If you didn’t catch part one you can read it here.
We’re not supposed to doubt! We’re good Christians and always say the right thing. Growing up, I certainly felt like I couldn’t express my doubts or fears. When I was a teenager I wrote the words, “If I said what I want to say, you’d comfort me with religious cliches and then write me off as another lost cause.” I knew that if I expressed my doubts that I would be told, “just have more faith” or “trust God.” That’s not bad advice necessarily, however, we need to know that it’s ok to doubt.
Jonah’s decision to run from God’s plan put him into another situation that surely wasn’t what he wanted. In the middle of the ocean, the violence of the storm threatened to tear the ship apart. This wasn’t your Sunday afternoon rain shower. This was an act of God. Jonah told his traveling companions that this storm was his fault and that if they wanted to live he would have to be thrown overboard.
I don’t know if the storm stopped right away, or if it raged on, but either way, Jonah would be stranded in the middle of the ocean.
Jonah was a dead man.
He had run from the Lord. Surely death was what he deserved.
Still, he cried out the Lord for help. The Lord heard his cries and rescued him. It was the way he was rescued though that gives me pause. God sent a great fish to swallow him. That’s one way to keep the ocean from becoming his grave. I don’t know how Jonah felt at that moment. Perhaps he felt grateful. I know inside that fish he repented and decided to obey the Lord. All I can say is that I would have some questions. I’m not convinced that becoming fish food is better than dying at the hands of the storm. I would struggle to see God’s providence in this situation.
I would have some doubts.
Doubt is something we all deal with. We doubt if God hears us. We doubt if people will accept us as we are. We doubt our abilities, talents, and intelligence. When it comes to God what is it that causes us to doubt and what do we do with it?
Let me say this: when we doubt we are in good company. John the Baptist doubted in Luke chapter seven. That’s crazy to me, this is John the Baptist! He recognized who Jesus was while still in the womb. He jumped for joy at the presence of infant Jesus inside Mary when she came to visit Elizabeth. John spent months preaching and preparing the way for the ministry of Jesus. However, when he found himself sitting in a prison cell he questioned, “Is Jesus the Messiah, or should we be looking for someone else.”
After Jesus died, many of his disciples had completely lost hope. They had believed He was the Messiah, but now in the shadow of doubt they felt abandoned. They had given up. Some of them were even ready to move on with their lives.
In 1 Kings Elijah finds himself in the valley of doubt and depression. Fresh off his victory at Mt Carmel where God had done some miraculous signs Elijah had been threatened by the queen and suddenly out of nowhere he was just done. He had no hope left. He was ready to die.
Doubt can happen when we least expect it. Sometimes it comes because things just don’t go how we expected. Sometimes it comes because life is just more challenging than we had imagined. Then comes the mind games. “If you were really a Christain you wouldn’t feel this way, you wouldn’t have these thoughts.”
Again I must say that it is ok to doubt. Doubting is not some big bad demon that must be slain, although it must be contended with. It’s what we do when faced with doubt that determines the outcome. Doubt can be a force that can drive us deeper into faith. How could one even have faith if at first there was no doubt?
Faith can be hard to gauge because we base it on our own experiences and outcomes. If things are working out, we feel like we have a lot of faith. While at other times things seem bleak, we are full of doubt and feel faithless. However, that doesn’t mean we lack faith. Our faith is not be based on what we see, feel or on our circumstances. Our faith is in God and who we know Him to be, based on scripture and through our relationship with Him. We know He loves us. We know He provides for us— faith says even though I may not see that provision right at this moment, I KNOW God is faithful and will provide!
Faith is to trust God, even in the midst of our doubts.
If you have doubts, don’t despair. Don’t ignore them. Bring them to the surface and own them. Pray about them. Wrestle with them. In all of those stories above, God never got upset or disappointed by their doubts. He answered each of them based on what they needed in that moment. We can be afraid to bring our doubts to God, but He is bigger than our doubts.
We may feel like because of our doubts we are undeserving, but one of my favorite parts of the story of Jonah is that he cried out to God and the Lord rescued him. He hadn’t done anything to redeem himself. He didn’t deserve it. God simply rescued him.
It was there in the belly of doubt that Jonah found faith.
I believe we must engage our own doubt before we can engage a world in disbelief.
Look for the final part of “NOT WHAT I WANTED” next Monday.