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I Want In

roller coasterDear friend,

You possess a rock-solid certainty of the truth and accuracy of your faith. This is a gift. Did you know that? Certainty is not a universal thing.

I long for it. But, at least for now, I don’t have it.

Sometimes I think you fail to understand that about those of us who are less certain.

I often wonder if you think doubters want to doubt, that we like this uncertain world and make a conscious choice to stay there.

Is this why you declare your answers to my questions as though pummeling them into me with a sledgehammer? It’s as if you think that saying it hard enough or often enough will transform doubt into certainty.

Sometimes when you speak about doubt, it sounds like you think doubt is contagious. And not only contagious but deadly. Like you think it must be isolated at minimum and ideally, destroyed.

I may not know for certain what God has said on certain issues, but I know this. You have never doubted. If you had, you would know better.

You would know that it doesn’t work that way.

It isn’t that easy.

If only it were that easy.

For those of us who wrestle with doubt, your confident faith is like a lush amusement park in the middle of the Nevada desert. Inside, everyone is smiling, riding, eating, splashing in refreshing water fountains, having fun.

I am stuck on the outside. I want the carefree joy I see on your face. I’m parched, starving, my skin is burned and cracking from the sun and the heat.

But I can’t find the way in.

I stagger along the perimeter, searching for a way in. Hope rises as I spot something… I’ve finally found it!… only to be shattered again … it’s a mirage dissolving into dust. Or a new question sends me on another detour…. waaaaay out into the desert.

Do you get it?

When you scold or rebuke or pound on me for doubting, it’s like you’re yelling “Why aren’t you in here, you stupid person? GET IN HERE.”

But you don’t tell me how.

That doesn’t work, does it?

I  need directions, a map, the secret word, a key, the keypad code, something that will lead me to the gate and, at long last, gain me entry.

I want to get in. I want that confidence and peace that you have.

I just haven’t found it yet.

***

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Comments

  1. You’re so right about the giftedness of having faith. It just comes easier to some than to others, although as I recently wrote about I’m still not sure what faith is. My mother often jokes how she’s got faith under her belt, is doing OK on hope, but really needs help with charity. Different virtues for different folks…
    felicemifa recently posted..Your faith has saved youMy Profile

    • I think it’s one of those things that makes each one of us unique. Like you said, everyone has strengths and weaknesses.

  2. I hear ya! Some can go through each day so faithful and unwavering even in the midst of the yuck of this world.

    While when the yuck has come my way, I definitely lean on faith…I often have to dig deep to find it, to feel it….it is so hard.

    Sometimes we need it spelled out for us and in the hardest times we need faithful friends to stand in the gap for us…to trust and believe when we just cannot. That is such a beautiful thing that we can do for each other.

    • I like this — faithful friends who trust and believe when we cannot. People who will pray when all I can gasp out is “God, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

  3. Joy,

    I don’t know the answers to your questions. I wish I did. I’ve struggled with my faith most of my life, and it wasn’t until something huge happened that I am a little stronger. I’m not steadfast yet, though I wish to be.

    After losing my son last year to SIDS, I struggled big time, in who God was, who He SAID he was, what His promises where *really what I THOUGHT they said, completely different things*

    I still struggle sometimes, some days I completely ignore God is there and moan and groan.

    For me, I had to learn that there were levels of acceptance in my world. I accepted SOME of what God’s word said, but not all. It may not be that way I your case, so I’m not implying that. It’s hard for me to open my hands and fully accept what His word tells me as truth. I have thought of myself as Doubting Thomas at times, and then Jacob who wrestled with God at others.

    We have expectations of who He is, but sometimes, in my case many times, He’s not ‘lived’ up to them, but I find later, that He’s just who He says He is.

    I will keep you in my prayers, my friend. Faith isn’t an easy thing when you have a lot of questions, or even doubts, about who He is, etc.

    With love,

    Peggy
    Peggy recently posted..Ruth 3-1-7My Profile

    • I can tell that you get it, Peggy. Sometimes are easy, sometimes we ignore or forget God altogether. Sometimes I have faith, sometimes it all falls flat and I can’t make sense of it and like you said, it looks like God hasn’t lived up to His promises. I keep hoping that one day it will come easier more often.

  4. I can understand your struggle because I’ve been there myself. It did take something big to secure my faith. Unfortunetly, I don’t learn my lessons on the little stuff. :) It took a miscarriage in my second trimester. The next year I struggled and shed many tears. Yet, God is good. He did give my back my little girl. I found my Faith once again. It is a different world when you have that faith. I do wish that for you.

