Posts Tagged ‘Doubt’

Like probably many of you I have met people who are fascinated, compelled, or drawn to Jesus, but some question or obstacle keeps them away. They may have heard from a Christian, “This is how it is – end of discussion. The Bible says it, so that settles it.”

Or they might have been taught that to follow Jesus, they had to go down a certain road and believe certain things, some of which they found problematic. What interests me is the power of questioning and the experience of solidarity in finding you’re not alone—of always wondering, “But what about that?” and then finding out, “Oh, other people feel the same way.”

Rob Bell wrote a book back in March 2011 called Love Wins.  You may have heard of it.  The subtitle – A Book about  Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. If you haven’t read or heard of this book – its not a book about hell, fire and brimstone.  It’s a provocative book that upset lots of fundamentalist Christians.  For me, that was a compelling reason to get myself a copy.

The first chapter of Love Wins poses this interesting question:

If a missionary got a flat tire, and missed meeting with a nearby village, would this really mean that the villagers missed the only opportunity to hear about God, and would not be saved? Would a flat tire mean that they are all destined for hell?

This of course raises a couple of far more disturbing questions like:

Is your future in someone else’ s hands?

And then the next question:

Is someone else’s eternity resting in your hands?

Perhaps Rob’s purpose here is that we get loosened up with the questions – that the questions pull out us out of ourselves and wake us up, like a triple shot flat white coffee. It’s okay. There should be no fear in the questioning and no hesitation in the asking. We can go there. The biblical tradition, particularly the Hebrew tradition, is actually filled with questions, all the way to Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Many people are afraid to question their faith, having been taught that this is tantamount to either rejecting or losing one’s faith. The best evidence against this line of thought is the Bible itself, in which both God and all the main characters ask many, many troubling questions.

Asking questions is, in fact, a means God often uses to help us rid ourselves of limited and wrongheaded notions about God, so that we catch a larger and expanded vision of who we worship. The bible is full of questions, and full of people who have many doubts and need answers.

By the way – if you’re still stuck or maybe uncomfortable about the two questions following the flat tyre question above then the answers are “most likely no – God has a Plan B.”

Perhaps questions are actually one of the ways we meet the Divine. Somewhere in here we find our own questions and we learn that we are never alone.
And the quest – behind the question is even more interesting and compelling than the questions.

May you, my brothers and sisters remember this week that the questions of life may be more important than the answers. May you recognize your quest behind the questions and may this take you to a place where you can sit in wonder and awe at what the Divine is doing in your life and how much he loves you.

Grace and Peace.

The Quest Behind the Questions

The questions that we ask
Follow the answers the we seek
They riddle the hours of our lives
As our days become our weeks

As we strive to understand
The complexities of life
We miss the here and now
As our worries lead to strife

As we wonder how the past
It teaching us the way
We miss the burning bush
As we rush past it every day

It is not the ‘why’ the matters
As we seek to know the reason
Don’t we just accept the sun
As it moves through every season?

Perhaps the ‘what’
Is the one compelling question
As it grounds us in the present
With it’s beckoning suggestion

That perhaps these questions comfort us
As we seek what keeps us safe
As our present hope is anchored
On our the object of our faith


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Behind the Eyes

Behind your eye there is a place where your optic nerve connects to your retina, called the optic disc. Unlike other cells in your eyes there are no photoreceptor cells on the optic disc, so when an image hits that part of your retina, you just can’t see it.

This is your blind spot. Generally you don’t notice this blind spot in every-day life, because your two eyes work together to cover it up.  Our brain is wired to compensate for the part behind our eye where we just can’t see things.  It’s a fairly impressive part of human design when you think about it. Even more impressive that latest iPad retina display! Actually, not even close.

I’ve heard people say that it’s impossible to believe in something that they cannot see – God, for example.  It takes faith, sometimes a lot of faith to believe in God when you can’t see Him, and also when you can’t really see Him take action when you would expect it, or even not expect it.  For us to believe, we need to have faith, but we also need hope, because faith is what makes more certain and less doubtful.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ~ Hebrews 11:1

Now I have also heard people say that doubt is the absence of faith or that doubt weakens faith.  I’m not sure that it’s that simple. Doubt can also be useful for us to test faith and to give us hope.

Doubt for me is my blind spot, it’s the one thing that really makes me question my faith.  Sometimes it helps build my faith by making me test and question. Sometimes this gives me more hope and more faith. Other times it erodes all the faith I ever thought I had.  Still it returns, faith, doubt and hope – it is a bit of a cycle really.

I’m glad I’ll only ever need faith as small as a mustard seed.  This is all I’ll ever need to move the mountain of doubts I have sometime.

