I Wish I Didn’t Have Faith

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Jesus once said “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet still believe.”

If I’m being really honest that’s a blessing I would rather do without. Given the choice I would rather “see” than “believe.”

Simply put, I wish I didn’t have faith.

I don’t mean I wish I didn’t believe in God or the resurrection or anything like that. That’s not what I mean at all. In fact, I mean just the opposite.

I wish I had knowledge. I wish I had surety. I wish I had proof.

I wish I could have walked with Jesus. I mean really walked with him down the dusty roads of Galilee. I wish I could have sat beside the historical Jesus and heard his voice with my own ears. I wish I could have seen his face with my own eyes. I wish I could have been there on Easter Sunday and beheld the empty tomb. I wish I could have joined with Thomas and put my fingers in the holes of his palms, felt the spear wound on his side, and know, not just believe, but know that he did indeed rise from the dead.

I understand that that wasn’t enough for most of the people who had the chance I so covet. Sure, Jesus and his disciples accumulated thousands of followers, but the majority of people in Jesus’ day didn’t join The Way. They saw just him as yet another in a long line of charismatic teachers and would-be messiahs.

But that real, physical, historical, tangible encounter would be enough for me.

It wouldn’t just wipe away my doubts, it would wipe away my faith and replace it with knowledge, affirmation, and the sort of assurance that doesn’t need faith because it has seen.

But it seems that blessed assurance must wait.

Even though we don’t like to talk about this sort of this, I’m willing to be if you’re a Christian, there are many times when you feel the same as I.

When you have doubts.

Tragically, doubt is an unwanted guest in much of the church today, particularly amongst those who call ourselves evangelicals. In the face of historical criticism, scientific breakthroughs, and the arrogance of fundamentalism, we are left thinking that doubt is the opposite of faith. Doubt, we are told, is the weapon of the enemy. If we allow it gain even a toehold, then the enemy wins and the Christian faith itself will come crashing down.

What we need instead it faith.

But faith is not a vaccination against doubt.

It is the embracing of it.

Faith embraces our deepest doubts, faces them head on, and chooses to believe anyway. We have faith because we doubt. If we didn’t doubt, we wouldn’t have faith. We would have knowledge.

But until Christ returns that sort of knowledge alludes us, no matter how arrogantly we may try to claim otherwise. Which means until that glorious appearing we must not only lean on faith, we must also make room for our doubts.

Doubting has a long tradition in Scripture.

Abraham doubted God’s promise. Moses doubted God’s gifts. Israel doubted God’s leadership. David doubted God’s presence. Job doubted God’s goodness. Peter doubted God’s Lordship. Thomas doubted God’s resurrection power.

And yet throughout these many doubts God did not pour out His wrath in anger. Why? Because God doesn’t fear our doubts. He embraces them, much like a parent embraces a child who doesn’t quite believe they’ll catch them when they jump into the pool for the very first time.

Throughout Scripture and throughout the history of the Church, the people of God have doubted, even in the face of God’s action in their lives. But this doubt hasn’t led to a collapse of the faith. In an ironic twist, it has tended to do quite the opposite. For many of God’s people who have faced even the deepest of doubts, those doubts have been the very catalyst for their faith. Why? Because the more they doubted, the more they were forced to rely on God to see them through the trails that gave rise to their doubts.

Thee saints certainly struggled through these doubts, but they didn’t fear them because they understood faith isn’t about knowing. Faith is about throwing ourselves headlong into the unknowable, the unprovable, the unbelievable and hoping that God will be there to catch us.

I have faith because when I have taken this leap God has been there catch me, not necessarily immediately, but always. This is what gives my faith strength. And this is as close as I will come this side of eternity to the knowledge of God I so desperately seek.

Which means my faith is a gift. And every time God catches me, that gift is given anew.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t times in between when I feel like I’m falling, when faith doesn’t seem to be enough, when I would gladly trade Jesus’ blessing for proof.

I have those moments in abundance.

I think we all do.

Our Biblical heroes certainly did.

And yet God did not strike them down.

God welcomed their questions, embraced their doubts, and offered them the gift of faith.

Which means if we as a church can’t make space for those who doubt, we have no right to claim to be a Biblically faithful people.

 

Grace and peace,

Zack Hunt

 

  • http://profiles.google.com/pmccombs Peter McCombs

    Good post. It is interesting to think of certainty, and not doubt, as a destroyer of faith. It is interesting also to think of doubt, and not certainty, as the thing that makes faith possible.

    It is not only faith that is destroyed by certainty, but hope and courage also. Those who know do not need such things. And as the certain can be so cruel to each other, it is often love and charity that also fall victim to knowing.

    It seems that the good Christian must live and not know, for only then can his desires and inclinations be truly expressed, and only then can it be seen to whom he truly belongs.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    Very good post- I’m going to link to it from my blog. :) I’ve found that the type of faith which is afraid to ask questions and acknowledge doubt is a very weak faith. To be honest about everything I don’t understand, and at the end of it, decide that I STILL BELIEVE- that’s FAITH. (I wrote about this on my blog: Greater Faith)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=713548674 Brian Hager

    Zack, like so many “believers” I have always been full of doubts. When I was much younger those doubts became more and more of a drag on what I thought of as my faith.

