My friend was recently fired from a job when his boss blamed him for a mistake the boss had made. He said to me, “All is good.” The next week his wife totaled one of their two cars. My friend said, “I trust God that everything will work out for the good.”
When we met for coffee, I asked how he was doing, and he snapped, “Of course I’m okay. I’m keeping a positive attitude. I have faith.” The thing was, he didn’t seem as peaceful as he claimed. He seemed anxious.
A few weeks later his transmission died, and he phoned me saying, “What the hell is God doing!” He no longer seemed anxious; he was angry. It was not an improvement.
Why are we so reluctant to admit our doubts? I have met scores of believers who try to keep a stiff upper lip, or refuse to voice a negative thought, or speak only positive platitudes; many even deny they are getting sick in the midst of chills, fever, and a hacking cough.
The thing is, our doubt is never improved by our self-deceit.
Doubts Meet Reality
Nearly seventy years ago, Norman Vincent Peale published one of the most influential self-help books of all time: The Power of Positive Thinking. And its message infected our culture like the plague. Christians and atheists alike confused faith with the self-hypnosis mantra of repeating “I can do all things in Christ” ten times a day. Twenty times would be better.
The Power of Positive Thinking is heretical, but every successful heresy works only when it resembles the real thing. Peale’s version has faith, but it rests its faith in “faith” rather than in God. And it ignores Scripture. When all sorts of terrors inflict Job, he screams, rips his robes, shaves his head, and sits in a pile of ashes. And Scripture says, “In all this, Job sinned not.”
Maybe Job should have read The Power of Positive Thinking. Probably not.
Real faith looks at reality with eyes wide open, and whenever we honestly examine reality, we will find doubt. If God’s nature is infinite, then our limited understanding of him always falls short of his reality. Which means our sense of reality and his real reality are in conflict.
Jesus Always Reveals Our Doubt
Spiritual growth only takes place when God’s ultimate reality confronts our false reality. That is why Jesus constantly exposes our doubts. He provokes our spiritual growth—not that he makes us to doubt, but because we already do doubt. We just won’t admit it.
When Jesus tells his disciples that they should forgive their repenting brother seven times in one day, what was Jesus doing? He revealed a true-spiritual reality that differed from the disciples’ limited-spiritual reality. How do we know? When they hear his command, they cry, “Increase our faith!” Which means they admitted their doubts.
Which is exactly what Jesus wanted in the first place.
The disciples’ dinky reality led them to forgive their brother, but only with limits. Jesus shows them a spiritual reality of unworthy humanity, repeatedly rebelling against God; and yet of such value to God that he himself comes down to absorb its sins at infinite cost.
Jesus does not fear our imperfect sense of reality. Instead, he constantly incites reactions in us to reveal our doubts so we can grow into a deeper and truer spiritual understanding.
We will always grow most when we take our most perplexing questions to God and look to him to stretch our minds beyond our doubts—our dinky realities—into a new understanding of Him.
As Einstein once said, “Never lose a holy curiosity.” Even when we doubt.
P. S. Jesus stirs up those doubts in us so we bring them to him; so we can grow in intimacy with him. So we can hear his voice.
To grow in that divine dialogue, please watch the video bel0w (Is that all there is?), and read, Hearing God in Conversation.
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