Knowing I have this blind spot helps me to remember that I need only look to Jesus – the author and perfector of my faith.  In this I have no doubt.  We all have blind spots.  I wonder what yours is? Have you named it?

May you, this week, embrace faith, doubt and hope and rediscover how this cycle helps you to come back to Jesus with your questions, your fears, and your dreams.  May you name and embrace your own blind spots, and by faith, be confident and certain of what you hope for. May the God of hope and glory fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you may abound in this hope.

Behind the Eyes

Behind the eyes
Forgotten by my mindEye
There is a growing doubling doubt
The persistent nagging kind

Behind the eyes
Not known here today
The doubt of many ages past
Light and dark at play

Behind the eyes
The battle lines are drawn
The enemy marches closer
In the darkness before the dawn

Behind the eyes
The war is already won
In the radiance of the sunrise
By the bloodshed of your son

Behind the eyes
God help me clearly see
That though my battle may be lost
Through you I claim the victory

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Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.  This is the first verse in the poem Hope by Emily Dickinson.  I really like the metaphor of hope as a tiny bird – a thing with feathers.  It’s also a great description of how we can approach faith, through hope and be certain of something that we really cannot see.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
~ Hebrews 11:1

Faith and doubt have often be described as two opposites, one cannot exist without the other.  Doubt can build or destroy faith.  This is not a bad thing or something to be ashamed of, it’s just what it is – being human.  We are a mix of doubt and faith, good and bad, light and dark, spirit and flesh.  It is the just the way God made us. 

God did make us different though. He made us spiritual and physical.  In this way I believe we are unique, special, and made in his image.  So what does this mean about our faith?  How should we hope to have faith in what we cannot see?  Maybe, what we cannot see is physical, and what we have hope in is spiritual.  Maybe.

I have the privilege to live in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city.  With the exception of a remote part of Iceland, Wellington is the windiest city in the world.  Yes – even windier than Chicago!  To me, God is like the wind, I cannot see the wind, but I can feel it.  I really don’t know where the wind comes from, but I believe in it.  I have faith that when I fly my racing kite on a windy day, the wind will lift it and it will soar to great heights.  I believe God is in the wind.  It’s what I hope and what I cannot see, but I know it’s true.

Jesus Culture in their song, How He Loves Us describes it this way:

He is jealous for me
Love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy

That image has stuck with me.  That’s my God, my King.  A mighty and powerful wind and, oh my God how he loves us.

So what about you my friend?  What do you hope for through faith?  How are you certain of what you do not see?  This is what faith is all about.  Sometime this week will you share your story here, or somewhere.  Let’s rest a while and soak up this truth.  We may just be able to help someone see a bit further, and release their faith, through hope.

What I Cannot See

Full of questions
At the end of your rope
Stay and rest a while
With faith comes hope

Full of confusion
Just think you can’t cope
Stay and rest a while
With faith comes hope

Full of yourself
Awash in your opera of soap
Stay a rest a while
With faith comes hope

Full of fear and doubt
Just step out of your boat
Walk towards my rest
Your faith – My hope

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Beautiful Mystery

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to get closer to God and understanding more about his nature and character.  To be honest, I haven’t come up with any grand theories, ideas or potential ministry opportunities.  What I did discover though through talking about this with a couple of friends is that it is all about your relationship with God.  Sounds obvious I know.  It’s always the really simple things that tend to escape me.  It’s also about worship (not necessarily singing) and crying out to God. 

It’s about a beautiful mystery.  It’s a very elusive mystery.  I’ve tried to understand it and figure it out, but as soon as I think I have it, it slips through my fingers again.  That sounds like the beautiful mystery of God to me.

 I’ve written a reflection on this which is where my faith and relationship with God is right now.  It’s not where I want to be but it is where I am.  I think it may just be time to get out the guitar and write some music for it too.  I hope you may find something in this that may help you to reflect on this elusive beautiful mystery.

Beautiful Mystery

Take me into your perfect love
The love that never ends
Take me back to your mystery
Where we were forever friends

Take me into you mercy
Where its whiter than the snow
Take me into the beautiful
Where your living waters flow

Take me into your perfect grace
And remind me I am free
Take me back to your mystery
Lift the fog so I may see

Take me into your presence
Here I stand with open arms
Take me into the beautiful
And protect me from all harm

Consume me in your perfect love
The love that casts out all my fear
Take me back to your mystery
With arms wide open I am here

In your beautiful mystery
In faith we walked before
In your beautiful mystery
Lead me back to you once more

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A Break for Freedom

Fear.  For me this word is both difficult to write and look at. It is only recently that I’ve been able to name it.  Fear is not actually what it’s called.  It more the fear of fear.  I know this because occasionally I go there and visit this house. It’s like a house that is overgrown with vines that twist and curl.  A house that has no windows and doors.

