“Doubt is not always a sign that a man is wrong; it may be a sign that he is thinking.”
— Oswald Chambers
I’ve met lovely, honest people who tell me that they wish they could believe in a loving God of grace, but it is a struggle for them. I’ve also met people who believe in God but are not sure about Jesus, or who believe that Jesus is real and He was willing to lay down his life for them, but they don’t want to get close to an angry Father God. Others think God is great but they have trouble with the whole history of Christianity thing.
Some of us journey on this road doing the best we can with the doubts that make us feel too small for the task. When we read expressions like “man or woman of God” or “giants of the faith” we know that it is not referring to us.
Sometimes it’s a matter of needing our hearts healed or enlarged until we can receive. A child whose birth dad left on her second birthday is going to find it hard to believe that a heavenly father promises to stay involved in her life. A boy whose parents were impossible to please will likewise assume that God is angry and disappointed in him. A person who was betrayed by a so-called Christian, especially an older brother, or worse a clergyman, will wonder where this so-called loving self-sacrificing Jesus disappeared to when the going got rough, and is this a set-up to be used again? A person who has been lied to will not buy every story they are told, and if believing every ancient account of events in the Bible is a requirement for a relationship with God they have a large evidence-based fence to climb. Others believe in Christ and do all the expected life-style things, but are skeptical that he talks to people today or heals them or miraculously intervenes in their lives because, after 40 years of doing the church thing, they have never seen it.
Here’s the thing. Walking by faith does not require truckloads of faith. Faith is exercised; that’s how it grows. It starts with baby steps. As we take risks and find that God is not like the authority figures who berated, beguiled and betrayed, we can take another step. When we give up trying to appease an angry God, and he doesn’t smite us, we take another step. When we see an important lesson in one of Jesus’ stories we take another step. When we dare to pray to him to find lost car keys and have a picture in our minds of them lying under a shrub by the back door, and there they are, we take another step. When we trust another person on this road and are nakedly open about our own scarred story of pain and they treat it like a precious privilege to be protected, we take another step. We are healed inside bit by bit and enlarge our capacity to think and feel differently.
Paul, the guy who distrusted the stories about this Jesus of Nazareth character so much that he had his followers dragged off to prison, later wrote that his prayer was that people, who were like he once was and who have huge doubts, would be strengthened with Jesus’ power in their inner being enough to have the capacity to be able to start to be able to comprehend his love. Our wounds have left holes in our hearts that love just pours through. We all need him to move first. So he did.
Jesus understands and is relentlessly kind. He is not shocked by our doubts, and understands the barriers religious people have left in the way in attempts to protect themselves from their own doubts (and tossed them over himself.) If all you have is one tiny little speck of faith it’s all you need to start this journey. Eventually it will move mountains.