Oh Switchfoot...the only "Christian" band my youth pastor could convince me to listen to when I was in high school...the only one I thought had any type of musical merit. I guess I was right since they're still together and turning out hit records...but I digress...
This morning's message at church brought the lyrics I used to title this particular post to mind. As the third installment in our "OVERCOME" series, this message focused on the struggle of doubt. Not a fun concept, but one that every Christian runs into...yet somehow rarely talks about. As if having doubts about your faith and your God when life slams you with the unexpected and the tragic is a weakness. Ridiculous...not to mention completely un-Biblical.
This particular message struck close to home for me because my husband shared his testimony and our recent experiences with doubt as a part of it. Each week, as a part of this series, our pastoral staff has recorded an interview with one or two individuals in the church who were willing to share their struggles with that week's specific topic. Aaron recorded his earlier this week and it was shown as a part of the message in the services this morning (and this evening). Check out the first part of his testimony here: http://vimeo.com/22207825
I almost teared up myself watching him talk so openly about how we struggled with doubting God's provision and love over the past few months as Aaron's been out of work and it has seemed like we've been abandoned by our God. The woman sitting next to me actually did shed a few tears! After our pastor gave an amazing message, Aaron finished his testimony summing up how we fought through that period of doubt and discouragement, were able to put our trust and faith in our Creator and obey His Word...and God provided and continues to provide for us...just as He has always promised.
Check out the second part of his testimony by clicking here: http://vimeo.com/22210131
If you want to check out the message (and I highly recommend it!), click here or go to www.orbc.net and click on the "messages" link. The title of this week's message is Overcoming Doubt (4/10/2011).
I had to smile at times listening to our pastor speak this morning because he echoed some of the principles I have recently (and not-so-recently) come to hold dear as I've grown up and struggled through seasons of doubt. One of the points he emphasized is that doubt is not ALL bad. Doubt can drive me closer to God, it can allow me to discover new truths about God and can deepen my faith. Another wise man in my life sat across a kitchen table from me when I was about 16 years old, crying tears of complete frustration, and told me the exact same principles.
I was blessed, as a teenager, to have a youth pastor and his wife who insisted on making a deep impact in my life. This man is someone I have respected and looked up to for years and I continue to admire. He was the one who performed the wedding ceremony for my husband and me and has been a huge spiritual influence on my life.
When I was a teenager I really struggled with the concept of God being present in my day-to-day life, trying to reconcile why horrible things happened on this earth to those I loved and those I had never even met. My childlike world of black and white was muddying into shades of gray and I was angry. At God, at spiritual leaders, at those so-called "Christians" I encountered who were nothing but hypocrites pushing their own judgmental agendas, not caring who they hurt in the process.
However, I had someone in my life who came alongside me, taught me that it was good, even valuable to ask questions about the Bible and God's nature. That doubting in itself is not wrong, is not a sin and it depends on the attitude I express to God. I was young, desperately seeking answers from a God I didn't understand.
I vividly remember one afternoon I was sitting across from my youth pastor, listing off the reasons I had for being angry and for doubting God cared...he said something to me that I never forgot and was later repeated by my mother (years later)...
Circumstances change. God never will.
That statement took the wind out of my sails immediately, almost stealing my breath. It is the first time I can actually pinpoint "hearing" the words of the Lord...it was as if He spoke to me, through my youth pastor, through someone who loved me like family to remind me of such a vital truth I would later cling to.
Later in life, really beginning in my senior year of college, I experienced grief like I never had before. I had never had anyone close to me die. Unfortunately that year, one of my friends was tragically killed...he was a year older than I was...his father was the pastor of my home church and we had known each other since we were toddlers. I remember getting the news of his death (I don't envy my mother that phone call!) and literally losing the strength in my legs and I sank to the floor in the dorm hallway unable to even speak. As I booked a flight to go home to attend my friend's funeral...I honestly don't remember much of that process.
I remember the funeral, the awful tight and empty nausea that hit me the second I walked in the doors of the church and saw that casket. In the days that followed I didn't want to hear a word about God, about His faithfulness, about His plan...all those words sounded like meaningless platitudes to me and I struggled to come to terms with the death of someone so young and so close to my own life.
It was about two months later when my mom said something to me that finally got through, something that I've carried with me ever since. I was on the phone with her, angry, tired, still grieving and crying for answers, for explanations from a God I once again didn't understand. She said simply, "focus on what you know to be true. What do you KNOW?"
I know God is good.
I know God loves each and every one of us.
I know my friend (Jonathan) is in heaven with Him even now.
I know God is good.
I know God is GOOD.
That phrase became almost a mantra in my head that I repeated over and over every time I started doubting God's presence or His nature. I KNOW God is good. That will never change. He never changes. Circumstances and my feelings will always change. He is ever-unchanging.
This morning's message brought all of that history back to light, those truths that I've clung to over the years as loved ones have passed away, as I've seen close friends lose young children and babies to sickness and disaster, as I watch those I love battle cancer or other horrible illnesses. Some days it is the only thing I can hang onto to stave off doubt...God is good.
As our pastor spoke this morning, he added one more truth to that vital mix in my head...it comes from Jeremiah 29:13 - "If you look for me with your whole heart, you WILL find Me."
There it is, right there in black and white in the Bible, God's most amazing truth. He is always there. All we have to do is look.
Over the years I've depended on some amazing individuals to point me back to God and to His truth during times of doubt. One of the most important things to remember is to be honest about struggling with doubt. Keeping everything inside and pretending just because you believe in God and His Son, you're perfect and shouldn't let anyone know that you doubt is insane. Not only is it self-destructive, it is completely contrary to what the Bible says!
Keep in mind what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9: "We are often troubled, but not crushed. Sometimes in doubt, but never in despair. There are many enemies, but we are never without a friend. Though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed."
If there was ever a battle cry for a Christian it is in that verse. Whatever happens around us, whatever seasons of doubt and discouragement we encounter...we are NEVER alone. That never changes. HE never changes.