Unlearning My Faith: Truth


Freedom is an interesting thing. I’ve been told my whole life that through Christ we have freedom. Freedom from sin, freedom from death, freedom from the yoke of bondage. It’s wonderful to hear, yet for much of my life, I did not feel free. In fact, there were moments when the very thing meant to give me freedom felt more like bondage than I’d care to admit.

John 8:31-32 (NLT) Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I have believed the teachings of Jesus to be true, but I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason I have struggled to experience freedom is that I never fully understood the truth? That I had accepted lies and mixed them with the truth. Perhaps I never experienced true freedom because I never fully believed I was forgiven? I consistently put the burden of my salvation on my own shoulders, rather than accepting that Jesus fully paid it all.

I stumbled upon a quote this morning by Oswald Chambers that says, “The reason salvation is so easy to obtain is that it cost God so much.” So why then did I continually feel as though it was a difficult thing? It is simple.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NLT) Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

It is all about what Jesus did! That is sincerely freeing.

Yet, I have seen many good “church people” pretend like they never had a past. I understand I am a “new creation,” and the past is gone, meaning it holds no bearing on my future. However, it is because of my past that the glorious grace of God is able to shine in my life. It is because of the grace I have received that I am able to extend grace to others. Often I felt so ashamed by my misdeeds because it seemed like no one else was afflicted by them. However, I believe that the power of the gospel is what Jesus did in spite of my misdeeds. He didn’t wait for me to obtain perfection, He simply offered me the free gift of salvation.

I would encourage all of us to stop trying to cover up our past. What are we trying to hide? When we accept Jesus our past is put to death. It holds no power of us. We are free from shame and condemnation! We don’t need to hide it.

Don’t avoid your past. Don’t avoid your pain. Don’t avoid your doubts. Embrace them, for they make you uniquely you. They give you a voice that is uniquely you. 

I used to believe that Jesus wanted to make me into something else, remove my past. Overlook my mistakes. Make me forget my doubts. I thought healing meant I can ignore it. Now I recognize that God takes us as we are. He accepts us, takes us and makes us completely beautiful. “All things become new” does not mean they are replaced, but they become repurposed. Infused with fresh, spirit-breathed life.

Finding my identity in Christ doesn’t mean I disappear. It means in Christ my identity is clarified, healed and given purpose.

I spent so much time trying to be “new” that I at times forgot to be authentically me. I spent so much time trying to appear like a “normal” Christian that I at times stopped being a healthy Christian. My friends, be you! Allow God to work in the midst of who you are. Receive His freedom, healing, and restoration. Allow God to give you a fresh purpose.

All of us are called to genuinely and authentically love the world. We are called to extend to them the very same love that Jesus offered to us. The truth of the gospel. The simple truth of God’s love.

No strings attached.



Unlearning My faith: Recognition


When you grow up hearing the same lie over and over, you believe it. Not every lie we believe are lies we’re told. We make our most basic assumptions about the world and our faith during a period of our lives where we are still trying to figure out ourselves. As a result, at least for me, we sometimes learn things that are a misrepresentation of truth. It is only through the process of deeper self-discovery that I now can look back and begin to uncover some of these misbeliefs.

Let’s start with something that I never really had words for, this feeling that I didn’t measure up. This is for sure not something I was taught, but it is certainly what I thought. I may never have thought about it in those terms, but looking back it is easy to see how that idea shaped my approach to pursuing God. I prayed, I worshiped, I sought the Lord as if everything depended upon me.

I very vividly remember hearing a couple of key phrases from the pulpit.

“There’s more.”

“You never arrive as a Christian”

“Don’t be satisfied with where you are.”

“You just need to press in tonight.”

I was constantly challenged to pursue the “more”, to press in and pursue the depths of the presence of God. Some of those phrases might hold an element if truth. I mean in the right context “you never arrive” is a powerful motivator to keep us pursuing a deeper understanding of scripture and the character of God. There is a deeper level of knowledge to attain, but that isn’t specific to our faith. That is specific to being human. We should, hopefully, continue to grow until we enter into eternity.

