Thursday, July 22, 2010

Journey of Faith Friday: Doubt

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Doubt

Here are some interesting quotes I found in regards to doubt:

"There are two ways to slide easily through; to believe everything or to doubt everything.  Both ways save us from thinking." -Alfred Korzybski

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -Bertrand Russell

"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things." -Rene Descartes

"I show you doubt, to prove that faith exists" -Robert Browning

"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd." -Voltaire

"I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education." -Wilson Mizner

"Faith which does not doubt is dead faith." -Miguel de Unamuno

"Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith." -Paul Tillich

"Now 'crises of faith' takes many shapes and forms.  I suppose the salient is whether the crisis occurs within or against faith." -Michael Phillips
-I do not agree or disagree with all of the quotes listed above.  I did find each of them interesting when reflecting on my own season of doubt.  They are from a variety of persons.  If you desire you can click each name and find a link containing more information about each person quoted.

This is a difficult topic for me, as I sometimes wonder if I have ever fully left my season of doubt.  Doubt comes in so many forms that it is often hard to explain, hard to wrap your mind around, hard to identify...It was the end of March 2006 and I was sitting at a table with the small India mission team discussing our recent trip.  As we went around the table each member shared the amazing, life changing work God had done in their life while serving Him in southern India.  As the time for me to share came closer and closer I felt as if the room grew darker and darker and my heart grew harder and harder.  I wanted to run out of the room, because I didn't want to lie, but I knew no one would understand the truth or maybe the truth would lead one of them down a path of questioning that I wanted no part of.  The truth was, since returning from India I had no desire to read the Word.  Matter of fact, I didn't want to talk about God, to God, or be around people who wanted to do so.  I began asking, "Is God all powerful?  If so, then why this and why that? Is Jesus Christ the only way to Heaven?  If so, why this and why that?  Is God the loving, merciful God I always thought and proclaimed Him to be?  If so, why this and why that?"  My list could go on, but you get the point.  I began to speak (I don't remember my exact words), "Since returning I have been a mess.  When I returned from Haiti I was a changed woman.  I was more in love with God.  I longed to serve Him and his creation in a new way.  Now I can't even bring myself to open the Bible."  I laid my head on the table and began to sob.  It felt as if everyone could do nothing but stare at me in disbelief.  I continued, "I just feel so angry about the things we saw and the people we treated.  My experience has been much different than all of you and I don't have much else to say."  Fortunately, our team leader was a counselor who had struggled with his own seasons of doubt and was able to speak encouraging words to me (I don't remember his words verbatim, so I won't attempt to include them in this blog post).  

Weeks passed and it was as if I was a black sheep.  People tried to speak encouraging words to me, but so many of them just cut me to the core.  I was lonely.  I was frustrated.  And I understood that no one knew what to say, because they couldn't fathom the pain I was experiencing on the inside.  I felt I had lost my best friend, my closest confidant, but I was choosing to lose Him (or was I?).  I would bow to pray, but I couldn't.  I would sit through church and walk away having heard very little.  One Wednesday evening, while co-leading my high school small group, I broke down.  I loved these young women and didn't want to taint their view of the LORD Jesus, but they deserved some explanation for my recent silence.  I told them, in as few words as possible, that I was struggling, but believed the season wouldn't last forever.  I asked them to forgive my silence during our time of discussion and asked for their prayers regarding my struggle.  Looking back, I believe the young women present that evening learned a lot about the importance of honesty and for that I am thankful.  

Since I had no desire to be in the Word I began reading two books, "The Case for Faith" and "Classic Christianity" both of which I now believe the LORD placed before me.  The introduction in "The Case for Faith" contains a story about Billy Graham's "close companion and preaching colleague" Charles Templeton during his years prior to his first crusade in Los Angeles.  Templeton became a skeptic eventually walking away from his Christian faith after viewing a disturbing photograph in Life magazine.  The story goes on to describe Graham feeling pulled in two directions, one towards the Scriptures being trustworthy and the other towards doubt primarily attributed to the words of Templeton.  It reads, "Graham searched the Scriptures for answers, he prayed, he pondered.  Finally, in a heavy-hearted walk in the moonlit San Bernardino Mountains, everything came to a climax.  Gripping a Bible, Graham dropped to his knees and confessed he couldn't answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions that Templeton and others were raising.  


