The Value of Doubt

I’m naturally curious. I want to know how things work, how things ended up the way they did, who was involved, and how they got there.

I read a lot of labels, bulletin boards, historical markers, plaques, and brochures. Yes, sometimes I end up wasting a little time, but more times than not, I end up finding out some fascinating information and stories.

I’m the same way in my faith. There are lots of things I don’t understand about being a Christian.

Much of God is still a mystery to me. Much of His work I still don’t understand.

Sometimes, when I read a passage of Scripture, I end up with more questions than I do answers. I end up pulling commentaries and dictionaries off the shelf, chasing down word translations and sometimes, reading what theologians and other pastors have said about this passage. Like any other area of my life, I end up finding out a lot of very cool stuff.

You see, doubt isn’t the problem. It’s what you do with your doubt that matters.

Most of us use doubt to cover our anger and disappointment. We’re angry or disappointed with God and we’ll express it in our doubt. We then use doubt to cover our disobedience and rebellion against God. That, of course, leads to all kinds of problems. People will blame doubt and say people got into trouble because they began to question their faith.

But that’s not true.

Jesus is a teacher. He loves being a teacher.

More than anything, Jesus loves to spend time with eager students. Jesus wants us to know, to understand, and to believe.

Doubt can be the catalyst to growth and depth. It doesn’t have to lead to despair.

Doubt can you lead you closer to Christ.

Like a lot of things in life, doubt is neither good nor bad. It all depends on how you choose to use it.

The Discipline of Un-choosing

Sometimes we wonder why discipleship has to be so hard.

While there are a lot of reasons for that, here’s one we don’t often think about.  Since God took the radical risk of granting us free will, He has allowed us to make and then, live with, our decisions. As I read Scripture, I’m constantly taken aback by how seriously Jesus takes our decisions. For instance, the rich young ruler walks away from Jesus and Jesus doesn’t chase him.  Jesus lets the young man make his own decision and then, live with the consequences of his choice.

None of us start at zero when we choose to follow Christ. We’ve made lots of choices before we choose to follow Christ. That means we have to go back and “un-choose” some of our previous choices.

As we examine our lives, we’ll find things – everything from places we eat, people we hang out with, habits and attitudes – ways we’ve chosen to live before we meet Christ.

Then, as we choose to follow Christ, we’ll have to un-choose those things that don’t help us stay close to Christ and become more like Him.

Following Christ is a constant process of un-choosing and choosing – un-choosing those past mistakes, habits, attitudes, behaviors, relationships, and illusions we’ve comforted ourselves with and choose Jesus again and again. . .

Christ calls us to come follow Him. It’s a journey, one step after another.  Each step is a choice – to choose Jesus and un-choose everything else.

The Dirty Work of Discipleship

The deep-life work required for authentic discipleship is hard, frustrating, and sometimes tedious.

These are some of the reasons most of us don’t get real serious about the transformation demanded in order to truly follow Christ. For most of us, discipleship has become an intellectual exercise to know as much as we can about Jesus, the Bible, church history, and theology.

What we learn, however, rarely changes the way we behave.

But the whole point of being a disciple is to change the way we live. Certainly changing the way we think is part of this, but if our changed thinking doesn’t lead to changed behavior, our efforts are worthless.

Being a disciple begins with a ruthless examination of ourselves. No excuses, no illusions – just the facts.

How do we live in our world?
How do we make decisions?
How do we express our love for Christ and neighbor in real, tangible ways?
What are those things in our lives that don’t look like Jesus?
How are we dealing with them?

See what I mean? This process can be rather humiliating.

Most of the time, there’s a large gap between who we think we are and who we actually are. If we’re not careful, we’ll fall into this gap, lost in despair.

That’s one of the reasons discipleship is always done best with a group of close friends. They’ll keep you from going off the edge by reminding you it’s the grace of Christ that’s pushing you to do this, not the judgment of Christ.

Christ’s will is to make you more like Him, to be closer to Him. The stuff you’re getting out of your life keeps that from happening.

The second part of discipleship is adding into your life the attributes of Christ.

The difficult part of this is that none of these things come naturally to us. Grace, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness—and all the other gifts that make up the fruit of the Spirit—have to be intentionally added to our lives.

Usually, as we grow as Christ-followers, we end up adding them to our lives one at a time. There’s no spontaneous explosion that melts all of these gifts into our lives. Again, the process is tedious and is best done with the help of fellow disciples.

Well, if it’s so hard, why do it at all?

We do it because there’s joy in every minute of it.

When I confront my failures, I’m beginning the process of being released from them. When I add a characteristic of Jesus to my life, I’m becoming more like Him. In every act of obedience, I find I’m closer and closer to Jesus. His Presence makes the effort worth it.

I want to get rid of anything that keeps me from being close to Him and add anything that helps me stay closer. Sure, it’s tough. Jesus never said it would be easy. He simply promised it would be worth it.

Falling Deeper

I fell in love with my wife again. Right now, my mother has to go through some rehab and the other night Jeannie was helping her do some of the exercises. My mother is a very strong person and if she doesn’t want to do something, well, good luck. . .

Through it all, Jeannie was loving but firm, compassionate but determined. As I watched them, I was more and more impressed with my wife. She was really good at this.

But what caught me by surprise was her smile. Jeannie has a beautiful smile, but this smile was different. There was a joy in her smile I hadn’t seen before. Her smile seemed to be saying that Jeannie couldn’t have been happier doing anything else but helping my mom.

And then, it happened. I fell in love with her all over again. This isn’t surprising. I have fallen in love with her over and over again throughout our marriage.

I fell in love with her watching her take care of our sons.

I fell in love with her again when she cared for me during my diagnosis, surgery and recovery.

There are countless days during our years together when I will catch just a particular glimpse of her and I feel myself all giddy inside. . .like the first time I saw her.

You would think after almost 34 years of marriage, there wouldn’t be any more surprises.

Nothing could be further from the truth. And here’s why.

When you’re young, you don’t even know yourself. The only way you find out about yourself is through a lot of trial and error. If you don’t have the safe place of a committed love, you don’t ever take the risks necessary for you to learn new things about yourself. Your spouse never gets to discover new things about you or themselves. This kind of safety – knowing the other will stay even if you fall flat on face – has to be proven over a lifetime of love. There are no shortcuts.

This is one – among many – things our hook up culture is missing.

Authentic love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice. It’s the choice to stay…no matter what. Feelings are great, but they aren’t strong enough to make you stay.

You have to choose and you have to choose every day.

And here’s the reward. When you choose to stay, the other person reveals more and more of who they are and you fall in love all over again. . .

. . .just like I did the other night.