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A few weeks ago, my friend Adam Ellis contributed to the Voices of Doubt series of guest posts here. He’s not the only thoughtful writer in his family, though. Today his wife, Dana, offers her perspective on doubt, uncertainty, and the compulsion to ask questions.
Dana blogs at Thoughts on Life and Dirty Diapers, which has an excellent subtitle: Saying daily the things my mother said that I swore I’d never say.
Here’s Dana Ellis…
The timing of this post is somewhat ironic. When I agreed to write it, I assumed I’d be past the crisis of faith I intended to write about. As it turns out, I’m still shoulder-deep in it, and trying to find a way forward.
It’s really easy to have faith as I sit in my own little world, with my loving husband and my healthy children, when my life isn’t being challenged and I feel like I’ve got God all figured out. If I could only find a way to keep my family and my friends from being touched by pain, I think I could keep up that charade. It’s easy to do when everything is bright and sunny and we appear to be God’s favorites…His “chosen ones.”
But today, I’m thinking about a friend with a sick child and a mountain of medical bills that just keeps getting bigger. I’m haunted by a friend who got laid off from his job, a friend who wants a baby but seems to be unable to have one, a friend who is in constant pain with no identifiable reason, the friend who is staying in an relationship with an adulterous spouse for the sake of her children…and the friend who just couldn’t do that. Today, I’m thinking about (dare I say it?), the friend who is gay and didn’t ask to be.
Usually, I’m the person I’ve described in the beginning of that last paragraph, living a bright and sunny life on cloud nine, with a living and vibrant faith in a loving God. However, when that life is disturbed… when I’m in my darkest, most private hours, there is no mistaking how small my faith really is. A few months ago, my family lost a member to a life-long fight with Cystic Fibrosis. It was a long fight, fought by one of the most faithful of God’s followers that I’ve ever known. A fight that looked like was going to be won. Then, in a sudden turn of events, my 39-year-old cousin was taken from us. I sincerely prayed prayers of confident faith that should have moved mountains. But for reasons that I don’t understand (and that, in all honesty, probably wouldn’t give me any comfort anyway), it appears to me that, at least for now, those prayers were not answered.
My questions about God and faith may not be those pondered by the average skeptic, but they’re struggles nonetheless. I’m not sure that I have ever, in my life, doubted God’s existence. Did you know that when an infant is born prematurely, its mother produces a different milk than what is produced for a full-term baby? Did you know that the milk produced in that situation is especially suited for that baby at that age? For me, even the small glimpses that I catch of the complexities of our world point to a Creator much greater than myself, and to an intentionality that isn’t explained by chance or chaos.
Even though I have confidence in God’s existence, I’m often plagued by two questions: “Does God know what He’s doing?” and, if so, “Is He actually good?” I realize that those questions may appear disrespectful to God, and perhaps they are. But, I have this hunch that He can take it. Besides, the fact that I just admitted that I have those questions and asked them “out loud” doesn’t make them any worse. God is already very aware of them.
In truth, these questions have taught me something. I am learning that my following Jesus is about a lot more than finding an escape route from Hell..or death…or pain. I want to be on the side of what’s true and pure and good. When I look at the wonders of this world, I feel as if my choice to follow this God was right. But on other days, when the pain of the world is what I see, I’m haunted by questions. In my heart of hearts, I believe that whatever this is that we’re all a part of — this thing that we’re all trying to make sense of — is going to be overwhelmingly obvious once we are truly able to see the full goodness of God. I think we may even be somewhat amused that we never even entertained an idea that was even close to the reality of how it all works together and how good this God is. But for now, God’s goodness is so out of reach from my limited perspective, that I don’t think I could comprehend it, even if it could somehow be fully explained to me.
So for now, I step out and follow Him, admitting that some days, I’m uneasy about it all. In the end, I’m thankful that following Him requires faith and not sight; trust and not certainty; hope and not total comprehension. I’m pretty sure that faith cannot exist without questions, and I’ve got enough of those to go around.
Previous posts in the “Voices of Doubt” series…
• Rachel Held Evans on Works-Based Salvation
• Winn Collier: Doubt Better
• Tyler Clark on Losing Fear, Losing Faith
• Rob Stennett on the Genesis of Doubt
• Adam Ellis on Hoping That It’s True
• Nicole Wick on Breaking Up with God
• Anna Broadway on Doubt and Marriage