However, I felt if I didn’t “press in” I wasn’t going to be accepted. I now realize that when preachers would say this they were speaking to the attendee who was disengaged. They were in the room physically, but not actually engaged spiritually or mentally. They were present, but not considering what God was desiring to do in their lives. When I was at church I was usually engaged. Yet, I still kept hearing the instruction to press in. I assumed I must not be doing enough and I must work harder. Do more. If I wasn’t encountering the presence of the Lord I assumed I hadn’t done enough, that I was missing the mark.

Beneath the surface, I was convinced that I hadn’t arrived unto salvation. Again, I never thought those words, but the idea was evident in my actions and emotions. My constant need to do more stemmed from the idea that I hadn’t earned my place as a child of God and that is a flat out lie. When it comes to our belonging in the family of Christ we arrived fully and completely the moment we first accepted Jesus in our hearts and made Him our Lord and Savior. You will never be more a Christian than you were at that moment.

In the same vein, you can never be more loved than you are right now.

God doesn’t withhold the fullness of His salvation. God never withholds His love. He always offers it completely and without reserve. Our experience with His love might shift, some days we may feel incredibly loved, some days we may feel very distant. I find it wonderful that God’s love is not relegated to the smallness of our experience. Our sometimes limited perspective does not negate the fullness of his love.

We are always completely loved. No matter what I may feel from one moment to the next I have the full confidence that I am enough. I do not need to do a thing more to earn acceptance from my God. He has already accepted me fully and loved me beyond my level of experience or understanding.

In front of me was this constant need to have a greater encounter with God. I was taught to never be satisfied with yesterday’s encounter and when the days came that I didn’t have what I believed to be an encounter I felt like a failure.

I listened and received it every time I was told “Don’t be satisfied with where you are.” or “As long as your satisfied with what you have, you’ll never be motivated to pursue more.” I took this to mean I should not be content with the amount of God I have. I didn’t understand that I have Him completely. I didn’t understand that as surely as I was working to surrender my life to the Lord, God had withheld nothing from me.

We have to be careful with our talk because if we aren’t, we can make it seem as if our entire goal is to “experience something” beyond ourselves. We can unintentionally make it seem like if we just do everything right; if we can find the right formula then God will do this amazing thing. God has already done the MOST amazing thing by bringing me to salvation and filling me with His Holy Spirit. It is almost as if we think we deserve a reward for fulfilling our religious duty. We can get so caught up in the pursuit of encounter that we become dissatisfied with what we have. We forget that we have everything.

And we earned none of it.

That’s not to say we should become spiritually lazy. Yes, we should pray, read God’s Word and worship the Lord. Yes, we should fully surrender our lives to God, living not for ourselves but for Him. Hopefully, we understand that we do not “pursue God” to “earn” greater spiritual privilege. We desire to more fully surrender, to live pure, to honor God because we love Him. However, I spent my whole life believing that my faith journey depended upon my outward effort. Now I am learning that spiritual growth is not based upon the outward work of pursuit, but the inward work of recognition.

Spiritual growth is not based upon the outward work of pursuit, but the  inward work of recognition.

When people would proclaim, “There’s more!” They were trying to instill a holy dissatisfaction, to prod people to delve deeper into their faith. To avoid becoming complacent or apathetic. I get that, but it caused me to have a misunderstanding of the completed work of Christ. What have I to be unsatisfied about? I am convinced that we should be wholly satisfied in the work of the cross. What God has given me is amazing and complete, yet I felt like it wasn’t good enough. Like I always had to be better, to pray harder. As if I could earn something that was given freely.

The truth is there isn’t more to attain in outward pursuit.

I am simply saved and that’s beautiful.

Jesus did it all. He conquered death and defeated the grave. He paid the price for me to be adopted as a child of God. I constantly felt like I needed to push through to the next level of salvation or God couldn’t use me. How silly, for my salvation never depended upon my work, but His Work on the cross. As if I could ever do anything to improve upon what God has already made perfect. All I needed to do was to simply recognize that God is present. Recognize that the fullness of the Holy Spirit lives within me.