    • Thank you Jen. People don’t seem to talk about it much, so it’s very easy to feel alone and totally misunderstood. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Faith is not the same as belief.

    Faith is being able to say “I don’t know how God is going to do this, or what He’s going to do it, but I depend on Him to do something. Even if it’s not what I would prefer or predict”.

    Belief is saying “God will do X, and anybody who says that God will not do X does not believe in God”.

    Mind you, the way that “believe” is used in the bible follows directly with lifestyle…if I believe in something, i will live it out. The idea of being able to believe somethign without it coming out in life is completely foriegn to the world that wrote the bible. Never mind to God.

    I always liked that Steve Taylor song, “It’s harder to believe than not to”. Those with certainty cling to it like a barnacle to a ship hull, and look down with scorn on those without their certainty.

    OTOH, having never been truly burned, they seem to live in constant fear of doubt. And fear is no place to live.
    Todd Erickson recently posted..Searching 2My Profile

    • Good things to chew on here, Todd. What does my life say that I believe? I’m not sure that I like all the answers, and I know others don’t like some of my answers.

      • Peter Rollins (I may have brought this up elsewhere, forgive me if I have) has this neat video on how we are not, in fact, the things we believe…we are the things we do.

        What do you spend your time and your money on? that’s who you are.

        And your God is whatever regulates what you spend the majority of your time and money on.

        What good is certainty, if it has nothing to do with how we actually live?
        Todd Erickson recently posted..Searching 2My Profile

  6. Beautifully said. I often think of a man who asked Jesus to heal his son. He said–”I believe, help my unbelief.” That is a prayer that I have often prayed.
    seekingpastor recently posted..Five Ways to Improve SubwayMy Profile

  7. Amen. I have the same questions and bewilderment about people that are so sure that they feel the need to beat you over the head with “truth”. I’ve found that I love this quote:

    “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.”
    — Anne Lamott
    Young Mom recently posted..I want to be an Atheist ExceptMy Profile

    • This quote resonates with me because it reflects what I see around me. I see real life — it’s messy and uncomfortable and sometimes downright awful. The people I know who are certain want to wrap it all up in a nice neat box with a bow on top and make it pretty. I can’t do that. That isn’t real.

  8. Joy, thank you for writing this. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been dialoguing with a person whose faith is super certain, and who doesn’t seem to understand how anyone could doubt. I’ve been told “joy and peace are accessible 24/7 but because God loves you he has given you free will to choose that fruit or not,” even through my protests that wanting the fruit of peace has not produced any in me.

    Thank you for writing to let me and others know we’re not alone.
    Mike recently posted..John the Baptist on VocationMy Profile

    • Ouch, Mike. I’m sorry. They’ve never walked in your shoes. I guess I hope they don’t, except that it would help them actually help someone who is struggling…

  9. Thank you for this. You have articulated beautifully what I have so often felt. I appreciate your candor and your authentic voice. I think you can have faith without being certain, as the quote posted by one of your commenters indicates. Its the light that shines through the doubt that reinforces faith in the end.

    • Another friend has written to me that faith grows because of doubt — doubt can actually strengthen faith. I think what they mean by that is by asking questions and seeking to truly understand rather than memorize a series of facts that I don’t embrace and internalize, my faith will ultimately grow and withstand so much that would have been impossible with memorized pat answers.

  10. Joy, I’ve read this piece half a dozen times. I’ve clicked away and every time you tweet about it I come back. There’s so much I want to say but I’m afraid it’s going to come across as condemnation or attacking you and that’s actually the last thing in my mind.

    This line jumped out at me: “I often wonder if you think doubters want to doubt, that we like this uncertain world and make a conscious choice to stay there.”

    There’s a reason some people believe that…it’s because it some cases it’s true. It’s also because some people milk the “doubt” position to avoid actually having to take a stand for belief. As a shield for criticism. In some cases almost as a badge of honor.

    I’ve gone through long seasons of doubt. I’ve been to that point where you either have to just fully trust God or walk away from Him entirely. It’s a hard point to reach, it’s more painful than most folks will ever imagine and you’re right when you say it feels like you’re “parched” or “starving.” You look at the people who seem to have no doubt at all and you can’t seem to see the way to get from here to there. (Kind of feels like the rich man in hell and Lazarus with Abraham on the other side of that chasm you can’t cross, right?)

