This morning in staff prayer, my pastor tagged to the message series we started this weekend on doubt. He read the story of Peter walking (at least for a moment) on water with Jesus, and asked us to consider where we are wresting with doubt.
To be honest, this was always one of my least favorite stories when I was growing up. As soon as Drew started reading the story, I immediately flashed back to my Primary Sunday School class, Flannelgraph board and all! (Shout out to Flannelgraph – RIP.) I remember the look on FGPeter’s face, the way his arms reached up toward Jesus, the FGWaves next to him, the other FGDisciples still in the boat watching their flat friend sink.
I remember my teacher telling us that Peter doubted so Jesus reprimanded him for his lack of faith. That bothered me. A lot. I knew that God was already out to get me, and I knew He was sitting in Heaven just waiting for me to mess up so He could punish me. But I had thought Jesus was nicer than God. Jesus healed people. Jesus held children on His lap and kissed babies. Jesus raised people from the dead and loved everyone. Somewhere in my 2nd grade brain, Jesus was the nice version of God.
Peter at least got out of the boat, I argued – he had faith to do that. So why did Jesus then tell him off for doubting? Why, my 2nd grade brain wanted to know, was Peter getting the short end of the stick when he did what none of the other disciples had faith and courage to do? Why was Jesus being mean to Peter after what he had just done? Why was Jesus not the nice version of God in this story?
These are valid questions for a 2nd grade brain and 2nd grade-level faith to wrestle with. But the problem is, “several” years removed from 2nd grade, there’s still part of me that believes some of these same lies. When Drew asked us to think about our own doubts, I didn’t have to think very long or hard. I know what I doubt.
I doubt that God is good.
Even now…Even with a great job, a great home, some money in the bank, amazing co-workers, the unbeatable weather and incredibly beautiful scenery and flowers of south Texas, and a commute that consists of baby goats and sheep, horses, and donkeys rather than the stand-still traffic of Central Jersey…Even now, I doubt that God is good.
My doubt in God’s goodness manifests itself in fear: I’m afraid to trust that I really am in a good church with co-workers I can trust. I’m afraid to believe that all the goodness I have in my life right now will last much longer. I’m afraid to let myself be fully happy. Really, I’m just waiting for that proverbial other shoe to come along and ruin everything.
And there may, in fact, be a shoe. I’m not naïve enough to think there’s not. But I’m allowing my fear and my doubt to steal my joy. I’m allowing my fear of God and my doubt that He is good color my perception of the gifts He’s given me here. I’m allowing my fear of the shoe and my doubt that I can ever really let myself enjoy the good things God has put in my life steal happiness from today.
I know it’s dumb, and I know it’s wrong, but I’ve lived with this fear and doubt since long before 2nd grade, and they’re really hard to shake. I have evidence lined up for miles for why I’m right to think and feel this way. But then I run into these words, and that evidence doesn’t stand up quite as well:
For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever,
and His faithfulness to all generations.”
These verses leave no room for doubt, and His great and enduring love leaves no room for fear.
Doubt, in and of itself, is not wrong. In fact, in some ways, doubt is a good thing – a sign we’re thinking, working out our faith, and really seeking after God and all He is and all He has for us. But the kind of doubt I’ve allowed to creep in many, many times in my life isn’t the good kind. It’s the kind that makes me withdraw from God, makes me question His character, and leaves me feeling worn out and hopeless. It’s the kind that just makes me tired.
But Jesus has the answer to all of this:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
In other words, “Stop fighting Me. Trust My heart for you. Allow yourself to rest in My goodness.”
Jesus isn’t the nice version of God. Jesus is God – in the flesh, Emmanuel, God with us. He is God, and the love we see in Jesus is the very love of God Himself. God is good – we see that in the way Jesus tenderly loved the people around Him. And He tenderly loves us. God is good. All the time. Even, and especially, when we doubt. And my no-longer-2nd-grade brain really needs to grasp that concept…
So I’m inviting God into my doubts, asking that He would help me trust in His goodness and in His love for me. I’m asking Him to help me trust that even if everything does fall apart (again), He is still good, He still loves me, and my faith in Him, even when it’s small, is valuable and precious to Him.
And so is yours. So go ahead and doubt, question, wrestle. It’s ok, God can handle it. But I say to you what I have to keep saying to myself: Do not, even for a second, believe the lie that God is out to get you, that He is anything less than good, and that He doesn’t love you. He gave His own Son for you and bought you back from death with His blood. There is no greater good or love than that! If you believe nothing else right now, I pray God will help you believe that.
What doubts are you wrestling with today? How can you invite God into your doubts?