(NOTE: This post is taken from a chapter in my book, Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do. With all the major events of recent days, this just seemed like an appropriate time to share it.)
Lord, I crawled across the barrenness to you with my empty cup uncertain in asking for any small drop of refreshment.
If only I had known you better, I’d have come running with a bucket.
— Nancy Spielberg
One of the hardest things anyone with a significant struggle — such as same-sex attraction, pornography addiction, heterosexual lust or any addictive temptation — deals with, is doubt. Self-doubt, sure. But, also the doubt others have in his or her ability to change . . . or even doubt that the person really wants to change. Sometimes this doubt is not truly expressed, but is instead hidden behind the “we’re with you” smiles, which can so quickly become “we knew it” frowns at the very first sign of a fall. How nice it would be for all involved if this battle were but a minor skirmish with a certain outcome, instead of one of those “well, I had my doubts all along” battlefields, littered with the wounded, some doubting they can get themselves back up again to move forward, some doubting if anyone even cares anymore.
I had a friend in college who lived with no doubts. His was always sure his project would be the best. He would sing the song just fine. His parents would, of course, send the money. His car would run. His jokes would always be funny and people would laugh. He would always be understood. His friends would ever be loyal and everything would complete itself perfectly, right on time. He was never timid or understated because he never doubted. But, he was also pretty much tied up in secret knots of frustration. He’d exchanged doubt for denial. When he didn’t win first place or his joke fell flat or the check didn’t arrive or the tire went flat or a friend let him down, he would bottle up inside and close down. What most of us might have lived through as dashed hope he died to as devastation. His forced-open eyes would fill with tears of anguish. He definitely needed some doubt.
I haven’t seen him in many years, but I “doubt” he is as certain of everything as he used to be.
Some might say my friend had faith. But the presence of faith is not the absence of doubt. Faith is based on a belief in hope. It involves assurance . . . and trust. This friend lived on assumption, not assurance. A little too much “it’ll be all right,” and a little too little “what will be will be.” He had no faith to test because he allowed no doubt.
But what if we have a lot of doubt? Does that mean we have little faith?
I remember I used to sit on the curb in front of our house on Saturdays when I was a little boy. I doubted my dad would show, but I had faith that he would. Could the measure of each — doubt or faith — be determined by how long I sat with my chin on my knees looking to the left and right to see if he might come walking up the street?
I have no doubt God clearly knows the difference between doubt and faith. I’m not sure we always do. On our own, we usually reward our doubt with our deepest fears. Our faith, on the other hand, is usually God-tested and leads us to our greatest joy. “A little while” of testing can feel like a long time . . . and produce an awful lot of doubt.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. — I Peter 1:6-7
It used to bother me that, of all the Biblical characters, I was named Thomas. The doubter. I know my mother did not really name me Thomas because she was debating which Biblical character I would be like. After all, my brother’s name is Mike, and my sisters’ names are Deb and Sue. Mother was merely reflecting the popular name choices of the decade in which we were born. We could have as easily been Bob and Gary and Judy and Peggy. But I was Thomas, the doubter.
I think God loves those who doubt. In dealing with our sincere doubt, He demonstrates the truth that He is patient and kind. It is a wonderful truth that the greatest doubters often become the greatest believers. Our honest doubts can become the bedrock of our faith. Truth that comes rampaging in to dispel doubt is sweet and strong.
Maybe we should think less about what doubt is . . . and less about who doubts us . . . and instead think about what doubt may do. How does it motivate us? Does our doubt send us searching or hiding? Revealing or masking?
Doubt is like looking out the window and seeing the sun go down for the gazillionth time, knowing once again that the darkness will follow, mimicking the darkness inside us. We might forget momentarily that the sun is only gone for a while. It does not yield its place to darkness in God’s creative balance. Through grace, the light comes back around to overwhelm the darkness . . . lest anyone doubt. We strive hard to resist letting our sexual sin define us; let’s not let our doubt do it either. You’ve read the Bible. Yes, people wander, but they are never beyond the gaze of God.
But what of those who doubt us or the sincerity of our quest for freedom? I say, let each doubter bear his own. Sometimes we expend so much energy trying to dispel the doubts of others that we have too little energy left to put on the armor for our own battles. Let them doubt. God can deal with that. And, if they want someday to put their hands in your scars, scarcely believing this new you is . . . you . . . then let them do so and forgive their doubt as you forgive your own.
Some may tell us we’ve used up all our chances. They’ve moved beyond doubting to knowing. “You can’t change.” Well . . . life is not a game of chance; it is a reality of faith. Let them keep their assumption; you have your assurance.
I am thankful for doubt. Anyone who struggles with temptation knows that doubt is a glimpse of freedom. If we can doubt, we can seek.
Doubt leads us to the door. That door where you knock. Where you ask. That door that opens. Behind which no despair lingers. Where doubt no longer dwells.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. — Matthew 7: 7-8
And if for some unfounded reason you doubt that the word “everyone” includes you, then let that doubt lead you to the door. It will open . . . no doubt.
(Do you know someone who is dealing with sexual brokenness? Signs of a Struggle provides help and encouragement, truth with compassion.)