Maybe it’s just me, but when someone says, unsolicited “You just need to have a little more faith” – whether intoned as a dashboard plastic Jesus PTL platitude, or as a karmic positive vibes incantation against bad juju . . . I’m never quite sure how to respond to their backhanded observation that I’m somehow faith deficient. I’m always tempted to respond in kind by quipping “. . . and you just need to have a little more practical discernment” – but, no doubt, they are only attempting to demonstrate some measure of thoughtful assistance . . . so instead, I choose to smile, as if in agreement.
Faith by the truckload, is a truckload too much — if errantly placed. Because it isn’t really about turning up the volume on your faith. . . it’s about where your faith is placed. So if your faith is in something or someone, transient and fallible, it doesn’t matter how much faith – it will invariably end in disappointment and despair. But the least amount of faith (Matthew 17:20) placed in our transcendent and unfailing God is capable of displacing mountains – so quantity is clearly not the issue. But here’s the thing – your faith must be placed in the God who actually exists, and not in the one of your own contrivance . . . and in the disparity between these two is usually where doubt sticks its nose under the tent.
Doubt is more often than not, the catalyst for fear, because it calls into question either some part of what you’ve chosen to believe in – or the whole thing entirely . . . which is why fear always thrives most in our most unsettled moments of doubt. But doubt itself, is neither good nor bad – because our faith was never meant to be kept in a vacuum of unquestioned acceptance . . . as if faith were far too fragile for the rigors of real life.
Doubt is commonly juxtaposed with faith because it is assumed to be the opposite of faith – but I would contend that doubt is the truest traveling companion of faith . . . because even though doubt may struggle to believe, it still wants to believe. Apathy is actually the opposite faith – because it gave up a longtime ago on believing. But doubt is willing to sojourn the distance between our misconceptions of God and the God who actually exists (the book of Job comes to mind). So here’s the thing – without doubt we would simply continue to place our faith in a God of our own making . . . instead of risking what it takes to discover the one true God. In this regard, doubt is an essential aspect of faith.
It is doubt that prevents us from stowing away our faith in the back of the closet, next to all the other stuff we rarely need to pull out and use. It reminds us that our faith grows stronger, like our muscles, when met with resistance. And most importantly, it begins to shape our confession of faith into a humble longing to really know God – no matter what that entails . . . willing to chase His light into the darkness of our unbelief. Until we freely cry out aloud “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
I found this song very evocative of the tension between doubt and faith