The other day as I was driving, I happened to be listening to a Christian radio station. I have a hard time not nitpicking Christian music as it is, and this lyric jumped out at me:
I don’t wanna ever doubt You
It’s a noble goal in theory, but in the face of real life, real problems, real heartache, it immediately struck me as unrealistic.
No matter how well we strive to follow Jesus, there will always be moments of doubt–maybe not doubting his existence, though that’s certainly a possibility–but doubting his plan, doubting his goodness, doubting how things play out in our lives and in the lives of those around us. I don’t think we’ll ever fully escape those kinds of doubts.
And, I’d argue, that’s not a bad thing. There are times when we learn more through doubting than we would in any other way.
Wrestling with doubt can be holy.
It can also be treacherous, which is why it gets portrayed as the Bad Guy. If doubt causes us to only seek out people and places that tell us our doubts are all valid and everything we’ve believed is a lie, it’s problematic. That kind of doubt is only enforcing what we may already want to hear. Perhaps even more dangerous is the kind of doubt that does nothing at all. Instead of doing the slow, hard work of confronting doubt and examining it from every angle, ignoring it moves us nowhere. It’s a grand stalemate, a lazy kind of doubt that’s afraid of finding any sort of answer, because those answers may be uncomfortable.
But doubt can also spur us to action. It can force us to reexamine, rethink, and possibly even renew what be believe. There is value in exploring how other people have dealt with similar doubts, no matter what conclusion they reached–there is good to be learned in seeing their process, in seeing echoes of ourselves reflected in other people’s stories. It doesn’t mean that our process or destination will end up looking the same, but there can be comfort in the commonalities.
This may not be a popular opinion in Christianity. There are no guarantees when we set out on a journey to examine our doubt, because doubt is messy and complicated and painful. But saying it’s always bad only makes us afraid of something any Christ-follower will encounter at points along the path. Presenting doubt as the objective Bad Guy makes people hesitant to talk about it, and can leave people feeling as though they are the only ones who have ever struggled with it. When doubt is presented as a likely part of the faith journey instead of an aberration, we create space to talk about it honestly in community, instead of struggling through alone. Talking about it doesn’t mean we, or our faith, will come out unscathed–there is far too much mystery in God and faith and grace for me to understand how two people’s seemingly similar paths can have such dramatically different outcomes–but it may mean we won’t come out alone.
Til next time…
p.s. Have you encountered good in doubt?