Give me the benefit of your convictions if you have any, but keep your doubts to yourself, for I have enough of my own.”
That's what Christian author Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe admitted in Neil T. Anderson's book, “Overcoming Doubt.”
If a Christian giant with a name that long can admit a fragile faith, I won't keep my doubts to myself.
So over this Thanksgiving holiday, while giving thanks for what I have, I'll ask forgiveness for what I don't have: unshakeable faith. I realize faith means believing in advance what only makes sense in reverse, but sometimes that child-like faith God seeks is nearly impossible within the weary, savaged adult mind.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy — so happy that you have no sense of needing him — if you turn to him then with praise, you will be welcomed with open arms. But go to him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away.”
I suspect any Christian that has never felt that way, hasn't yet experienced true depression or family tragedy. About a month ago when a new friend I'd met in “Celebrate Recovery” a couple years ago — a beautiful, always-smiling, 31-year-old Christian girl who fought depression/insomnia for years — died suddenly, I talked to a relative about it.
There was a distant time when he had all the God answers and didn't welcome disagreement, but since he's had devastating, personal misfortune befall him, I find him much easier to talk to … much more “real.”
I mentioned those born into atheist or Muslim families and he suggested that everyone will at some time in their life recognize the “voice of God” beckoning.
I told him a schizophrenic constantly hears dozens of voices. “How would they even know which voice is God's?”
His answer meant more to me than any self-righteous, scripture quote that many will leave you with (those so heavenly-minded they're of no earthly good) before smugly walking away. He said humbly, “I don't understand it either. I think anyone who says they truly know God's ways and have all the answers are in for a huge surprise one day.”
Exactly! I not only don't have all the answers, I barely have any. I prayed unceasingly for my Godly sister Wanda's healing from ovarian cancer. I gave up alcohol for 18 months, I prayed, I fasted, I believed ... and she finally died a painfully prolonged death. How could I, or C.S. Lewis, have misinterpreted John 15:7: “If you remain in me and my words in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you?”
When her death appeared imminent, someone reminded me that it might be God's will for her to suffer and die. That made me angry!
I thought, “I'm supposed to pray how my Mom always taught me to pray — with the faith of a child my prayer will be answered, while bearing in mind the “not his will clause?”
If it's already been determined by an omnipotent God, why am I bothering to plead?
Even among Protestants who read the exact same Bible, one might suggest maybe she wasn't holy enough, or didn't believe strongly enough. When she visited Cody for the last time in 2005, a Pentecostal preacher who laid hands on her added to her mental anguish by asking if there might be some unforgiveness she might be holding onto without realizing it.
Some assured me her suffering was for some ultimate purpose that couldn't otherwise be fulfilled. C.S. Lewis for a time became a “Deist” — someone who believes in God but believes He doesn't intervene.
From what I've observed in my adult life, a fervent, prayerful Christian is in no way insulated from the same sudden, inexplicable pain a non-believer is subject to. Physical pain, clinical depression leading to suicidal thoughts ... even questioning one's faith, which leads to guilt, which leads to more questioning.
Rather than asking why a Christian would entertain doubts, a thoughtful, truthful person should ask, “Why wouldn't they?” C.S. Lewis did. Mother Theresa did in her last years. And inconsequential, weak Christians like myself do.
I felt some relief though with last Tuesday's Daily Bread study quoting Timothy, 2:13: “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
So I guess even if you don't understand my doubts, He does.