This inward recognition is the greatest pursuit. It is not a one-time event, but a process to continually acknowledge Jesus in everything I do. I don’t belong to Him less on the days when I struggle to be engaged. I am not loved by Him less on the days when life prevents me from prayer time. Do I continue to improve and strive to remain consistent? Yes! But should I feel guilty or ashamed if I fall short? No!

If I can challenge you in this one aspect, don’t seek more.

Seek consistently.

Yes, consistently seek understanding. Seek wisdom. Seek to learn more about the nature of Christ. Who He was. How He is revealed through scripture. Most importantly, how He loved. Can I even begin to express the incredible love God has for us? I spent years thinking I needed to pursue God, to live out my religious duty, to ascribe to a higher standard of moral living in order to be accepted and all this time my God has been pursuing me.

In that same way, He is pursuing the world. Where I should find a holy dissatisfaction is not for myself, but for those who have yet to receive this wonderful gift God has given to humanity. If I be dissatisfied it should be because of my neighbors, family members, and friends who don’t know Jesus. God forbid that I would keep the incredible news of Christ to myself!

To be sure, the inward work of recognition will impact how I live outwardly. The more I come to understand God, the more I long to live according to the standards of His Word. The more I recognize how complete the work of Christ is in me, the greater joy I feel. The greater freedom I can taste. The more confidence I find with Christ as my source of life the more ludicrous it seems not to share this truth with the world.

I can’t help but wonder. If I spent so much time without truly recognizing the completeness of the forgiveness God offers us, how was I to effectively share it with others? If I spent so much time not being fully convinced I was completely loved by God, how I was I extend that love to those who do not yet know Jesus?

Unlearning My Faith: Discovery


We are only as strong as our foundation. What do you do when you begin to realize your foundation is cracked? My formative years were spent in a church building throughout the 1990s. At one point we were in church services just about every night and we witnessed God do some incredible things. It was unusual, wonderful, powerful and I have always considered myself fortunate to have the experiences I did. Looking back I now can see growing up in the 90s that the church, for all its good qualities also possessed a healthy amount of legalism and judgment. It may have been full of truth, but was lacking in grace.

I am writing now to express some of the things I learned in church that were not only biblically incorrect but also left me feeling hopeless, constantly reaching for what could never be achieved. I want to be clear, not all of what I’m about to write over the next 5 posts were things intentionally taught. I learned them none the less. Perhaps it was the tone in which some truths were presented or maybe it was the way people treated me. Regardless of how I learned these things, there are some things about myself and my faith I have believed for most of my life. This past year has been a painful, gut-wrenching journey in which I have been unlearning the faith of my childhood and discovering faith in Jesus.

How did I get here?

I didn’t set out to pick apart truths that were embedded deep within me. I didn’t set out to question my childhood. I’ve actually never been one to question. As a youth pastor so many times students will ask me questions and I just smile and say, “What a great question. I’ve never thought about it.” However, when you truly set out in pursuit of personal growth, you don’t always get to choose how you grow.

Over the last three years, I have become someone who sincerely desires to learn. I am constantly consuming content, rather it’s books, podcasts, sermons, meaningful conversation. Throughout that process, I came across something called the Enneagram. (in-e-a-gram for those not sure how to pronounce that.)

One artist I greatly appreciate is called Sleeping At Last. Through his music, Ryan O’Neal creates some incredibly moving and thought-provoking songs. As a part of his Atlas project, he decided to create a song for each of the nine types of the Enneagram. I had never heard of this, but I quickly realized it was an examination of nine different personality types. That isn’t something that never interested me in the past, so I wasn’t super excited about the upcoming series of songs. Then he released “One”. The lyrics of this song truly captured me. Something deep inside identified in a way I couldn’t quite explain.

