The Joy of Doubt
I used to be so sure. Everything was black and white, right or wrong, inside or outside. Life was clear, like a streakless sliding glass door. Then I woke up. Somewhere in the process of my ever-maturing faith the world got complicated. I started to doubt some things, then everything, but there is a joy in doubt.
I grew up in churches and denominations that only taught absolutes. To question the pastor or leader was akin to heresy. Rigid systems of behaviors molded my spiritual understandings that, to this day, plague me. As I grew older I began to realize that even those who taught these “truths” often did not follow every precept of their teaching. It was forbidden to dance, but you could smoke? Smoking doesn’t cause cancer? If the body was the temple of the Holy Spirit shouldn’t that have been forbidden as well. But, oh, I see, if tobacco farmers or their families are part of the congregation, and give money…
I remember when doubt started to creep in. I was fifteen, I really felt a strong call to ministry but I was in a Pentecostal church. My gifts were affirmed, the pastor had prayed over me and even said that God had laid it upon his heart that I would proclaim the gospel, but I had never spoken in tongues. I never experienced the effect of “glossolalia.” How could this be? I studied, prayed, went to church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening. I went to the altar almost every service, I felt God’s presence, but “it” never happened for me. Then I did the forbidden, I began asking questions. In the asking I found more questions, more ambiquity and less certainty, but I also found a God who allows questions.
Jesus said we could move mountains with faith the size of a mustard seed, which is actually as small as or smaller than a grain of sand. The good news about that statement is that isn’t a lot of faith and I really don’t want to move mountains, I just want to know Jesus.
Do I still doubt, YES. Now more than ever. But there is a joy in the doubt. One of my favorite professors, the late Dr. Thomas Langford once said, “God can handle your doubt because God believes in you.” Isn’t that great to realize? Especially if you are like me and have a hard time believing in yourself. The joy in doubt is also the realization that life is hard, complicated and often confusing. God knows that. My questions don’t bother God. Look at how many times Jesus didn’t answer the question, instead he simply asked a question. I will keep doubting, struggling and clinging to my last flicker of hope because I remain:
Lost in Grace,