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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Trappings of Junk

20140516_095511A plastic bag is stuck in my elm tree. It’s too high for me to reach it, and I’m way past the days when I shinnied up the bark of my favorite tree and journaled while talking to the birds. I’m not climbing up there to pull it down.

I don’t know how to get this nasty old plastic bag out of my tree, so I’ll have to just wait until another Kansas storm blows through and somehow unfastens it from that particular branch.

But I hate how it spoils the beauty of nature – that white plastic in the middle of all those beautiful green leaves and the occasional crimson of my cardinals. I hate how the manufacturing of our plastic world has ruined nature’s purity.

I wonder if God also hates how we have ruined his lovely world. Black smoke pours from factory chimneys and discolors his turquoise sky. Tin cans litter mountain streams. Junk food clogs up the arteries of his most prized creation, the ones he created on the sixth day and declared that we were, “Very good.”

The junk of our sins that we so easily invite into our lives destroys trust in relationships and casts dark shadows on generations of children. Addictions, murder, gossip – all these and more create a blight on the purity of God’s plan and keep us from living the abundant life our souls crave.

Yet we can’t seem to do anything about it. Just like the plastic bag in my tree. Our cruelties to each other and our weaknesses within ourselves keep waving at us a reminder that nature and life is not as it should be.

We wait for the next storm and hope it will somehow release us and make everything all right again.

Sometimes I grow so tired of all the trappings of junk. It’s easy to lose hope when I recognize the root of evil traipsing across my television and spot it in myself as well. There but for the grace of God go I.

Reverend G reminds us how fragile life is and how quickly it can change. “All human beings live with the same predicament. We occupy our bodies, our workplace and our homes until God says, ‘Time’s up. Come home.’ Then a bullet rings out or cancer swallows the last healthy cell or a blood clot races to the heart and we’re done.

“The only way to focus on life and not lose hope is to remember that each day matters. Live in the current moment, which occupies an undetermined number of minutes. Smile, hug our loved ones and bless God by serving him every day. Then when that bullet, that cancer cell or that blood clot knocks on the door—we’re ready to leave.”

So I guess that’s the answer to my plastic sack problem and all the impurities of our world. Trust God to make it right some day, to blow through our world with his powerful grace and purify everything.

But in the meantime, do my best to keep my corner of the world clean, to serve God every day and bless others by sharing the hope he shares with me.

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

 

Reverend G’s Faith – Part 1

In an online interview, one of my readers asked, When did Reverend G’s relationship with God begin and how did she grow so close to Him?”
Reverend G (aka Gertrude Davis) grew up in a non-Christian home. Her parents believed that everyone should make his or her own decision about faith, which excluded church as a major part of their family’s lifestyle. They wanted their daughter to be an independent thinker, especially about something as nebulous as religion.

But one of Gertie’s – that’s what her friends called her – best friends invited her to a church camp. Gertie and Susan were both 13, at that frustrating age when they were waiting for their chests to grow yet afraid of what might happen when they did.

Gertie’s parents thought a week at a camp in Arkansas might be a good diversion for their only child, so they consented to let Gertie go with Susan.

The Arkansas humidity covered the campground like a damp blanket, but Gertie didn’t really mind. She just wanted some fun activities, some time with Susan and lots of time in the camp swimming pool.summer camp

But on the first night, the camp music director asked everyone to get in a circle and hold hands. Gertie held Susan’s hand on the left and on the right, she held the hand of Marsha – a black girl from Springdale. Marsha had the prettiest smile and a friendly squeeze as Gertie placed her white palm into Marsha’s black one.

Marsha also had a beautiful voice, and she sang gustily to the song, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Susan also knew this song, but Gertie knew nothing about the love of God, the community of Christians or the special place God had chosen for her in His kingdom. She only knew that Marsha and Susan seemed to enjoy the song.

That night Gertie, Susan and Marsha stayed up late talking about boys, camp food and the next day’s activities. But Gertie was more interested in the meaning of that song.

“What exactly is a Christian?” Gertie asked her friends.

Marsha rolled over on her bunk and explained, “A Christian is a person who has invited Jesus into her life. Someone who understands that she has sinned and needs to be saved.”

“I haven’t sinned,” said Gertie. “I’m actually a pretty good person. I’m not sure what sin really means, except for people who murder or hate. I haven’t done any of that. So why would I need to become a Christian?”

Marsha thought for a while and then said, “Have you ever ignored God? Are you perfect?”

“Well, of course I’m not perfect. Nobody is.”

“Exactly,” said Marsha. “Nobody is perfect and we all ignore God, so that’s why we need to be saved from ourselves and our sins.”

“Yep,” said Susan. “That’s basically it. If you want to go to heaven, you’ve gotta’ get saved and Jesus is the only one who can do it right.”

That sounded a bit weird, but Gertie thought about it until she fell asleep. Then the next night at the camp meeting, Gertie’s spiritual fog seemed to clear. The camp speaker was a big shot all the way from Oklahoma City, and he used to do drugs until he became a Christian. He explained how God just sort of grabbed him one night and shook sense into him.

Gertie had never thought about doing drugs, but she was impressed that God could save somebody out of cocaine and heroine habits. So she listened carefully during the invitation and then went forward to find out more about this Jesus guy. She prayed a prayer that was printed in a little pamphlet, and she felt good about making such an important decision. But she didn’t quite understand what had happened to her.

However, Marsha and Susan were delighted. They both hugged Gertie, called her “Sister” and wrote her name next to theirs in their camp scrapbooks. But Gertie wondered how to tell her parents about this momentous decision, and she spent the rest of the camp time thinking about it.

God had a plan, a good plan for Gertie. He put into motion a special person so that Gertie could grow in her faith and learn more about His love.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story….