This is Part 1 of The Doubt Manifesto. The full list can be found here.
I’m going to try to tackle here what I believe to be one of the stickiest topics in the Western Church today.
All my life, when confronted with the hard questions that keep doubters up at night, people have thrown around phrases like “you just need to have faith” and “faith is blind.” I have to tell you, this concept of faith drove me crazy.
I was told in the Bible to seek and I shall find, right? So why are all my church compadres telling me to close my eyes and jump off a cliff blind?!
I want to suggest an approach to faith that I believe is more biblical and a hell of a lot more life giving. Faith isn’t turning a blind eye to your doubts or your questions. My working definition of faith is this:
Trust built on relational experience.
Let’s explore some Bible verses, shall we?
In Mark 9, this dad wants Jesus to kick some demons out of his son–“if he can,” that is. Jesus of course is like “dude, all things are possible if you believe.” (Disney still is arguing with Jesus over the copyright on this one.)
Dad is a little shook up, maybe because of his mouth frothing nearby son, but he manages this reply: “I do believe; help my unbelief!” Which is basically a clever way of saying “Look Jesus, I’m scared out of my pants right now and not sure this is even gonna work, but at least part of me thinks you might be able to help. You’re gonna have to meet me halfway, cuz that’s all I got.” Jesus replies by doing exactly what he asked. The boy is made whole.
I love this story because here this guy is having already brought his son to the disciples. They tried, but none of them could cast out the demon! Would you be full of faith after just watching Jesus’ mighty men all fail to help your kid? Yeah, me either.
So Dad comes as he is, doubts and all. He gives Jesus what he has to offer and he’s honest about where he’s at, then Jesus proves himself trustworthy. He wasn’t rebuked for not having faith; he was given a new experience of Jesus that would overcome his current doubts.
So what about the disciples? How do they fair in the faith department? First, in Matthew 8 we have Jesus doing a ton of miracles that prove his power and then telling the disciples they have “little faith” because they were afraid of a storm Jesus was sleeping through. Then a few chapters later, after doing a miracle in which a few loaves of bread feed over five thousand people, Jesus gets worked up at the disciples again for having “little faith.” They think he was worried about having enough bread when really he was making a point about the pharisees (Mat 16).
Here’s the thing. In both cases Jesus provided the disciples with a tangible experience that showed he was worthy of their trust based on his actions. They had evidence based on real experiences in–the miracles he did before the storm, the bread multiplication before the bread parable–to base their faith on. They weren’t reprimanded for not “having enough faith.” They were reprimanded for refusing to trust a man who had already demonstrated his character.
Jesus doesn’t call us to blind faith, and neither does Christianity. He calls us to get to know a friend who is God, and to pay attention to what He does in our lives.
In the old testament, sometimes God would call the Israelites to build altars of remembrance after he did an especially powerful miracle. He made them stop and pay attention, mark the spot where He had done something that demonstrated who He is, and what He’s like. This memorial would stand as a constant reminder that God is trustworthy, because look at what He already did.
Jesus invites us to have faith in him, but this faith comes From Him before we can ever give it to Him. Faith is about building an altar of remembrance in your soul when He proves Himself trustworthy, and then using what you already know through your tangible experience of Him to keep trusting him in the future.
He doesn’t condemn you for your doubts. He responds to them. He offers experience of Himself in all sorts of forms, and asks you to go with what you know. Trust in your relational experience of your friend and ask Him to give you the rest.
I invite you to stop being held captive by your doubts. Jesus knows they are there, and they don’t intimidate Him in the least. He isn’t asking you to close your eyes and blindly trust someone you don’t know; He is asking you to experience relationship with Him and let Him prove Himself trustworthy.
It’s okay to have enough faith to move forward a step but not enough to get all the way. That’s why we can “believe” and ask for help with our unbelief at the exact same time.
I invite you to take off those shackles that the religion put on you that say you need to check your intellect and doubts at the door to get to know Jesus. That’s crap. You are made to seek, you are made to ask, you are made to doubt.
And as you doubt, keep the faith.
For more thoughts on this topic, check out Funny Faith. I wrote this a few years back and my views are a bit different now, but this blog is about growth, not right answers. If either post helps you find more hope and freedom, then it has served its purpose.