Doubt and Work Through It

Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! (Matthew 28:16-17)

It is not just practical but fashionable to doubt in this nineteenth year of the bewildering two-thousands. Most people do not trust the mainstream media. They are regularly assailed with junk-promises in their inboxes, on their phones, through the talking heads, and are assured easy outcomes in complex situations. It’s correct to doubt some; though, tinged primarily with this attitude, many souls are darkened cynical and overly pessimistic. To praise God becomes monumentally difficult. To doubt His goodness is not only easy but embraced!

In Matthew’s retelling of the risen Christ, the disciples meet with resurrected Jesus for the first time. They’ve heard testimony from eyewitnesses. The rumor mill in Jerusalem is whirling at a fast pitch amidst propaganda and spin. For their two to three day journey, they would have eagerly discussed and debated the stories. And in their own hearts each disciple would have wondered, “is Jesus really alive?”

Seeing isn’t always believing. Doubt can be characterized as being uncertain. It can also mean to waiver in the sense of being double minded or between at least two options. Doubting is often favourable when considering your opportunities. It can be beneficial and empower. But when the attitude is unrestrained it can halt progress and even cause chaos. Think of those on the freeway whom you constantly shout, “PICK A LANE!” Today’s cynics are those people, all the while driving without a care for others, noting the superficial boundaries between lanes as just social constructs and paint.

True, it is just paint, but it’s their for a specific and helpful reason. Most cynics don’t get this. They’ve experienced the break up of the family and the generation gap and fail to see the necessity for restricted choices. It’s all or nothing, and all for selfish, independent, lazy reasons. Today’s cynic is often willing to listen to others, yet only so much to take opinions that will further selfish wants. They are in constant need of safe spaces. This is diametrical of the ancient cynic who would strive to live according to reason and virtue and regularly exercised self-discipline. They willingly suffered independently and against shallow materialism; where as, today’s cynic embraces spiritual apathy and consumerism with a sly wink.

All of this is not to say that we should never doubt. Without doubt scientific breakthroughs and material betterment would have stalled out. We need some doubt in our daily diet, but not a whole lot. Everything in moderation. Wise is the one who doubts, wiser still to work through the doubts. Just as Thomas doubted, so too will you and I. But let’s be like him in that when we do, we’re willing to work through the doubts rather than abandon them. Take up the old and tried discipline of study when you’re unsure of something. Often we’re missing a piece of vital information that can illuminate the truth. Discuss with others as well. Don’t keep it bottled up inside and become pessimistic with woes. Talk about it, and talk about it with God too. Pray in a frank and plain way. God wants to help us sort this stuff out. He’s not grading you on your elegance.

We all have doubts. God won’t condemn you to a molten pit because of them. They, on the other hand, will. Shakespeare once said, “our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt”. Doubt left unchecked turns our confident dispositions fearful with hesitation. We become trapped in illusory predictions where every corner turned is a disaster waiting to happen. This paranoia is different from cynicism and requires encouragement and peace. Jesus says, “the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27b). If you follow Him and even still have some doubts, do not worry. His peace is for you. Go forward in a wise and direct way and He will provide a way.

Upgrade Your Soul

“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live” (Romans 8:12-13).

Imagine owning a smartphone that has a dysfunctional operating system. Most times you’re able to turn it on and sometimes you can access contacts and receive text messages; though, each message is garbled beyond recognition and is considered a mystery. Most apps are nearly impossible to access, but when you’re able to finally open up, say, Facebook, you rejoice and try and tell others, unable because all of your messages fail to send. Such a smartphone would hardly be carried in your pocket and would most likely end up with other technological artifacts: in the trash, in a museum or in the hands of a few collectors.  

Unfortunately, our spiritual operating system is akin to the above example and is in desperate need of an upgrade. Most of us have a foundation in Christ but have failed to take a dedicated initiative to pursue an active, life giving faith. We’ve pursued careers, education, investments, physical activities, health, family, entertainment, and other quests, but have for too long neglected our souls. 2 Peter 1:5-7 recommends to “make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” Peter then goes on to say that “the more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins” (2 Peter 1:7-9).

In other words, if you’re not growing in your faith then you’re reverting back to bad habits and sinful ways that are both destructive and guilt inducing. To guard against this and have a functional spiritual operating system, you and I must constantly rely on the Holy Spirit when pursuing the spiritual disciplines of soul care like prayer, worship and study. Our motives ought to be comprised a cautionary stance to repel backsliding and a ready engagement to follow in the ways of God. We are not to live in the shadows of fear, anxiety, stress, depression, nihilism, and the like - all of which hamper our souls and ultimately destroy us when left unchecked. Instead, and to begin with, we are to take small steps forward by praying daily for God’s guidance, strength and peace; we are to regularly engage in devotions by reading the Bible for ourselves; and we are to worship weekly in a church with others.  

Upgrade your soul today. Begin by praying this simple prayer: 

Lord Jesus, please forgive me of all my sins and help me to better follow and rely on you this day. Thank you for your mercy and thank you for your strength. Upgrade my soul so I may be like you and reflect you to others.

Next, begin reading through the Gospel of John. Start by reading a chapter a day. Reflect on each chapter by answering this question: What is God saying to you through your readings?

Finally, go to church. I know, it's difficult. You don't get along with everyone and you've got other hangups as well. But if you hang in there and go, God can us your faithfulness to upgrade your soul.

Jesus loves you and wants to see the best in you. Take these steps of faith in a consistent way and you will experience a soul upgrade.

The Author of Life Solves the Problem of Evil

I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed. -Jonathan Swift

Children often pose difficult questions by simply asking ‘why’. Our daughter is currently four and is satisfied with the current, simple answers that we offer her, sometimes in haste but usually befuddled ourselves, seeking to give her something that’s pragmatic, concrete and to the point. She has yet to develop an understanding of the abstract. The spiritual world is a mystery to her and as her faith grows, so too her understanding . . . but still, why evil?

It’s a good question that we’ve all wrestled with, especially when evil’s afoot in our neighborhoods and households. In Paul’s epistle to the Romans, he tackles the issue head on and right out of the gate:

God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them (1:18-19).

For Paul, evil happens because people choose to reject God. This is a willful act, not one born out of ignorance, done in spite of God’s revelation of His “eternal power and divine nature”  through creation (v. 20b). Many of the Ancient’s, like Paul, understood that everything has an efficient cause; that is, a creator. Aristotle outlined all that is within the tenants of the four causes: material, formal, efficient, and final. If God is rejected then so too are the last causes, which then depletes our understanding of good and evil to mean survival. If Materialism is all there is then the material universe is its own efficient. Merely existing or survival is then the standard of good and evil. It’s definitely part of a working definition but not the totality of it.

Being human isn’t only about survival - we yearn for more. Paul understood this and worked out some of the behaviors that would accompany the godless soul:

Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy (v. 29-31).

It should be noted that some have pretended to believe and have lived godless in the past and that some believers have succumbed to temptation. There will always be hypocrites and failures. We all are always in need of God’s grace and the grace of others, for not only do we fail to live up to God’s ways but our own. We regularly act against our conscience and trip others up (purposefully and accidentally). And why . . . because we ultimately choose to.

But we can choose otherwise.

1 John 2:2 says, “He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins - and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” Our step away from God and into evil always leads us away from the Author of life. Take steps towards God today by trusting Jesus with your thoughts and actions. Trust Him with your life and receive, life!