Amy Grant described this house in her song Come Into My World off her latest album. She also describes the meaning behind the song (see YouTube clip at the end of this post). 

What I do know now, is that I am only a visitor and I don’t live at this house, or in the neighbourhood anymore.  It may look the same, and the feelings of  fear are just the same.  The difference is that I choose to visit and then I choose to leave.  Why can I leave? It’s because I know someone who is much stronger than my fears, and he protects me and he sends his angels to walk with me. I also have developed a great support network. Why do I keep visiting?  That’s the question I’m working on.

So where do you live?  Are you a visitor or a lodger?  If you can’t relate to any of this consider yourself blessed. If you live here, be brave (you already are), seek the counsel of friends and wise people. They will know what to do and they will be able to help you. 

Remember there is always hope, this is what you must find and hold on to. Here’s a clue about hope. Hope often takes the form of light. Turn your face to it and let your shadows fall behind you.

A Break for Freedom

In the cell block of my mind
My thoughts lie captive still,
They circle inside the prison cell
Like they have lost their will.

The walls close in, it’s hard to breath
My palms they drip with sweat,
Oh how I wish time would fly ahead
But still it hasn’t yet.

I’ve placed my fears in a big box
And sent it to the one who cares,
But I keep worrying then back
And in my heart I feel such fear.

Some days I wish I had no thoughts
Or feelings of such fear,
But that is the way I am made
So I’ll write about them here.

I pray right now, release my thoughts
Direct them far from me
Heal and transform my mind
And let my heart be free.

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I like poetry and I believe all poems are good. Some poems are a badge of honour or an emblem of courage.  Most poetry  I write is my  attempt to say the unsayable.  Some of  my poems really hit the nail on the head, with others I just hit my thumb, and some are just a collection of words that may never see the light of day. 

What I have found with poetry is that it is possible to write something that is universal, something to which everyone can relate to, yet at the same time address some personal desire to express emotions and feelings.  Poems are really just doors between the soul and the outside world.  There is something unique and humbling about writing a poem that opens a door for other people to walk through and see something previously unseen. This is an experience that can never be undone.

Here’s my story of how I write poetry and how fortunate I feel to be able create and open doors for people to walk through. Poetry challenges us as it requires us to let go of  reason and lose ourselves in words. During this process we can sometimes find parts of ourselves that we may have misplaced somewhere along the jorney of life.  What is it that you have misplaced?  How will you find it?

The Poet’s House

At the edge of reason
Inside the poet’s house,
There lies a walnut writing desk
With dusty books upon its shelf.

Through the dreary window of his soul
He feels the maddening wind,
The trees that bend and break
The leaves of paper fall in his bin.

The wind whispers as it wanders
As it walks around the room,
It’s pockets full of pensive hands
It’s voice is full of doom.

We speak our lies, the truth is dark
There is no light to save,
Your words will never blossom
Your garden is a grave.

Will the poet listen
Or turn towards the light,
At the edge of reason
On this wild and windy night.

An angel breathes life into his words
He rolls them around his mind,
The musings of his restless heart
Will make it out this time.

The words fly fast
His pen scrawls across the page,
Back from the edge of reason
The poet has centre stage.

The poet is finally complete
Exhausted, he feels so blessed.
A smile forms on the poets face
His heart and soul at rest.

The poet lives and writes at the frontier between deep internal experience and the revelations of the outer world. There is no going back for the poet once this frontier has been reached; a new territory is visible and what has been said cannot be unsaid. The discipline of poetry is in overhearing yourself say difficult truths from which it is impossible to retreat. Poetry is a break for freedom.
~ David Whyte

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A quick google will tell you that the average human being has around 60,000 thoughts per day?  That’s about one thought per second, assuming you think while you’re asleep? You do think when you sleep right?  Either way it’s still a lot of thoughts to think about.

I find this factoid really interesting.  First of all, I’d really like to meet this ‘average human being’ (aka John Doe in the US, The Man on the Clappham Omnibus in the UK, or the typical Kiwi in NZ). Secondly, I’d also like to know where the number 60,000 comes from?  Is this an average?  Maybe it’s really just one thought that grows arms and legs and takes a drive down through the Avenue of the Mind (one of my earlier poems). Anyway, I’ll take it for granted that someone has spent some time to work this out so let’s just say this is true.