On the Sleeping At Last Podcast, Ryan goes into great details about the songs he creates and reveals the incredible amount of research, thought and genuine art that goes into creating each song. For each of the Enneagram songs, he does something truly special. He invites Chris Heuertz, author of The Sacred Enneagram, to reveal a little about each type and to even offer some wonderful words of encouragement to that type. Listening to his podcast on the song “one” was like an awakening I didn’t quite have words for at the time. I’ve listened to each of the following songs and podcasts with eager anticipation, enjoying learning about the different types.

A friend of mine is a type six and she listened to the podcast on her type and said, “I feel like a stranger knows me deeply, and that is weird, but feels amazing to be understood through his narrative language all at the same time.”

I even bought the book and have enjoyed reading it and learning more about the Enneagram. It was through that journey that I really began to understand myself in a way that I never have before. If you’re not familiar with the Enneagram you need to know two things to understand what affected me so greatly. Each type has a basic need and what is usually referred to as a childhood wound. I’m a type one. The basic need of the type one would is the need to be perfect. I see that innate desire to strive for moral excellence in every part of my life. The childhood wound of the one is something I found particularly interesting.

In the EnneaApp, Lori Ohlson describes it like this: “These children felt heavily criticized, punished, or not good enough. Household rules may have felt inconsistent. As such, they became obsessed with being good/not making mistakes to avoid condemnation. The principle message was: “You must always be better than you are.”

As I read that I thought, this doesn’t sound much like my family or my home life growing up and then I read the last line. “You must always be better than you are.” I may not have felt that way at home, but that was the core message I took away from the church. I never felt like I measured up. I never felt like I was enough. I always felt like I must strive to be better or else I was a failure.

This discovery has crawled into my mind and refuses to loosen its hold. The Enneagram is so important because I’m learning there is this incredible connection between how I view myself and how I view the world. It carries over into how I perceive God, how I think God sees me. I’m learning that if I don’t understand myself, I can’t fully understand God. I can’t understand my relationship with Him. The more I grow in understanding myself, I am looking back and realizing so many things that I learned that are completely wrong. I’m not even just talking about head knowledge, but things I learned in my soul. Things I didn’t even have words for. Things deep within me that have negatively affected my outlook on so much of life. As I learn more about how I relate to He world I find myself unlearning much of my faith. In its place, I am finding a Jesus that is fully life-giving, restorative, healing, freeing and completely full of joy. 

I’m not writing to bad mouth the church. I love the church. However, I cannot ignore the faults past and present. It is my hope that as I share how I’m unlearning my faith over the next few weeks that you might be able to relate. Perhaps you will see some of these faults in yourself. Maybe you’ve been hurt by the church and no longer find it a safe place. There is always the chance you will be angry with me for the things I say, that’s ok too.  I just hope we can all learn to love Jesus better and just as importantly demonstrate that love to the world He gave His life for.

Look for part two, “Recognition” on Thursday evening and the remaining parts Monday’s and Thursdays throughout May.

Troubled Waters


I Had another day filled with problems. You too? Welcome to being alive. No one wants to have problems, but they are unavoidable. Some problems are bigger than others and some people claim that the size of your problems is comparable to the size of your sin. I don’t believe that, but I’ve for sure heard a sermon or two that sounded like if you just live for Jesus your life will be problem free.

“God’s ultimate goal is to protect us from problems.” #notintheBible

Psalm 46:1-3 (NLT) God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! 

Wait a second. If my life is going to be problem free what do I need a place of refuge for? I don’t need a place of protection without problems. I appreciate the promise of strength and I love that God’s always ready to help, but… what’s with this “times of trouble” thing? I’m not feeling that one.

We often want the promises with none of the provisions.

I don’t see anywhere in scripture where God promises a problem-free life. I see plenty of proof for a presence filled life.

It is not God’s wish to spare us life’s trials, but rather to be present with us as we endure them. How wonderful it would be to never have any struggle, but how much more wonderful is it to know that in the midst of any circumstance we can know that He is with us. It requires us to breathe and remember who He is. To relinquish control and be still knowing He is God.

