Hey, Christians. Let’s talk about doubts

Lately I’ve been wanting to dig into doubts a bit more. Not due to some strange call to self-flagellation, but because I wonder if the term is used so broadly amongst Christians we actually don’t stop to think about doubt in all its nuances.

As my ‘on a scale of one to ten, I’m going to heaven‘ post hopefully demonstrated, I have little problem with being saved. I know I can’t ever do enough or be enough, but that doesn’t matter because of the pure certainty that ripped through me when I grasped Jesus’ gift to me.

giphy

Once I got passed the, ‘why in God’s name would you do something like that?’ confrontation of being utterly loved, the acceptance of grace was fairly easy. On my worst day I never doubt that, come my last day, Jesus will be there (probably shaking his head and smiling wryly with affection) pulling me in close.

I will likely be snot-monstering my awe, hiccuping, and – as the song goes – on my knees or (more honestly) dancing like a loon. I imagine it a little like the wildest reunion: “Oh my gosh I’m here and there’s Mum and Jo and Percy and, wow, look there’s Dorothy’s husband and, yes, he’s a handsome so-and-so in his resurrection body, just as she told me she imagined after his funeral.”

I have a dear girlfriend and when we catch up – not frequently enough – it typically involves big hugs, then pulling back to hold each other at arm’s length to check each other out, whilst jigging on the balls of our toes, then back in for more enormous hugs, all to a sound track of exclamations. “Darlz!” she half yells, half screams, “let’s grab a champagne.” I imagine my heavenly reunions in a similar fashion.

(BTW, I’m really praying the SAP won’t be in heaven until after God calls me home. That’s because I have a codicil in my will about dog collars and robes being worn by the pastor I’d like to officiate my funeral. I’m only sad I won’t be there to see it.)

So what are doubts, then? If I’m assured of being saved by the Jesus fella, then what are the wobbly periods about? I know mine to be different to Big T’s. Blame it on his Roman Catholic hangover as – unlike me – his doubts often take form as ‘the works burger’. What if I’m not ‘good’ enough? If my works aren’t super-sized sufficiently to get me in?

Some days I do a Thomas. My journalist brain kicks in and – despite all the investigation I undertook – I have this strange shimmer of, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but if I could actually put my finger into those nail prints… Yet it is just that, a shimmer. As I can’t discount what has happened – for real – since getting to grips with the J-man.

When my doubts are in the here and now, they are mostly around not ‘feeling‘ God and Jesus as intensely as I’m used to. It’s never about my end of days.

Some days in the now you just need solid. When my daughter has a rough day in the schoolyard and I remind her to pray for strength and help – as well as doing the actual work of engaging with others around her – and she rolls her eyes and says, “But, Mum, Jesus isn’t there to play handball with me when I’m lonely!”

There are days when I want Jesus to turn up next to me and play handball. I want to grab his hand and feel the physical. Not to check for nail holes (well, maybe I’d take a peek) but because I am human. Sight, smell, touch and warmth; oh my gosh, they mean something on our dark, down, doubting days, don’t they?

His bread and water might fill us up. But so too do our friends when they nod in the right place and lean over and hug us. Make us laugh. The real and solid. From a full human contact hug to the lightest rub of an understanding hand across your back. Every now and again my doubts seek the equivalent from GJ & the HS to squash the air out of them.

“Can’t You sneak Jesus down on a sort of day release from heaven, God?” I whisper. “For a hug?”

Some readers may respond that time in the Bible ought to be enough. Praying and talking it through with Christian brothers and sisters. But sometimes it’s a massive, tight, ‘channelling a boa constrictor’ hug that’s required. Jesus seeping through my skin, across my nerve endings, into my marrow and I want it – need it – to be just as real as Big T wrapping his arms about me.

I may just start a trend at my next bible study, or set up a ‘free hug’ sign at the doorway to church next Sunday.

So what are your doubts? Are they of the works burger variety? Do you do a Thomas, like me? Maybe your doubts are around creation, cosmology, miracles, suffering, evil, even God’s patience. Doubts, I think, take form in the stuff that gets in the way between myself and Jesus. The distance I allow in. It’s never God or Jesus that move, after all. But dismissing it as a catch-all collective of ‘doubt’ is an easy excuse. Hence my wanting to dig deeper into what doubts really are.

Will you join me on this excavation? I’d really appreciate your willingness to share your doubts in the comments below. At the very least it may spark some new blog posts and great conversation. At the very best it may shine a light on doubts and extinguish them in the viewing.

Blessings.

P.S: Atheist doubters are welcome to add their comments. Please be respectful and kind. Any, ‘you crutch-needing, weak minded weirdoes who believe in the spaghetti monster’ comments will be deleted. That isn’t contributing to a conversation. It’s simply trying to yell loudly. Same applies to any blustering Christians who see doubt as a weakness of faith, being possessed by the horned mother-trucker and turn up with the written equivalent of bible-thumping and exorcism.

Play nicely.

