Thursday, April 11, 2013

Are We Ever Done with Doubt?

. . . I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:1).

Most of us have heard that time heals all wounds. And most of us know that it isn’t true.

Some wounds, maybe, but not all. Time is an effective healer of our cuts and scrapes and bruises. Over time these may disappear. But the deeper pains, the broken hearts and lost dreams, are usually not remedied by time alone. Time by itself may help, but it cannot heal

Nor does time provide a buffer against all doubts. We might expect that those who have long walked with God would do so with firm steps. We might expect that their prayers will flow freely, their worship will be deeper, their understanding of God’s ways will be wiser. Those who manage to hold on to faith over time seem to have a grip that can’t be broken.

Seventy years ago this month, April 1943, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was arrested at his home in Berlin. He was taken to Tegel prison where he was held for eighteen months before being moved and eventually executed at a camp in Flossenberg on April 9, 1945.

In prison Bonhoeffer was known as a man of courageous and benevolent spirit. His guards treated him with respect. He acted as a pastor to other prisoners. He had gained recognition in both Germany and the United States as a formidable theologian. He was a writer, a teacher, a leader. But a prison poem titled “Who Am I” provides a glimpse into Bonhoeffer’s own questions about himself, the tension between the public man people could see and the man he truly was.

The poem never really answers the title’s question. The matter is left in the hands of God. But the poem will not allow us to believe that the bold and respected theologian endured his imprisonment without the slightest inward wrestling. “They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.”

Likewise, Paul was allowed to see stunning visions and revelations of the Lord. He knew God in a way that was not true of most people. Paul knew that this could have easily been a reason to boast. This same Paul pleaded for relief from his ‘thorn in the flesh’ – a torment he saw as a gift that kept him from boasting.

To know God well and to love God deeply does not mean immunity from struggles, from questions, or from doubts. A lifetime of church or advanced degrees in theology will not exempt you from these things either. Our doubts are not usually resolved or eradicated by time alone.

The most pressing question we can ask is not “How can I be done with my doubts,” but rather, “What will I do with my doubts?” Paul’s struggle took him to a profound grasp of the sufficiency of God’s grace.

Maybe we are never done with doubt because God is never done with us. Doubts and questions and struggles sometimes pull us away from God. But every question or struggle can also be used to lead us to grace.

Where will your own struggles and doubts take you?

Merciful God, hold on to us when our questions and struggles are making it hard for us to hold on to you. Use our doubts to draw us near, showing us more of your grace and power in our lives, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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