Psalm 46:10 (NLT) “Be still, and know that I am God!

You might be facing the biggest storm of your life right now. I want you to know that you’re not forgotten, God is with you even now. He knows what He is doing. I can’t tell you why you are going through this, but I trust God enough to know that He loves you and though we can’t see it yet, there is purpose even in the storm. Everything God allows has a purpose.

That statement bothers me a little bit. When we’re in the midst of such pain we may see His purpose through the lens of our pain rather than the lens of His love. It’s easy to fixate on the painful moments and forget the joyful ones. In the busyness and pain of stormy seasons, we all tend to forget some of the most important truths about who God is.  I want to encourage you to take a moment and breathe in deep. Remember the goodness of God. Remember the love of God.

What is it that you need to be reminded of? Whatever it is in the quiet of the moment simply say that word. Breathe in deep and remind yourself of the truth. Perhaps it’s that you are loved. Say it out loud, “I’m loved.” Possibly you need to remember His peace. Breathe in deep and then say it out loud. “Peace.”

Repeat it until it gets down inside your soul.

Do not let the problems of life prevent you from remembering the presence of God. He does not abandon us during hard times. He is ever present in our time of need. You will make it through this. I know that it is hard to see past the storm of the day, but it won’t last forever. It may seem impossible to keep moving forward, but God will not let this storm destroy you.


Be still.


He is God and He is still in control.

He may not have spared you from this storm, but He will keep you through.

So What If I’m Flawed?


I could make a list of all the things I don’t like about myself. All my flaws, mistakes, things I wish I could change. I bet I could fill page after page with self-doubt and negativity. We often don’t venture to write these things down, but sometimes our mind is an endless vacuum of self-awareness. We also tend to view ourselves through a lens of emotion (positive or negative) rather than reality.

In Judges chapter six we meet Gideon who also seems to be self-aware of his own limitations. The whole nation is hiding from the Midianites and an Angel appears to Gideon and instructs him to go and rescue his nation. “I’m sending you!”

Gideon is not convinced. He argues that his clan is the weakest and among his family, he is the least! I can’t tell you if this is his reality or not, but regardless this is how Gideon saw himself.


Not Equipped.

Not Qualified.

Have you ever felt that way? I know I have. At times it has been true and at other times my perceived flaw was really my faulty perception. What matters is not our flaws, real or otherwise. What matters is the Lord’s response to our flaws.

Judges 6:16 (NLT) The Lord said to him, “I will be with you…”

When God is with us, our own inadequacies melt away. When we remember that we have the Spirit of God living within us it should change our perspective. It doesn’t matter how inadequate we might feel, our hope is not in ourselves. Our hope is in God.

This reveals the significance of worship in our daily lives. When I take time in the morning to worship the Lord, I am taking the focus off of my own flaws and instead magnifying the strength of the Lord. It does me no good to focus on my own limitations. When I shift my focus to the great power of God, that power is unleashed in my life. Daily I must shift my focus away from my own weakness in order to fully realize God’s strength.

I hope you find courage today. You are not your flaws. You are not your mistakes. You are not your inadequacies. You are not your insecurities. Rather, you are loved by God. Chosen by God. Fully accepted by God. So much so that His presence indwells within you.  No matter where we go, or what we are going through, the Lord is with us.

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NLT) …God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

Our confidence is not in ourselves but in the presence of the Lord.

I firmly believe that what we think upon we give power in our lives. When we think upon our embarrassing moments, our shortcomings or personality quirks we diminish our confidence and effectiveness to love the world. However, when we remember God’s presence everything changes. When we begin to worship Him, dwell upon God rather than ourselves, we begin to feed our Spirit and activate His power in our lives.

I want to challenge you. Take some time today to acknowledge God’s continued work in your life. Remember His presence and thank Him for always being with you. When we make this a daily habit, it changes our lives.

Not What I Wanted (Part Three)


If you haven’t, please check out part one and part two.

