Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Tension Between Doubt and Faith, Part I

It seems to me that the Western Church isn't comfortable with doubt.  When doubts - or even crises - of faith arise, fellow Christians try to fix, admonish or offer magic formulas to drive the doubts away.  "You just aren't trusting God enough," says one, while another says, "If you just claim the promises of God's Word, tithe, pray three times a day and end your prayers with this specific phrase (while patting your belly with one hand, rubbing your head with the other, anointing everything with oil, casting demons from behind every stone, and eating one tablespoon of flaxseed every morning...) then you would release God's blessings."  Some even go so far as to say, "It's because you have unconfessed sin in your life."

The fact is, as humans we do doubt.  When God seems silent or absent, we can't help but wonder.  We grieve.  We can't make sense of why things are happening the way that they are.  The Bible doesn't offer easy answers, either.  It is full of promises of God's provision for those who have faith and believe against all odds, yet it is also filled with stories of men and women who followed God in obedience and suffered terribly.  It is full of mighty victories as well as people who died not having received their promised inheritance. 

Even worse, we Westerners have let consumerism creep into our Christianity.  We "pay" God with our acts of obedience and faith, and then expect God to "provide" our material needs.  I'm not sure that's a biblically accurate faith, however.

What if God never met your needs?  What if He didn't answer your prayers in the way that you thought He should?  In other words, what if there's nothing in it for you?  Is God still God?  Is He still worthy of honour?  If your faith is only about how it benefits you, then God is not at the centre of your world; you are.  God exists to serve you and not the other way around.  Yet to have a faith with no element of selfishness - no ulterior motives - is difficult at best.

The tension that exists between doubt and faith is troublesome to handle.  There are no easy answers, no platitudes, no soft berths.  To castigate those who have doubts is to deny the example of Jesus, who was kind and compassionate with those who struggled.  In fact, the only people that Jesus castigated were the religious experts - the ones with all the answers.


Elisabeth said...

Yes, yes, YES!!!

Nan said...

So good. So painfully true and good.

wakeupcowboys said...

I remember praying, with what I felt was "believing faith" that Marty's wife, Bobbie, would be healed of cancer. I was sure He would do just that. Two weeks later she died. I struggled with doubt and with the fact that God didn't answer my prayer. How could I ever have known that I'd end up being Marty's second wife? It was, and still is, all about God and what He's doing. Unfortunately, I still doubt.