 

16 thoughts on “Hey, Christians. Let’s talk about doubts

  • Ah Phil, doubt is an integrel part of a faith walk. Did you read Philip Yancey’s “Reaching for the Invisible God”? I liken it to learning to swim.
    When you first start you are in the shallow end and Dad holds on to you. Then you have little attempts on your on with him close by. As time goes on he moves back further and allows you to swallow water and practice what he told you. But he is still within reach. Eventually he can sit up on the bench and watch you get stronger and stronger as he urges you on and claps his hands in joy at how far you’ve come. The easy thing would be to stay in the water close by. However that’s not what is best for you. X

    • Yes, great analogy. But doubt takes different forms for all, so I’m attempting to unearth what shapes doubt comes in. Too many readers write saying, “me too, thought I was the only one!” on too may topics so I wondered if we could do some solo doubting busting…

  • Love language of physical touch maybe wrapped up in those hugs. I can assist at your free hugs stand! Oh wait I often do that just without the sign. Will give you one next time I see you though for the insightful ness of this blog my super cool friend!

    • Jen, you and Paulette Wedmore have the best hugs. You both don’t let go until I feel well and truly hugged!

  • Like you, I never doubt the end point. My doubts are in the form of fleeting thoughts when I am talking to my kids, or explaining God stuff to other small kids. The thoughts go something like “Man, this is too good to be true. It has the ring of a fairytale!” Then I remember that I am speaking in an age appropriate way and that there is plenty of time for these kids to grow and experience the reality of the sufficiency of Jesus for every situation. But still….it is too good to be true! You know?

  • Having doubt is such a normal thing in life. I sometimes have doubt in ability to do my everyday job, but where does this doubt come about? Is this doubt in ourselves and being a Christian stem from the fact that we are unsure of what we done or is that because we forgot to look back in the past. Does doubt revealed itself as the result of unanswered prayer? For me anyway when I feel doubt I try to think back to past events that God has fulfilled. I have been a Christian since 1990, so have lots of things to be thankful for. Opening your eyes and seeing the people around us being transformed by Christ helps us too. That’s why Christian fellowship and encouragement is so important. Yes everyone has some form of doubt, but it’s the faith and trust in the hope of Christ that gets us through all things.

  • Doubts. The doubts of low self esteem. I won’t be able to do it, won’t be able to make it. Ultimately convincing yourself you can’t. Better to never even start. Have an existential crisis.

    And so it follows, assurance of faith. I’ve never found much assurance in the Sydney anglican calvinist philosophy of “christans don’t fall away, therefore don’t be one of those that fall away.” Paul commonly speaks of believers who couldn’t make that work. Inspires heaps of confidence.

    • And the definition of God’s irony. Had 1 John 2:12-14 open while writing that. Posted and flicked across to read.

      • Hmm. Yes and no perhaps? Maybe I’m trying to acquit myself. Naval gazing to a point. Kinda funny picture you painted, ‘I’m rubbish at dying, sorry can’t do it’. A bit different I think.

        In my mind, a 5 point calvinist who believes in God’s selection can never have assurance as there is nothing that person can do to ultimately contribute towards their salvation, because God has the final say on selection – and evidence suggests people that once were considered to be believers by the standards of other people (and I’m sure, themselves) are no longer.

        Same goes for people who think they had a free will response to grace. A free will choice to follow can not without a free will choice to leave.

        An excessively self-negative person will spend more time dwelling on the those aspects than the wonder and freedom of grace. So yes, you’re crudely succinct summation is probably spot on, which is amusing because crude succinct statements are usually my role (just ask your SAP).

    • So do you think the existential crisis kicks in because, for want of a better phrase, we end up naval gazing and put too much self-importance on our doubts? Too much self analysis, rather than keeping it simple and referencing Jesus? I am now imagining Jesus in the Garden saying, “I have low self esteem, I can’t do it, so I’d better not start..” Or earlier at his baptism, “No, you ought not be proud of me, take that HS like a dove off me…”

      • Hmm. Yes and no perhaps? Maybe I’m trying to acquit myself. Naval gazing to a point. Kinda funny picture you painted, ‘I’m rubbish at dying, sorry can’t do it’. A bit different I think.

        In my mind, a 5 point calvinist who believes in God’s selection can never have assurance as there is nothing that person can do to ultimately contribute towards their salvation, because God has the final say on selection – and evidence suggests people that once were considered to be believers by the standards of other people (and I’m sure, themselves) are no longer.

        Same goes for people who think they had a free will response to grace. A free will choice to follow can not without a free will choice to leave.

        An excessively self-negative person will spend more time dwelling on the those aspects than the wonder and freedom of grace. So yes, you’re crudely succinct summation is probably spot on, which is amusing because crude succinct statements are usually my role (just ask your SAP).

      • Adam, I enjoy your brain, thank you.

        I wasn’t thinking so much of J saying, “I’m rubbish at dying” but more his overwhelming doubt at dealing with pain, abandonment, loss, mockery, betrayal – all the same emotions that we deal with today… yet we have a solid precedent to take heart… which ought to be the handbrake on our worst excesses, our self-nag-ativity (yes, nag, I suspect that’s what happens in the mind’s hamster wheel too often).

        To draw on my time playing with crystals, new age, etc…’where attention goes, energy flows’ I figure part of my role in this is to lift up my mind up from the negative hamster wheel and count blessings not trials. Whilst also blessing my trails, because out of those grow faith 😉

        Part of the irony of free will, is the ‘stay or go’ – are we brave enough to stay for the eternal reward? Drawing on HS action, then – to give me strength to overcome my hamster wheel of doubts because I’m really too weak and feeble (or to go with the Calvinism, I’m too totally depraved) to do that alone…

        Now, I am speed reading some 5 point Calvanism (thanks, always like extra food to chew & ponder) but this article reminds me of how Chan wrote Crazy Love. http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-we-believe-about-the-five-points-of-calvinism

        Thanks again for the comments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s