'I was trying to be on the level with God, but something remained unspoken,' he wrote.  'At last the Holy Spirt freed me to say it, 'Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word-by faith!  I'm going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word.'....For Graham, it was a pivotal moment.  For Templeton, though, it was a bitterly disappointing turn of events, 'He committed intellectual suicide by closing his mind,' Templeton declared" (Strobel, L., The Case for Faith, 12).

While writing the book, the author, Lee Strobel set up an interview with Templeton.  The interview in it's entirety spoke to me, but Templeton said a few things that stirred a desire in me to take a serious look at the person of Jesus during my season of doubt.  Strobel asked Templeton, " 'And how do you assess this Jesus?'  It seemed like the next logical question-but I wasn't ready for the response it would evoke.  


Templeton's body language softened.  It was as if he suddenly felt relaxed and comfortable in talking about an old and dear friend.  His voice, which at times had displayed such a sharp and insistent edge, now took on a melancholy and reflective tone.  His guard seemingly down, he spoke in an unhurried pace, almost nostalgically, carefully choosing his words as he talked about Jesus.  


'He was,' Templeton began, 'the greatest human being who has ever lived.  He was a moral genius.  His ethical sense was unique.  He was the intrinsically wisest person that I've ever encountered in my life or in my readings.  His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world.  What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness?'


I was taken aback. 'You sound like you really care about him,' I said. 


'Well, yes, he is the most important thing in my life,' came his reply.  'I...I...I...,' he stuttered, searching for the right word, 'I know it may sound strange, but I have to say...I adore him!'....


'....Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus.  Yes...yes.  And tough!  Just look at Jesus.  He castigated people.  He was angry.  People don't think of him that way, but they don't read the Bible.  He had a righteous anger.  He cared for the oppressed and exploited.  There's no question that he had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion, of any human being in history.  There have been many other wonderful people, but Jesus is Jesus....'


'Uh...but..no,' he said slowly, 'he's the most...' He stopped, then started again.  'In my view,' he declared, 'he is the most important human being who has ever existed.'


That's when Templeton uttered the words I never expected to hear from him.  'And if I may put it this way,' he said as his voice began to crack, 'I...miss...him!'  


With that tears flooded his eyes.  He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face from me.  His shoulders bobbed as he wept....


Templeton fought to compose himself.  I could tell it wasn't like him to lose control in front of a stranger.  He sighed deeply and wiped away a tear.  After a few more awkward moments, he waved his hand dismissively.  Finally, quietly but adamantly, he insisted: 'Enough of that.' (Strobel, L., The Case for Faith, 20-23).

That story resonated deep within my soul.  I pondered it for days.  It helped set my feet back on the path of desiring the God I once held so dear.  

Here are a few words from my journal.

April 3, 2006

"Yesterday at church was the first day I felt like I could reflect on my journey to India.  It was a short trip, but seemed much longer.  Jon's sermon stirred emotion in me and thankfulness to serve a God who rescues.  I was able to realize my experience there was like longing for HOME!!  While there I neglected to spend time with the LORD, but I did His work daily.  By the end, I longed for home.  For America, for Kentucky, for Lexington, for my cat, my bed, my cold drinks, my favorite foods, my church, my work, my immediate family.  Once I got here I was able to rest, but that stirring in my heart didn't go away.  Yesterday, I realized my longing is for HOME, my Heavenly home....People all around the world are longing for that place.  Some, like myself, long for it knowing it's promises.  Some, long for it, but have no idea what it is or how to get there.  Oh Jesus, to be HOME!!