Sharing our faith is not what it used to be. Not that it was ever easy, however, the challenges we face today in communicating the message of Jesus are greater than they were in previous generations. As a culture, our collective knowledge of Christianity is rapidly diminishing. The effort of bringing someone to a place where they can make a decision for Christ runs deeper than a single service or conversation. It takes a concentrated effort to get past the offended climate of today’s culture. The result? 47% of Christian millennials think evangelism is wrong (according to Barna).

We all have people in our lives that don’t know Jesus, but we often aren’t willing to take on the responsibility of sharing God’s love and truth with them. Perhaps it’s not even something you’ve thought about.

Jonah thought about it. He thought a lot about the people of Nineveh and sharing God’s message with them. It’s not what he wanted, but after scarcely avoiding death and a renewed determination to obey the Lord he walked into the capital of Assyria and proclaimed the message the Lord gave.

“You guys are super sinful and in forty days God’s gonna destroy your city. You all dead Suckers.” *drops mic* Exit stage left. No altar call. Just the harsh reality of the consequences of sin.

It turns out the people of Nineveh didn’t need the altar call. They responded immediately with repentance and mourning. The king even called for the whole city to fast for the duration of the forty days. God responds to their humility and willingness to turn from their sins the same way He responds to us. Mercy. God decided not to destroy the city.

Jonah looks at God’s outpouring of mercy and proclaims, “THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANTED!”

Jonah is angry! He tells God that this is the very reason he didn’t want to come here in the first place. He KNEW God was merciful and would spare the city if they repented and Jonah wanted to see them burn! He basically said, “if you’re not gonna destroy the city, then kill me now,” marched off and waited to see what God would do.

This is like a reverse prayer.

Imagine a preacher giving an altar call in front of 120,000 people and they all respond with a desire to get their life right with God and preacher gets mad about it. I struggle to put myself in Jonah’s shoes on such a large scale. It sounds a bit absurd.

Next, in Jonah chapter 4 is this weird part where God gives Jonah this plant to provide shelter and protect him from the sun. The next day God sends a worm to kill it. Jonah is again, “angry enough to die!”

God then makes sure Jonah understands the issue. Jonah cares passionately about the destruction of the plant, but cares little about the destruction of 120,000 people. Again, that sounds absurd. Jonah is putting his own personal comfort far above the eternal destination of a whole city. Jonah cares more about his comfort than souls. His preferences are more important the people in Nineveh.

This is the heart of this series. Let’s prioritize people over our preferences. Serving God is not about always getting our way, pursuing our own personal peace, comfort, and satisfaction. I believe we have a God given mission and assignment. We have the purpose of loving people with the love of Jesus. We have the purpose of showing people the truth of Jesus and leading them into freedom.

When we take the entirety of our world this seems almost an impossible task, however, salvation is not a numbers game. It’s personal. You likely aren’t assigned to the whole planet, but God has most certainly placed people in your life to purposefully pursue. Perhaps some people immediately come to your mind, perhaps not.

Either way, the starting point is the same. We have to genuinely be concerned for their eternity. It matters if my neighbors end up in Heaven or Hell. This should move our souls and stir us to action.

Many times it doesn’t.

My challenge is simply this: PRAY. Ask God to move your soul with compassion for the lost. Ask God to give you a burden for your neighbors, friends, and family. We need to feel the weight, the significance of the task at hand. We can’t pray effectively for our neighbors until we feel the urgency and importance of our assignment so pray and ask God to give you a burden, then pray for your friends as you would pray for your very soul.

What happens next, may not be exactly what you wanted. It likely will take longer than you had hoped. Endure. Work hard to build a relationship with them and take advantage of every opportunity to demonstrate God’s love and compassion for them.

After all, God was not made to serve us, rather us to serve God. On the day I stand before God, I hope as we look back on my life that I worked hard to fulfill His purposes and not my own. Certainly, I don’t want to stand before the Almighty staring at missed opportunities and proclaim, “but God, that’s not what I wanted.”

Not What I Wanted (Part Two)


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.