Hope Fights the Doubt

Ever had one of those seasons where doubt gnawed at your soul and kept you from living in abundant joy?doubt-cartoon

Yeah, me, too. In fact…recently.

With a life-changing decision on the line, I followed my usual checklist for making choices:

  • What does God say about this decision – his voice deep in my soul?
  • What does the Bible say about this choice?
  • What do godly friends tell me?
  • What do the circumstances show me?
  • Do I have peace about the decision?

When the majority of those questions agree, then I feel ready to step into the next season of life.

So I spent several days in spiritual contemplation, fasting and prayer then checked my options with my bulleted list. Check. Check. All five checks. With the decision made, I felt such peace – I gulped fresh draughts of air.

Until doubt bombarded my soul with its constant “What if’s?”

What if this is the craziest thing you’ve ever done? What if this really isn’t God’s will for you and you’ve been royally deceived – again? What if this turns into chaos, then what are you going to do, sister?

Some of the old legalism tapes replayed in my psyche – the old stuff that says, “You’d better make the right decision or God will zap you.”

Yes, I know that is a lie, but old tapes rewind, pause and replay no matter how many times we shush them.

And the other legalism tape screams, “Doubt is not faith. Anyone who doubts is not worthy of the kingdom of God.”

I did say legalism is insidious, cruel and based on lies – right?

But doubt is not always a bad thing for it is in seeking the truth that we search for God. Without some form of doubt, we are left to roll around in our self-sufficiency and think we’re always right – no matter what happens.

Doubt rides with us in a roller coaster of belief systems, circumstantial evidence and core values until finally – dizzy from the ups and downs of emotional turmoil, we whisper, “Whatever, Lord. Just make this struggle go away.”

In a recent devotional, Megan Anderson wrote, “Doubt and discontent are natural symptoms of growth; they nudge us away from the pitfalls of apathy and complacency. At the same time, a lack of clear direction can be taxing on our hearts.

Taxing on the heart – yes! That was the feeling I experienced as I replayed my decision and the possible things that might go wrong if I chose unwisely.

Give me a confirmation, God,” I begged. He answered only by reminding me of who he is – my Husband and Maker who takes care of his bride.

Then God reminded me that decisions always have a risk factor. But even if a particular choice isn’t the best path – a mistake is not necessarily a sin.

Take that – you old legalism liar.

A mistake is not necessarily a sin.

So … I’m going forward with the final decision, sometimes feeling joy and sometimes walking through fields of terror – yet determined to trust and see how God will provide.

Ultimately doubt points us to where our faith originates and eventually lands – right smack in the arms of God.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding Hope When Faith Changes

These days, I find myself with more questions than answers. Although still based in the original foundations of scripture and relationship, my faith is changing.Faith-still-believes

No longer do I think in terms of black and white. In fact, I spend more time thinking and meditating than I do reciting the rules I grew up with.

I am more aware than ever of grace and its powerful side effects of humility laced with joy.

Now I know how damaging legalism has been in my life and in the lives of others who are asking for another chance, for another splash of grace on their hardened souls.

I am more careful of how I answer the questions of others who ask me about faith, about God, about what happens after death. I respect their need to discover these answers for themselves, and I know that my faith does not look like theirs nor theirs like mine.

I spend more time in silence before God, just beholding who he is with awe. As I am more aware of my inner self and my desire for intimacy with God, I also feel him pulling me closer – wanting to spend more time with me as well.

I am more disgusted with the stuff of this world and the lies we are fed. It pleases me to turn off the television and unplug from the electronics that threaten to overtake all imagination and leave us truly fried.

I am more determined than ever to make sure that young women do not have to struggle with these same lies. To let them know that they are enough within themselves, that they are incredibly beautiful and they do not have to starve themselves or pay someone to cut them to try to look more acceptable. God gazes longingly at them and sees his son. What could be more fulfilling?

I am more in awe of what his holiness means and how we fall short yet somehow, he reaches toward us and loves us into his kingdom.

Psalm 33:22 challenges me. “Let your mercy and lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, in proportion to our waiting and hoping for you.”

Our waiting and hoping for him: experiencing more of his presence and that awful dichotomy of yearning for a closer place near him yet dreading that when that happens, I won’t be able to stand it.

Then as I wait and hope, as my faith changes, grows and explodes, I experience even more of his mercy and lovingkindness. His patience allows me to draw ever closer to the mystery of his presence where there are more questions than answers.

So real it is frightening. So beautiful it is dreadful.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo

Lying to Mom

A TV pastor recently said, “White lies don’t exist. A lie is a lie, and deception is always wrong. Tell the whole truth.”

While I understood what he was trying to teach, I wondered—does he have any loved ones with Alzheimer’s?

One of the struggles my siblings and I now face is that we sometimes have to tell Mom an almost-lie. It feels like deception and in the black and white world of that TV preacher, it probably is.

But the entire truth sounds like a cruel answer to a simple question. For example, every day and many times a day, Mom asks, “When can I go home?”

The absolute truth is, “You’re not going home, Mom—ever. You’re going to stay here in assisted living until Alzheimer’s steals the rest of your brain and you end up in the nursing home. The next stop after that is the cemetery, but your spirit will be in heaven with Dad and Jesus, so you won’t care.”

The almost-lie is, “Maybe in two weeks you can go home, Mom, depending on what the doctor says.” Then after two weeks, the answer is still, “Maybe in two weeks.” And two weeks after that…ditto.

Thus, two weeks becomes a month which becomes 12 months and a year, which is the scenario for the Alzheimer’s patient.

We have learned that the kindest way to respond to Mom is to tell her the same almost-lie every day. Since time and space have disappeared, she accepts these answers and seems more peaceful.

Helping mom through this stage of her disease means not telling her the entire brutal truth, but trying to create a temporary world she can somehow accept.

But inside my gut, it still feels like a lie.

With Alzheimer’s, the borders of the black and white box fade. Grey is also a color and for now, that’s where we live.

In the end, the truth will finally be revealed. Then we’ll stand on the hope that both God and Mom will forgive us.