O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith


Sarah Cunningham: Doubt as a Hook

posted by Jason Boyett

sarahcunningham.jpg

Sarah Cunningham and I first got to know each other when I interviewed her upon the release of her latest book, Picking Dandelions: A Search for Eden Among Life’s Weeds. It’s an excellent memoir. Sarah is a social activist, a former church staffer, and currently a high school teacher in Michigan. We share a publisher at Zondervan and I’m happy to count Sarah as one of those online friends whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in real life. 
Did I mention, by the way, that she’s an excellent writer?
Happy to have Sarah join the ranks of the Voices of Doubt…
————-
I was born with a resistant streak.
My first word was “no.”

My first sentence was “I amn’t gonna do it.”

I once cut all the kids in line at the mall just to tell Santa I didn’t believe he was real.
(He needed to know so he could get on with making a respectable living.)

Some people might say all this nay-saying makes me a born doubter. But I think, all things considered, it made me a born believer.

Because for me, even in childhood, doubt quickly became the best indicator that I actually gave a crap. If someone passed on a spiritual insight to me and I swallowed it immediately, there was a good chance:

A. I didn’t think it was important

or
B. I didn’t care

But if I bothered mulling a new idea over, rolling it around in my mind and sifting it with suspicion?

I was engaged.

I was invested.

And the fact that I gave energy to examining it in the first place meant I sensed something important was at stake.

For me, then, doubt became the hook, the lure of understanding the unseen, that reeled me into faith.

Because of this, I tend to see doubt and faith as equal partners in a God-intended spiritual process.

After all, if the spiritual world wasn’t big and deep and transformative enough to challenge the literal world, there would be no reason to refer to it as “faith.”

Without stuff so epic it stirs doubt, there’s nothing to have faith in.

Without doubt to push through, it’s just facts and knowledge.

And if that were God’s intention, I suspect he would’ve handed us an encyclopedia instead of Jesus.

Instead, I think of faith and doubt as both being part of a natural system of the soul.
Our soul takes in a lot of information, a lot of which people claim are spiritual insights.

That Jesus is Lord.

That he rose from the dead.

That females who cut their hair are going to hell.

That cult followers should let their under-age daughters sleep with the community “prophet.”

Adopting a spirit of belief toward anything and everything people tell you is of God, of course, is not necessarily a sign of faith. Sometimes, as with a couple of the examples above, it’s a sign of confusion.

So you have to expel some things. Faith has to be nurtured by right beliefs, but the soul functions best when we discard unhealthy ideas.

In light of this, I’ve come to picture doubt as the process that helps us push dysfunctional information out of our souls.

If you only believe in faith, and never doubt anything, it makes no sense. You’d be like a person who just eats whatever they come across, with no regard for whether the amount or content could make them sick. No one who eats everything stays healthy.

In the same way, if you always choose a posture of doubt, this too gets ridiculous.
You become like the person who doesn’t believe in the value of any type of food and thus starves to death.

A healthy faith, then, continues to seek, to take in new and deeper insights to fuel growth, but it never stops doubt from doing the needed sifting.

————-

Thank you, Sarah. Keep up with Sarah on Twitter, on Facebook, or via her blog. And if you haven’t read her book Picking Dandelions, you should. Right now.

Previous posts in the “Voices of Doubt” series…

Shawn Smucker: Doubt as Discovery
Jamie Wright: A Born Doubter
Trudy Morgan-Cole: The Squirmin’ Herman of Doubt
David Sessions: The Hard Work of Faith
Dean Nelson: Test Everything
Carlene Bauer: Prodigal Daughter
Larry Shallenberger: The Knight and the Fortune Cookie
David Dark on Sacred Questioning
Cara Davis: A Textbook Case
Matthew Paul Turner: Letting Them See My Doubt
Sally Lloyd-Jones: Where Did You Put Your Faith?
Chad Gibbs: When It Doesn’t Seem Fair
Leeana Tankersley: The Swirling Waters
Robert Cargill: The Skeptic in the Sanctuary
Dana Ellis: Haunted by Questions
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



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Ray Hollenbach

posted January 7, 2011 at 11:21 am


Great selection, Jason; and a great piece, Sarah.
This should be required reading not only for the Doubt-of-the-Month Clubbers, but also for the Too-Easy-Believers.



