Me and My Doubting Friends
I remember the look on Patrick’s face when he hung up the phone that night. It was a cross between angry and confused and sad. Here he was, faced with a tragic circumstance, and what was he to say? If life is just random, if there’s no intelligence behind it, then there’s nothing to say – nothing worthwhile anyway. If there’s no God, then there’s just some good stuff and some bad stuff and then you die. There’s no explanation available. Deal with it. And this is the problem with atheism: it can’t give us the answers we really want. Mostly, what atheists spout is nothing more than description pretending to be explanation. They describe things as meticulously as they can, but they never tell you what you really want to know – which is, “Why?” All the atheists can give you with their brand of science is “This is what is”; they can’t ever give you a satisfactory reason for “This is why”.
But if God’s behind all of this, then there’s a purpose to it, somehow, even if we don’t understand it at the moment. Suffering has redemptive possibilities. Pain can be a pointer to something bigger and deeper than immediate gratification. Difficulties can help us grow and learn and become better than we currently are.
I know there are parts of this whole thing that are hard to believe. Virgin birth. Sinless life. Physical resurrection. You pray for someone to get well and nothing happens – or maybe they get worse. I know the toll something like that can take on a person’s faith. I know it firsthand.
And then you hear some really educated sounding guy with a British accent making fun of religion and suggesting that the God of the Bible is as real as the flying spaghetti monster. And you think, “Maybe he’s right. Maybe I’m just being superstitious and naïve.”
I want to be as honest as possible with you here. I have my doubts about this whole virgin birth, bodily resurrection, answered prayer thing, too. I have a doubting problem. If we’re honest, we all do.
One thing that gives me hope and strength, though, is the knowledge that I am far from alone. I know lots of you struggle with doubting. I go to meetings with other doubters (we meet every Sunday all over the world). All of my honest friends are doubters.
There’s actually a verse I’ve started using. I find it helps me deal with myself when I give in to the impulse to doubt. And it helps me deal with others who also can’t find the strength to resist the doubting. It’s way back towards the back of the Bible, in a tiny little letter by a man named Jude.
He says, “Be merciful to those who doubt” (Jude 1:22).
It’s a short and simple verse, but it’s a verse we neglect to our peril. I have doubts, and I need you to be merciful to me. You have doubts, and you need me to be merciful to you.
Everybody doubts, and when someone who has not made a commitment to faith comes to you with their doubts, the first thing you’ve got to do is level with them. Then show them mercy.