India, was a lot like Bible times.  Fishermen casting nets and using boats carved out of a tree trunk.  The city being built around the temple and the temple being infested with marketplace buyers and sellers....People remove their shoes on holy ground.  A barren women at age 35, seeking medical help and praying she would have children.  In this event, my faith proved small, because my mind thought she should give up.  At that moment I forgot about Sarai and Elizabeth.  People bowed down praying for hours....Millions of people walking bare footed carrying jugs of water of their heads, carrying food, laundry, twigs, whatever would balance.  Oxen plowing fields and people doing manual labor.  Little straw huts with roofs so closely knit together.  Ladies threshing wheat on the dusty streets.  People wanting to touch my hand, my clothes, or just receive a smile.  Only now do I realize Jesus did it all, happily-perfectly-honestly-without frustration.  Kids crowded everywhere to see us work.  Oh, how mad I get, at myself, for not reflecting upon those Jesus-like moments while there, while present in India.  

Instead, I sit in my warm, cozy, comfortable, clean, worldly home-reflecting-while dreading the coming work day.  Where is my heart, truly Oh God? ...."

May 29, 2006

"I find myself coming to You for one of the few times since I returned home from India.  As You know, I have struggled with my faith since being back in the states.  I have been angry, silent, overbearing, enlightened, and thankful since my journey.  I have come to a place where I have decided to choose faith over reason, because I believe You are who You say You are despite the evil in this world.  I have not read the Bible and still don't have an overwhelming desire to do so, but I am craving You!  I want to know You, Jesus.  I have been reading 'Classic Christianity' and 'The Case for Faith' which have been solid reading for my wondering mind.  I feel this time is allowing me to grow deeper in truth and to focus on what is important.  Love, love, love!  Acceptance!  Truth!!  I know longer want to be the Pharisee.  God, keep doing Your work in me...."

God has been faithful to keep doing His work in me.  I have continued to have short seasons of doubt since those lonely, frustrating days in 2006, but I know the LORD in a different way than I did four years ago and for that I am thankful.

When in doubt I am often reminded that the Thomas of the Bible may be known as a doubter, but he is the only one who has felt the nail scared hands.  

Have you had a season of doubt in your faith journey?  How did God reveal Himself or are you still there?  Would you share it with us today?
If you'd like to share... enter the direct URL to your exact post  in the link tool below (just under "you are next").  

If you join us, please help us find one another by sharing the "Journey of Faith Friday" graphic via HTML code within your post.  You can copy and paste the code that is located below "Journey of Faith Friday" at the bottom of this post.   

I look forward to reading how God has used your season of doubt to reveal Himself.
Thank you for sharing.

Next Friday:  Consider sharing a time/season you have spent influencing people and how God blessed your service (ex. as a prayer warrior, Bible study leader, volunteer, grief support, mission trip, missionary, evangelism, through encouraging words, etc).

Have a blessed day in the Lord Jesus!!




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8 comments:

Carolina said...

Hey sweet friend- I've been looking forward to your journey of faith Friday! Going to bed right now but will be reading it first thing tomorrow. I plan on writing my story tomorrow and linking it up to yours :)

Becky Lee Burk said...

Amber, thanks for the sweet comment. I love your blog, very cute :)

Sandy said...

Wonderful post, Amber. Thank you for sharing the short quotes and giving me a more complete picture of your time in India and your season of doubt; Strobel's interview unmasking Templeton's love and longing...you illuminated so much of my own story while touching me with yours. Thank you.

I have the boys today, and I haven't started my story yet.....I'll keep at it till its done...

Kay-K said...

Amber , Such a wonderful writing, even in our Doubting times GOD still loves us
I am reminded of the footprints in the sand he picks us up and carrys us until we are able to stand again.
In doubting he still loves us.

John and Rebecca said...

Thanks for sharing your heart, Amber, and encouraging us to do the same. It's so important to remember back to those times in our life, both good and bad, and know that God's still in control.

Rene' said...

Thank you so much for sharing...I pray you help a lot of people through your journey!

Rene'@ BargainHoot

Amanda said...

Amber, I remember how you felt after India and I never really knew the whole story. At that time, you weren't ready to talk about it and were still processing so much. Thank you for sharing. I am so glad to know more. I love you!

Sandy said...

Amber, I just threw almost my entire post (I was almost done) into cyberspace when I clicked over to gmail in a hurry without noticing my writing had not been saved due to some formatting error...groan...right now I don't have the heart to start over.

I think I'll work on posting some thank you's, then maybe come back to this later. Sorry...