    Little bit by little bit, the edifice of those beliefs I learned as a child and later as a young adult began to crumble. Then, in 1993, in one terrifying weekend, the whole structure collapsed and my “faith” totally and completely disappeared. I had no idea what I believed any more. I had no idea as to whether there was a God, or even who that God was. For the three weeks that followed that catastrophe, I wandered about the University Campus where I worked. I felt bereft of comfort or succor of any kind. It was as if my soul was dying.

    Then, as suddenly as it began, it all changed. The name of Jesus was spoken (not something I actually heard – just something I was aware of) a mere inch from the center of my chest. The tiny explosion that accompanied that, spread out to every part of my body in waves of warmth. My nightmare ended and I knew Jesus was very real and that he was my Higher Power.

    In the years that have followed, I recognize that he introduced himself to me on that fateful day. My beliefs were stripped away so that I could receive what I can only describe as a Real Faith. It is a living, breathing relationship with Jesus that I live out on a daily basis as I have “walked with him down dusty roads … sat beside Jesus and heard his voice … seen his face … beheld the empty tomb … (have) known that he did indeed rise from the dead.”
    All of that has been gift. And continues to be his gift to me.
    The final act that made all of this possible began on a night when I experienced being “rested in the Spirit.” I saw no great vision, but heard a question that cut me to my very core, “Do you trust me?”
    God has had my life in his hands and leads me every day in new ways and picks me up when I fall. My only doubt continues to be in my “worthiness” of his Love for me.

    • ZackHunt

      Brian, thanks for sharing your testimony. I really appreciate it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jennifer.weems.5 Jennifer Weems

    Thanks for sharing. When I read the Gospels, I often wonder if I were a witness to Jesus’ ministry, would I have believed that anything good could come from Nazareth. I like what Philip Yancey says in Reaching for the Invisible God, “Doubt always coexists with faith, for in the presence of certainty who would need faith at all.” I am reminded that when I exercise and use weights, I may tear down muscle; yet it is the temporary tearing down that will ultimately build back the muscle with scar tissue, making it even stronger. God has been pretty faithful to help me build back my “faith muscles” when I have been scarred by fears and doubt that tore them down.

  • Katie

    Well said. Thank you for sharing this. So often the church treats doubt like a 4 letter word. The more we allow people to doubt and struggle, the more people will have a faith that is real, a faith that is more than a smile and all the correct words.

  • Karen

    Some good thoughts there, Zack, it seems to me. Examining our niggling doubts is probably for many of us the beginning of true faith and the end of the bravado and opinion based on ideology about the meaning of Scripture that so many of us are taught to call “faith”.

    In Eastern Orthodox Christian understanding, Christian “faith” (described in Hebrews 11:1 as “substance” and as “evidence” NKJV)) is not opinion based on propositions from human analyses of the Scriptures (even in the face of doubts). Rather, it is a faculty of perception, of spiritual awareness, that is opened through genuine repentance and given as a gift of grace by the Spirit of God speaking in the depths of our heart (Gk. “nous”)–not our emotions, but the seat of our real self, hid with God in Christ. Even that repentance comes as a result of an actual concrete encounter with our own spiritual poverty (like the Prodigal Son) and the mysterious working of the conviction of the Holy Spirit speaking within us and telling us to return to our loving Father–telling us there is something more to this life than what we have been living. It is not the result of theories about sin and its effect on us, but produced as a result of those effects themselves.

    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

  • Joshua Shope

    Right with you, Zack. The last few months have included so many things that have made me doubt a little more each time, but with that growing doubt also grows hope that none of those things are permanent and each of them will somehow be made good in the end. I don’t want to say that in a “oh, honey, all things work together for good to them that know God” kind of way, because so often that’s used to gloss over a very real tragedy, but I cannot help but hope that there is a Good that is all the Universe and cannot do anything but eventually make everything good. I’ve become more and more convinced that my own personality and spirituality causes me to hope and hope and hope that goodness and love and peace wins out over pain. I cannot help but hope and try to keep my faith.

  • Kampen

    Thanks for this post. It also makes me think of when Jesus says “blessed are those who take no offense.” Truth is, I do often take offense at the grace and justice of Jesus. Kind of like the Jonah story, we are offended by the fact that grace is offered to the gentiles, those who we think deserve to be punished for their deeds. The gospel is for everyone, and that is deeply offensive. As for the relation between faith and doubt, as you have already pointed out, faith is not a vaccination for doubt, and neither is doubt antithetical to faith. Throughout the scriptures the opposite of faith is not doubt, but disobedience. Indeed, as you have said, doubt usually occurs on the same side of faith.

  • http://twitter.com/ThatsaJennStory Jennwith2ns

    Well said.

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  • William Garvey

    Mother Theresa kept a journal during her years in Calcutta, and some excerpts were published after her death. A lot of folks were caught off-guard by how often she wrote about being in doubt, and the agony it caused her. Yet she showed the light of Jesus in India in amazing ways. Doubt is doubtlessly a part of faith, we just can’t allow it to paralyze us.

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