Thursday, February 18, 2016

On Doubt

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word doubt as "a feeling of uncertainty."  Have you ever experienced a feeling of uncertainty about happenings involving you or those you love?  I have.  I will be the first to admit that I doubt things sometimes. 

I grew up as the daughter of a preacher.  I probably teethed on a red Freewill Baptist Hymnal...or the back of a wooden pew.  On those little Sunday School attendance sticker charts, I'm certain not a single shiny gold foil star was missing beside my name.  I knew all of the stories about the Bible by heart, and I gave my life to Christ at an early age.  Even through all of my life's struggles, my faith remained intact.  I feel that I am fairly knowledgeable regarding scripture, and I have a good relationship with God.  But, if I were to tell you that I am never plagued by doubt, I would be the boldest of liars.  I'm pretty certain that, deep down, we all have doubts, even if we don't express them.   There are times that I struggle with believing all of those little Christian clichés (you know...the ones you say to someone when they are hurting and you have no clue what else to say).

You may ask what causes me to doubt. 

Well, when bad things happen to amazing people, I doubt.
When kids leave this world way too young, and their loved ones are filled with unspeakable grief, I doubt.
When people who would be amazing parents cannot have children, I doubt.
When someone pours their heart and soul into a ministry and is rejected, I doubt.
When people turn their backs on us, I doubt.
When marriages and families fall apart, I doubt.
When our friends, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, mothers, fathers, cousins, lose the battle to addiction, I doubt.

When my husband and I lost our business and every penny we had within the first year of marriage, I doubted.
When we didn't have money to buy groceries, gas, or pay our utilities, I doubted.
When a three-year-old abandoned little girl came to live with us during our financial crisis, I doubted.
When we fell head over heels in love with her and then had to send her back to a questionable environment, I doubted.
When we finally got her back and had to go through years of custody battles, I doubted.
When I learned of all of the things her three-year-old innocent eyes had already seen, I doubted.

When we were told we might not be able to have children, I doubted.
When it took five years of waiting to become parents, I doubted.
When our son was born too early, I doubted.
When he ended up with pneumonia, in oxygen tents, and in and out of the hospital repeatedly, I doubted.
When he wouldn't grow, no matter what we did, I doubted.
When a doctor told us he was partially deaf, I doubted.
When his lung collapsed, and we weren't quite sure what was going to happen to him, I doubted.
When they took him in for surgery and we waited for an answer as to whether he had a tumor or a life-threatening disease, I doubted.

When I surprisingly became pregnant a short time after our son was born with a little baby girl, only to be diagnosed with an awful brain disease, I doubted.
When I was so sick because of the brain disease and the pregnancy, and then I developed a fainting disorder on top of that, I doubted.
When the doctor was listening for her heartbeat far along into my pregnancy and couldn't hear anything, then stopped and prayed then listened again----until I heard that precious sound of a beating heart, I doubted.
When I went into that baby girl's room one night and found her underneath a pillow and picked her up by her feet realizing she wasn't moving-----until she started breathing and crying, I doubted.

When I was told I could/should go permanently blind from that brain disease, I doubted.
When I had to give up a good job and be declared unable to work, I doubted.
When I was no longer allowed to drive myself or my kids anywhere, I doubted.
When I had brain surgery to help me to live a normal life, only to realize I would never again have a normal life, I doubted.
When I was in so much pain that I had to take painkillers only to quickly become addicted to them, I doubted.
When my shunt came dislodged from my brain and had to be replaced, I doubted.

When I relapsed time and time again, I doubted.
When I prayed and prayed for healing and was anointed countless times and my pain only got worse, I doubted.
When I laid in a dark room feeling forsaken by the world, I doubted.
When I sat in rehab and learned I would be starting a new life on my own, I doubted.

When I started having such unbearable pain in my spine that I didn't think I could handle life without narcotics, I doubted.
When I learned that my spine was crumbling apart, like that of a ninety-year old woman, I doubted.
When I had surgery and came home on no pain medications only to develop an allergic reaction so severe that it could have taken my life, I doubted.
When that surgery that had a 70% success rate of taking away my pain did not, in fact, take away my pain, I doubted.

Forget what you have heard about "Doubting Thomas".  I'm pretty sure I'm the real doubter here.  And, the thing is, I've always felt condemned for doubting.  Growing up in the church background that I did, I was always taught this it was wrong to question God.  Just the other night, I sat at a prayer vigil for the family of a little girl who was taken way too young, and a friend sitting beside me confessed to be in the same boat.  She grew up in the church just like I did.  Yet, she looked at me with tears streaming down her face and said, "I just don't know.  Something like this even makes me question my faith."  But....God made us human, and I honestly believe He knew that we would struggle with feelings of uncertainty and doubt. I don't claim to be a theologian, and I'm certain there are a fair number of them who would tear that statement apart, but that is just what I believe.  And, here's the real kicker...even Jesus felt forsaken on the cross.  In the darkest hour of his life, when he was facing the unthinkable, he cried out and said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  Does that sound a little bit like uncertainty to you?  It does to me.

But, through all of the doubting, one thing that never changed was God's love for me and His constant presence in my life.  Through all of the doubting, He never moved.  He endured my questions and begged me to come to Him with them.  To tell Him all about it.  To allow Him to comfort me.

Because, even though I sometimes question His plan, I never question His goodness.

There are simply things on this Earth that we will never be able to understand.  It is humanly impossible, and no matter how hard we try, we can't fathom how to make sense of it.

But, just remember this.
Even where there is doubt, there is a reason to believe.  The ground on which unspeakable grief stands today will one day shift, and something new will grow in its place...unspeakable joy.  While there are a million reasons to doubt, there is ONE reason to believe.  And that, my friends, is something we can ALWAYS be certain of.   Now, that......that will preach.

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