    Unfortunately, for every sincere doubter I’ve met (of which I believe you fall into that category) I’ve also seen people who play “doubt” for their own benefit. If you say you have questions or you’re just not sure then you don’t have to worry about people taking issue with your positions. Calling your beliefs intolerant or ignorant. I’ve read blogs from people that celebrate doubt as if that’s the place you really need to be instead of being sure about things. When you have that happening, you’re going to have blowback from it. The church as a whole is notorious for painting with a wide brush when it comes to something like this and those truly doubting…which to me, I classify as truly seeking rather than doubting…get wrapped up with the people for whom “being a doubter” is somehow trendy. At least, that’s what I experienced when I hit the lowest of the question filled valleys and I tried to find people to help me through it. And I had to learn to show grace to the people who refused to help…and understand that they’ve been burned by people using “doubt” for their own personal ends. (And yeah, that was hard as crudola too.)

    I wish I could give you a handy tool to get from doubt and seeking to strong faith. I wish I had one at my lowest point. Honestly, I had to break to the point I had to either believe or walk before my doubts went away. I pray you don’t have to reach that point. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone even though it brought me from outside to inside.
    Jason recently posted..Day 32- Radically looking at God’s ArmyMy Profile

    • Jason, I really appreciate you taking the time to write to me today. To receive compassion and encouragement from someone who somehow made it from here to there is very precious. It is also helpful to hear why some people have responded in the way that they have. Thank you for your kindness and grace.

  11. Doubting is part of our natural being. At some point, every Christian has bouts with doubts. Our spiritual journey is supposed to be growth from an infant state to a mature being, hoping and striving to attain the likeness of Christ. Too many young Christians are incapacitated for a multitude of reasons. Complacency, loving the things of this world more than loving Him, temptations from our spiritual enemies, and the list goes on and on.

    Now intellectual elitists are trying to make our beliefs seem so ridiculous. They take every opportunity to belittle and discredit God’s Word. Jesus said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.”

    Only the proud, or spiritually immature Christians deny that they have ever doubted. Our spiritual journey is full of experiencing valley’s, mountain tops, grief, joy, doubt, joy, failure, joy, over and over. I know you know this one from James. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

    I am living proof of being driven and tossed in the surf by the winds. I have been through enough valleys now, tests of my faith, to realize the Truth of His Word. I still utter the prayer, like you, Lord I believe, please help me with my unbelief. On the mountain tops, nothing grows above the tree lines. All the real growth occurs in the valleys.

    I also take my spiritual enemies incredibly seriously now. Our enemy wants to prevent or destroy every relationship possible between God and man. He wants to take as many people with him as he can. He wants to incapacitate as many Christians as he can. Eph. 6:10-20 Christ’s shed blood and resurrection has given us victory over sin and over the perpetual lies that our enemies whisper in our ears, “it isn’t true”.

    Today you may doubt. Doubt will undoubtedly return again, but I know that deep within you the Holy Spirit will guide you on to spiritual growth and victory. Yield to Him and He will carry us through. Jesus told his disciples and it is a great reminder for us, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

    May our Lord Jesus Christ bless you and your family abundantly for trusting and obeying Him. I hope you find these words as they are intended, as encouragement.

    • Thank you, Mark. Especially for this: “Christ’s shed blood and resurrection has given us victory over sin and over the perpetual lies that our enemies whisper in our ears, “it isn’t true”.”

      • Joy,

        I recently came to the realization that one of my biggest sins IS being double-minded. Being single-minded is a conscious decision that requires purpose and daily submission of my will to His will. (The Lord’s Prayer – Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,…). The following verses are what brought me to my knees.

        James 4:6-8 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners; and purify your hearts you double-minded.

        It wasn’t just reading these verses that helped me come to this realization but memorizing them and meditating on them for a couple of weeks. I am still meditating on them but I am finding the occasions of double-mindedness have decreased significantly, conviction when I do it is increasing, and ANY doubting has fleed for now, or at least until the next deep & wide valley. In my work the valleys are DEEP and they are WIDE!

        We are not perfect. We are forgiven. Confession and purification are part of the process of sanctification. Sanctification is not a one-time process. Sanctification is the process He uses to make us more like Jesus.

        Praying for you and your’s!!!