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Sarah

posted January 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm


Thanks, Ray. Always appreciate the encouragement! :) And glad you can relate to the balance between faith and doubt I’ve found in my life.



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Charlie Chang

posted January 11, 2011 at 10:05 am


//And if that were God’s intention, I suspect he would’ve handed us an encyclopedia instead of Jesus.//
I like that. A lot.



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Elijah A. Alexander, Jr.

posted January 16, 2011 at 11:32 am


Sarah,
I agree, doubt is a hook. As a child, and even today, to believe or doubt caused me to seek evidence and substance (Hebrews 11:1) to cause me to know one way or another.
I had always felt the teachings of Jesus were valid and wanted to live then, even as a child, but I’ve discovered it require being born again to live them. Now that I’m born again (KJV John 3:8) for 34 years I know without a doubt that everything except John 14:12 is true and even it I have evidence to know I will receive even that. The thing is, it requires being an “new” adult and I have been an adolescent for over 25 years. We have to grow into the knowledge of how to use those powers for the benefit of all man and not the selfish gain like most people.
Thanks, Sarah, well written.



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Gary Mac

posted January 16, 2011 at 7:41 pm


Doubt is contrary to the Christ. I may sound as a broken record but I will state this the rest of my life that God absolutely sent an example for us to follow, to be like, to imitate, to walk as He walked. Jesus said in Matt 5: 48. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. The first thing that comes out from one when he reads that is doubt saying, oh no one can be perfect as He is perfect.
One has to examine self and conclude do I really follow Gods example for me or does doubt creep in and say, I can never follow that way. Ether we follow the way or we don’t, the way is to be one with Him and as He is and have the mind of Christ. How you obtain that is of faith. Doubt will kill the Christ every time.
Gary



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g

posted January 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm


I understand what Gary Mac is saying, and that is the ‘Ideal’ that we all wanted but ‘reality’ and experience shows that is is not the case.
I see the faithful,(and also my experience) who in faith tried lots of things, but despite the ‘promises’ never moved mountains, never raised the dead, have experienced divorce and sickness and loss and despite the ‘Ask in faith” “ask anything in my name” never saw any relief or deliverance or healing. These people have found all kinds of ‘excuses’ for why those prayers don’t get answered but basically that comes down to a kind of ‘bait and switch’ theology. When we came to Christ, the preacher told us all these scriptures without any qualifications. We came in believing it. Then as the years progressed and seldom , if ever, did any of these scriptures work without a hitch. So then we got bombarded with ‘legalese’ and disclaimers.. like, God doesn’t want that for you, it is not good for you, God is not about bringing you happiness, he is about making you Holy, yada yada yada.
The ‘faith’ no matter what crowd usually has a caveat or response to all the ‘faith failures’ You didn’t have faith, you doubted, there is sin in your life, etc.But the fact is, most of those things that work out because of ‘faith’ usually work out completely in line with statistics and probablilities.
In other words, I have never seen the ‘faith crowd (myself included) ever get prayers answered greatly above the proportion of those who don’t have faith.
I have found, the the ‘faith no matter what’, and ‘I never doubt’ crowd really are just in denial of reality.
Even C.S. LEWIS doubted.
I find that faith is more reveled in how a person lives than what they preach or what they say they believe or how many scriptures they spout about faith. When I see some one, quietly and diligently meeting their daily responsibilities, helping others, blessing others, loving their wife/husband, refusing to divorce, refusing to participate in sin, I say THAT person has FAITH! When I hear people spouting, and praying for the sick and praying for miracles and yammering about faith…but their life doesn’t add up, I say, phht, that person is living a delusion.



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Gary Mac

posted January 19, 2011 at 8:42 am


And I understand what you are saying. But if you have the mind of Christ, same Spirit in you who was in Christ Jesus then the mountain removed is the one which keeps you from being like Him. Raising the dead is not associated with flesh but spirit; Christ is not raised at all unless raised in you to meet up with Him in His understanding not your understanding according to carnality. That mountain standing between you having what Jesus had is the obstacle. Having faith in Christ is not the same thing as having the faith of Christ; you are supposed to have His kind of faith. If you only see A physical mountain to be moved then you are missing the point of Christ all together. Christ is about a state of being not what you can perform physically.
Gary



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