How many of our thoughts are positive or negative? What’s the split?  I know that what I fill my mind with usually starts coming out my mouth pretty quickly.  I try really hard to surround myself with positive people and think positive thoughts, because I really believe you become what you think.  As Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right!”  It’s about that simple really.

What are you thinking about right now?  How many of your 60,000ish thoughts today were good, noble, and pure?  How many were just neutral (most of mine fall into this category), and how many had you travelling in reverse? 

Here’s some of my thoughts on this:

What Was I Thinking?

Unchecked thoughts
Flow through my mind.
Filling it fast
In a split second of time.

True thoughts?
Some do appear,
Of a moral compass
For my ship to steer.

Noble thoughts?
There are a few,
Of a royal kingdom
With mansions new.

Right thoughts?
There are some left,
They lead me straight
Through life’s hard test.

Pure and lovely thoughts
Are clearly there,
I cling to those
As the day draws near.

Admirable, excellent and
Full of praise?
These thoughts are first
And fill my days.

Of the thoughts I think
They change my view.
Perhaps one day
They’ll change me too.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true,
whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent
or praiseworthy—think about such things.
~ Philippians 4:8

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It’s no secret, I am and have been for some time a big fan of Amy Grant.  She seems to be one of those artists that has a song for every occasion, every struggle in life and every celebration. 
In a classic song by Amy Grant called ‘All I Ever Have to Be’  there is one verse that does it for me: 
And all I ever have to be
Is what you’ve made me.
Any more or less would be a step
Out of your plan.
I’ve been thinking about God’s plan for my life lately, specifically: (a) if he has one, (b) what is it, (c) am I in step with it, and (d) all of the above.  The answer though may not be multi-choice.   It’s always been comforting for me to know that God is in control and that all I ever have to be is what he made me.  Still, I do keep wondering about the big questions though:
  • What am I here to do?
  • What is my ministry?
  • What is my calling?
  • Am I in or out of God’s will?
  • What is the desire that God has placed within my heart?
No doubt some, if not all, of these questions I’ll be working on for most of my life.  I do think I’m starting to get some answers too. I’m starting to realise that dealing with big questions is just a part of life and this is OK and is a helpful thing to do. 
This week I read the Old Testament book of Micah.  It just so happened to have a list of three things that God requires of us.  They are reasonably large things, but there are only three.  What are they?  Skip to the end of this post and have a look.  
So, I might just have a crack at this over the next few weeks and months and see how I get on.  So what about you?  Have you found what you’re looking for?  What questions and answers are you working on? 
Help Required ,  Apply Within.
Show me what you require
In my walk with you.
Down the road, the narrow way
Where the travellers are few.
Help me to love mercy
As I go about my days.
Let me take the opportunity
To help others on their way.
Help me to act justly
In all that say and do.
Broaden my horizons
Lord help me change my view.
Help me to be humble
As I walk with you.
Down the road, the narrow way
Where the travellers are few.

He has shown all you people what is good.   And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. ~ Micah 6:8.

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I don’t know about you but I struggle a lot with doubt.  In fact having just reviewed my blog for my most used tags, number one is faith, closely followed by number two, doubt.  I write about doubt a lot.

This is really of little surprise to me, but it did confirm that my doubts still really bug me.  Doubts about me, doubts about whether anyone might actually read or understand this, doubts about my future, and of course doubts about God.  Not really about God existing, but more about ‘Why does God let bad stuff happen to good people’ and all those old chestnuts.

I’m not sure I’m much further ahead on the faith journey and I think I may just have even more doubts now than before.  As I get older I’m less certain about a lot of things and have a lot more questions.  Doubts inform my questions, and my questions help me to seek answers, and my answers define my faith.  It’s an interesting connection and in some way I guess my doubts make my faith stronger, just as what doesn’t kill me also makes me stronger.

In Ephesians 6 there is that wonderful image about the amour of God.  In the amour of God, faith is the shield, like the Romans used.  A shield with which we can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16).  I like that image , it works for me.  It does require action. It requires us to ‘take up the shield’ and summon up the courage to defend ourselves.

So through my journey of faith I’m learning.  So what has faith taught you?

By Faith

Grey clouds of doubt
Swirl in my mind,
They chase my thoughts
From time to time.

My faith is so small
Yet is it devout,
My doubts are loud
So I need to shout.

I will not let them
Take my light,
It will not be hidden
In your night.

The clouds they part
Then disappear,
The air is still
I sense you near.

You order my thoughts
To quiet my soul.
You restore my faith
And make me whole.

So by faith, I’m sure
Of what I don’t see
You are my one true hope
In reality.

Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one
~ Ephesians 6:16

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The sun rises in the morning sky
My shadows fall in behind,
Failure, isolation and regret
They follow me sometimes.

The sun reaches its peak way overhead
My shadows are so small,
They run in and out around me feet
And threaten to make me fall.

As the sun sets at day’s end
My shadows stretch long and thin,
They remind me of my darkened past
They threaten to draw me in.

But I choose to fix my eyes on You
And in Your light I find,
Your perfect love casts out my fear
My shadows fall far behind.

 There is no fear in love, as perfect love casts out fear.
~ 1 John 4:18 (a)

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When my heart is breaking
I cry out to You my Lord,
Do you feel my anguish
As it cuts me like a sword?

When I pour out my heart to you
Does it weigh more or less?
Does it register on your scale
This misery of life’s mess.

In my words do you hear
The unspoken cries of my heart?
Those unheard whispers of my soul
That could tear my life apart.

I hear your heart, I know it well
I feel your pain today.
You know, I hear, a melody
As you cry to me and pray.

To me you are a tapestry
Your mess of life displayed.
The side you see is all tied up
With knots that have all frayed

If you could see the other side
Of how you look to me.
The painted landscape of your life
In vivid reality.

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As I climb this ladder
I sense it’s time to stop.
Is it greed or ambition
That drives me to the top?

A snake slithers up to reach me
He whispers in my ear,
You know you want what’s at the top,
Trust me, it’s very near.

Should I listen to the snake
Will he take me down?
Am I half way up this ladder,
Or am I halfway down?

In this game of snakes and ladders
God help me keep awake,
Help me to remember
You can never trust the snake.

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Shadows of Doubt

As I walk in this cave
The shadows dance on the wall
From Your light behind me
They grow narrow and tall

I stumble in this cave
Through the cobwebs I see
A shadow of my life
Far from Your reality

To turn to the light
Would take a mighty act of will
I’ll need Your living water
To swallow that pill

You reach for my hand
And with You I turn
To face Your pure radiance
I have so much to unlearn

You turn my world upside down
And my thoughts inside out
Let us walk out by faith
Through my shadows of doubt

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A Mustard Seed

How do you share your faith,
In a world that has gone deaf?
With people who march to the same drum,
I may as well be Brezhnev.

I don’t intend to be a pain,
I promise I won’t proselytize,
But perhaps that’s exactly what the world needs,
Instead of blatant compromise.

I’d be happy to keep my mustard seed,
In a small paper cup,
But then who’d move the mountains,
Well – me with any luck.

Because as my faith may be so weak,
And doubts, like autumn leaves, begin to swirl,
My God is bigger than my doubts,
So I’ll share Him with my world.

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Silence – the space between two sounds,
The gap before the response,
Of the response that never comes.

Silence – the difficult pause in life,
Between the greatest dream and a lack of concern,
Or even acknowledgement.

Silence –  my dreams like tear drops fell,
And echoed loudly in the large empty space,
Between sending and receiving.

Silence – hear my words reaching out to you,
Take my hand and I might teach you,
Of a God far bigger than your words.
Far bigger than your dreams and hopes,
And of a God that joins dots with a thick black pen,
Between time, space, and distance.

Silence – the sound is deafening,
Turn down the volume and listen to your God,
In the quiet of your soul,
And in the silence of your heart.

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Did you see the angel, with a rainbow in her hair?
She held a flower in her hand, did you see it there?

Did you sense the angel, looking right at you?
Do you have enough faith, to see her too?

And did you feel the angel hold you tight, with green ribbons in her hair?
She held you while you thought too much of troubles that were not even there.

Do you believe – in angels, do you sense them near?
Do you feel them holding you, when no one really cares?

Whether you believe or not, your angels still will care,
And whether your heart is open or shut
They still know you’re there.

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Faith and Doubt

In a dusty corner of my mind,
There sits a rusty thought,
A recollection of a time gone by,
When my faith was filled with doubt.

My faith, I believe, has shaped my life,
These things that I hold true,
Of Jesus who died to save the world
His life – for me and you.

So why do I doubt when I pray to You?
That maybe You’re just not there,
Or maybe my prayer is just to small,
For my big God to hear.

I guess if I saw a miracle,
Then I’d have faith – no doubt,
But as I see miracles every day
It’s a sign I’d miss – no doubt.

If doubting Thomas was alive today,
I’m sure he’d fill me in
But I fear that other would say,
That his faith defined his sin.

My faith defines my life,
And in the end it matters not,
And if doubt is the price to pay,
Then Jesus paid for it on the cross.

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