  12. wonderfully written. thanks for sharing this!
    doubt and uncertainty can be trying things, but ultimately i believe they are agents of strength. they cause you to eventually own something.
    dustin recently posted..Phil Dunphy- Yo!My Profile

  13. Joy: I came by way of Jason’s blog. Having grown up in a church-going home, I was schooled in areas of faith from a baby. But somewhere along the line I had to form my own faith. I can’t say that I have gone through that “dark night of the soul” that some people talk about when forming their belief system. I may sound naive but I just believe…in the big things. But my struggle has come from being in a crucible and wondering where God was. Losing a job. Health-related issues. Money issues. Those are the times that “try men’s souls” as the saying goes. I don’t have an answer for you except to continue searching, continue doubting, until the Father wraps His arms around you and hugs you. I may not know all there is to know about God, but one thing I do know is that He is not afraid of our doubts and honest questions. Thanks for your honesty.
    bill (cycleguy) recently posted..Pleasing GodMy Profile

  14. I totally get what you have written. I used to cry on the floor of my room and question God why this faith thing came so easy to everyone – but not to me. It took nearly 20 years of “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” to get all the puzzle pieces to come together. I now know that I know.

    How did I get here? I followed the harder path to faith – the one paved with doubt. How did I get all the way down the path? I turned over every rock, questioned every doubt, and God came up the champion of each.

    “Where proof is possible faith is impossible” – Robert Schuler

    Doubt is the handmaiden of faith Joy!

    And Joy – I never do this – but I have a whole section on my blog – the Scripture blog – on just this road I traveled – doubt to faith – you asked for a map – I left bread crumbs from my journey and maybe it might help if you followed some?

    Sorry I’ve been gone from reading – there was pre Blissdom prep, then being there, then post blissdom plague still making me feel blech – but I’m back. I heart your words.

    This was a perfect thing to read today.

    God Bless and Keep

  15. I love your transparency. I don’t read any cynicism in this at all. I believe that is key. Praying for you to receive the “gift” of faith in greater measure, Joy! He’s after your heart and He won’t stop until you know that you are His.
    Tony Alicea recently posted..Reflections on Brazil Pt2My Profile

  16. Happy Meal Christianity has wrecked more people in the sacred, holy places of doubting than almost anything else in our culture.

    Doubt is sacred. Even in its painfulness and wrestling, it is as sacred as belief… as you go through the valley, my hope is that you are surrounded by people who can nurture, encourage, and uplift you rather than just give you the empty calories of a Happy Meal-duplicated-faith.

  17. Joy,

    I really appreciate this post. I have been through doubt, though I experienced it in a different way. I am not sure I will express this well or that it will make sense to anyone else, but I sat through years of teaching that asked us to honestly evaluate whether or not we had a relationship with God. But my teacher’s way of evaluating seemed to have a few holes–lots of unintentional guilt without much grace. And he wasn’t a “legalistic” teacher, so I knew he wasn’t trying to bash us with rules. While I believe that we all need to take a seriously look at what is in our hearts, that teacher somehow managed to leave out the fact that the more we mature and see who God is, the more yuck we realize we have inside of us. He didn’t really teach us how to deal with that. I spent years recovering from that kind of unintentional guilt trip.

    I feel like I am once again in a similar position, but now the topic is about how to be involved in the local church. I can’t quite put my finger on what’s causing me to feel like I’m in left field, and it’s proven to be a precarious topic to discuss with much of anyone. I am definitely fumbling, and everyone is mistaking my questions or frustrations for something else. Ironically, others feel as though they are “finally!” freed and equipped to serve in the very same local church. It’s been extremely frustrating. “But you don’t tell me how” describes at least part of what’s going on.

    Kelly

  18. Excellent writing. I could really feel your heart.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] kept seeing a blog from Joy being put on twitter.  I read it.  I clicked away.  I saw it tweeted again.  I went back and [...]

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joy B, Joy B. Joy B said: I WANT confidence and peace… I just haven’t found it yet. New blog post on doubt. http://ow.ly/3ONMP [...]

  3. [...] my favorite posts are the following: Hiding – on the challenges of true intimacy in marriage, I Want In- on faith and doubt and judgy people, Depression Is a Bad Boyfriend, and Unbreakable- on breaking [...]

  4. [...] One of the scariest posts I’ve ever published was the one in which I wrote a really personal post about defying stereotypes and about the spiritual demolition and reconstruction I’ve undertaken over the past few years. Dozens of people poured out their relief in comments and emails over the fact that someone was willing to put into words what they were experiencing — that I’m not completely sure about my faith. [...]