I’ve often struggled with doubt. Sometimes it settles in over a long period of time like a debilitating fog, but most of of the time it just sits there at the back of my mind, nagging at me. If all the world is in hi-definition color, then doubt is like a color blindness or that strange green glow that creeps in from the corner on old vacuum tube TVs.
Doubt will arrive while I’m driving in the car, or taking a shower, or lying still in bed at night. It will whisper in my ear…
Do you really have what it takes to lead?
Is your life really making a difference?
Can you really hold your family together?
Did you make the right decision?
Is God really there?
Of course, you can tell yourself that those things aren’t true. The tricky thing about doubt is it doesn’t tell you a lie, it just makes you question what you know to be true. It starts pulling on the thread that begins to unravel the neatly knitted sweater we’ve woven together of our decisions and beliefs and hopes; and suddenly, our warm sweater has let in a draft.
Doubt can begin to consume my thoughts and paralyze me from being able to enjoy the present. Doubt never lives in the present, it always draws my attention to something I did the the past or something that I’m worried about in the future. Often if I can make it back to the present then I can finally find some clarity.
I don’t have a silver bullet for doubt, I have not figured it out. I suspect I will wrestle with it for much of my life. When the questions are whirling through my mind and the fog seems thick I often go back to a conversation with my friend Winn almost 10 years ago at a coffee shop in Clemson, SC. He would often tell me that God is big enough to handle my doubt. When doubt presses in, he would remind me of Peter’s words in John 6, “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.’”
Everyone was deserting Jesus – he was not the political hero they were expecting – and Jesus asks his disciples if they want to leave as well. Peter simply asks in reply where else would we go? It isn’t a particularly intellectually satisfying answer, but it rings true to me. Peter had walked with Jesus, left everything for him, seen him heal the blind. Sometimes all we can do is hold fast to our friends and trust in what we have seen and heard and know to be true.
Peter himself would continue to wrestle with doubt. Stepping out of the boat only to begin sinking at the sight of the storm. Staring at a handful of fish and a hungry crowd. Declaring resolute loyalty and swearing he never knew Jesus until hearing the rooster’s incriminating crow. Thankfully, God is big enough for Peter’s doubt and for mine – Jesus didn’t let Peter drown, he pulled him up out of the water and back into the boat.
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