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“There had better be a heaven.”
“Why do say that?” my husband asked me.
I sighed before responding, “Because if there isn’t, then what are we living for?”
We were chatting quietly after just hearing a friend of ours had passed away. We’ve had three friends in their early thirties pass away in the last three months. Each death makes me feel more fragile. It makes me feel my age. It makes me wonder who will be next. It also makes me ask some honest questions, to speak and write about things that make me uncomfortable.
I’m sure you have days when you question your faith. Days when you wonder what life is about and whether there really is more to life then the years between gasping for that first lungful of air and breathing for the last time. Those days when you wonder if God exists or if he does how he can stand to watch his people suffer or if God hates death more than me how can he allow so much of it?
Sometimes I think, “Stop it, Wendy. You shouldn’t even think such thoughts. Just believe.” But lately I’ve been reading through the Bible though and thinking, “Where did I get the idea that I can't ask questions or that I have to have all the answers to be accepted by God?”
There are nine words in Mark 14:50 that have brought me comfort in my doubts: Then all his disciples deserted Jesus and ran away.
The disciples must have had doubts too if they ran away.The disciples must have felt scared that the faith they had would make them look like fools. The disciples must have wondered if the man they followed was really God.
I’m learning that between my black and white faith Jesus has room for grey. He has room and time for indecision and questions and even people running away because of these doubts.
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If you read to the end of the book of Mark you’ll see that Jesus comes and visits with these very same men who ran away, with the men who allowed their fears to get the best of them, he visits with them and invites them to be the ones who go throughout the world talking about how their doubts in a man became belief in the son of God, Jesus Christ.
I don't have all the answers.
The disciples didn’t either.
I'm learning to be okay with that. I don’t have to have all the answers to believe in God. Jesus will come to me when I run from him with my doubts. He will come and hold out nail scarred hands and help me in my unbelief.
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One of the reasons I know this is because I’ve seen people with more reason than me to doubt his goodness hold onto faith. One of them recently told mehow her husband had passed away suddenly, how her 11-year old twins were still in shock. And she told me:
“I lose my faith every day, just to gain it back.”
That made sense to me. I know how it feels to have my faith wane, to have the dying embers fanned back into flame by a God who can’t seem to loosen his fingers from the tangles in my hair. A God who pursues me with sunsets and birds on my windowsill and writes me love songs just because I ask him for them. A God who searches for me even when I’m hiding from him.
When I read the Bible I see how God has always been that way: pursuing people. Right back in Genesis we are told how Adam does the one thing God told him not to. Adam and Eve hide themselves when they hear God coming. Hoping that God will pass them by. God comes looking for Adam and Eve. He calls their names. He beckons, “Where are you?” The creator invites them to come to him.
I find God is that way with me too. He is not forceful. He does not push himself into my space but beckons me to join him. God calls for me to join him even when he knows I am ashamed of what I have thought or done or wished. When I try to ignore him, God reminds me of his presence, he reminds me that he is light, space and zest.
I am also learning that I have a choice about how I respond to his gentle nudges, to God’s pursuit of me. I’m finding I’m choosing to run to him and say, “Thank you for finding me, for not giving up on me. Can I tell you why I’m doubting/angry/confused?”
It is hard to keep doubting God when he never stops pursuing me. Hard to lose my faith when God keeps calling me back to him.
Even as I write this though I don’t want to make it sound like if you want faith in God all you have to do is bring your questions to God and you won’t doubt anymore. I’m learning that there is no formula to belief. It isn’t always easy even on the days when I feel God near me. There are so few moments in my life when I have known beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is real and present in my life. There are many more times that I've wondered if God cares for me, sees me and loves me.
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I don’t know about you, but I sometimes fall into the belief that the mark of a Christian is finding it easy to believe in God, in his existence, in his love.If the mark of a Christian is belief without faltering, I fall short. I doubt God all the time. I question God a lot. But I don't think that makes me less of a follower of Jesus.
When I read the Bible I find many examples of people just like me, people who doubted, argued and questioned. People who sometimes said out loud, "I don't know who Jesus is!"
Peter, a man who followed Jesus for three years, said the last three times after fleeing the scene of Jesus' arrest. Peter who had spent three years witnessing Jesus heal people still doubted. And Jesus still called him his own.
I guess what Peter’s story teaches me is that doubt doesn’t mean my relationship with Jesus is over. I don't think doubt scares Jesus. And I really like that about him.
Knowing that my doubt doesn’t scare Jesus keeps me returning to him. It takes a pretty secure God to love me even when I deny him, question him, yell at him, and doubt that he is always good. I think sometimes doubt causes me to underestimate love, to underestimate Jesus. But the more I learn about God, the more I learn that his very essence is love and love is not afraid of doubt. Love is stronger than questions, and even my doubts cannot quench love or keep me from living with him in a heaven I sometimes I doubt exists.
Wendy van Eyck is married to Xylon, who talks non-stop about cycling, and makes her laugh. She writes for anyone who has ever held a loved one’s hand through illness, ever believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holiday through a foreign land with just a backpack. You can follow Wendy’s story and subscribe to receive her free ebook, “Life, life and more life” at ilovedevotionals.com. She would also love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.