Tuesday, July 13, 2010

When Doubts Arise

When dealing with doubt, Ed Welch offers a practical solution:
Read the Bible. Here is one of the great “duhs” of all time. When doubts flare, read the Bible. That has become my number one response to doubts. Sounds pretty easy, but it isn’t. The ennui that accompanies doubt works against picking up a Bible. Reading the Bible is hard enough anyway. To read when faith is at a low ebb is counterintuitive and unnatural. That’s why I have appreciated the motto, “Force feed.” There are times when I don’t know what is good for me. A Blizzard from Dairy Queen seems preferable to . . . anything. Those are the times when I have to over-ride my physical cues and tell my body that it is time to eat something decent. So, when doubts come, force feed. The Word of God is what is best for us.

I stick with the Psalms or the New Testament. The Psalms expand our vision and remind us of God’s mighty acts. The Old Testament suggests that one of our prominent sins is that we forget. The Psalms help us remember. In the New Testament I can turn anywhere. Like the Psalms, it reminds me of what has happened, and that is usually enough. But sometimes I need to be surprised again.

One vacation my wife and I read the book of John aloud to each other, and we found ourselves laughing all the way through it, at least through most of it. What was funny was how Jesus always said and did the unexpected. Even though we knew the stories, they never failed to surprise. That, for me, is a profound answer to doubts.

When I was in college and reading about different world religions, I noticed that while all of them were interesting, they were all very predictable. Work hard to be good. Follow the rules. Don’t rock the implicit caste system – some were in, others were out. Men were entitled. Good men are promised good sex, or at least lots of sex. And keep working to be good. All this could be easily invented by a bunch of guys on a weekend getaway.

Then I read the Bible, and it was like nothing else. Jesus never acted like a mere man. No one could have ever invented him or his way of living, especially when we consider the historical situation. The story of the Samaritan woman in John 4 is enough to cure the spiritual jitters. Nothing is what you would expect. Throughout the New Testament, the disciples do what you would expect. They get ticked off at the little grommets who follow Jesus, they jockey for the highest position, they run and hide when things get a little risky. But Jesus never does what you expect. And, somehow, that makes him seem more human. Somehow, his unanticipated responses make perfect sense.

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