He longs to be yours too. ❤

QUESTIONS:

  • Who do you turn to when you are afraid?
  • When have you felt God’s assurance in the midst of a fearful situation?
  • My family was very involved in worship music ministry for years. Dominic was a talented drummer, among other things. In the first days after his death, music ministered to my soul. But after the funeral I felt the music die within my heart. Have you ever felt like you didn’t have a song to sing anymore? Did God meet you there and help you find your song? Are you willing to ask Him to give you a new song, even on this broken road?
  • Eternal hope does not keep us from feeling pain in the here and now. But it can help a heart hold on. What words from this Psalm stand out to you? Are you able to praise God even as you feel pain?
  • Can you ask for God to keep you near even if He doesn’t keep you (or your loved ones) safe?
  • Praise can be as simple as repeating truth aloud or writing it in your journal. If you can’t sing, consider speaking aloud the names of God, His eternal attributes or verses that describe them. Your heart is listening. Give it courage.

PRAYER:

Father God,

So many times I come to You with a list of petitions-do this, do that, solve this, fix that, keep me and mine safe, secure and happy. I’m seeking Your hand and not Your face. And when things don’t turn out the way I want them to I feel betrayed.

What you want is for me to trust Your heart even when I can’t trace Your hand. You have promised never to leave me nor forsake me. Help me, like David to ask you to keep me near, not just to keep me safe.

Your name is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are saved-not saved from earthly destruction or trouble but from eternal damnation.

When I lose my song, give me a new one. When I forget that You are with me, make Your Presence undeniably real. When I lose hope, speak courage to my heart. And when I doubt that I can make it one more minute, much less one more day, strengthen me with Your might.

Amen