The Darkness of Doubt

September 2005 - I was in a small village above the Sea of Galilee, near the end of a month-long trip to Israel to visit Yoel, my dear friend and former roommate from San Francisco. He was part of a small home fellowship at the time, and during a time of intense worship and intercession, Brookie, one of the Spirit-filled women in the home church came over to me to share a word the Lord had given her. Looking directly in my eyes with fiery intensity, she said, “Ryan, God told me your friend Edward will be saved.” I wanted to bawl my eyes out; Edward was a former partner and deeply loved friend who held intense bitterness and hatred towards organized religion, and none more so than Christianity. The thought of him giving his life to Christ made my heart leap with joy, but doubt filled that space as well. How could I - or anyone else for that matter - ever get through with the message of the gospel? God had changed my life; could he really change his?

Fast-forward nearly 15 years and as far as I can tell Edward is just as far from faith as he was that summer in 2005; the only difference is I no longer live on the West Coast and rarely get to see him anymore (every other year we’re in the same area of Michigan at the same time for Thanksgiving, so we usually get together for lunch or coffee then and catch up). My heart aches as I type this… God, did you really speak to Brookie all those years ago in Israel? Do you still have a plan to “leave the 99” and rescue Edward, that one (of billions) lost sheep?

There’s still a lot of hope mixed up with a whole lot of doubts, whether it’s the salvation of my friend Edward or the healing of my chronic pain or any number of issues hidden away in my heart where only the Lord sees. Maybe you have hopes mixed with doubts as well - can God really heal my cancer? Will he bring my prodigal child back home? Can I really break these chains of addiction? Can my marriage really be saved? Will I ever break free of this depression? I would imagine Abraham had some doubts when he found out he was going to be a father. A father? He was nearly 100 years old!!! Could such a thing really happen?

Max Lucado talks about Abraham in his devotional “The Darkness of Doubt.” God has never seemed farther away than in the midst of my deepest doubts and fears, which is why I loved the way Max writes the introduction of today’s devotional:

God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars and would inherit all the land. But Abraham had no son. He was facing the dreadful darkness of doubt.

The same darkness you feel when you sit in a funeral chapel and listen to the obituary of the one you love.

The same darkness you feel when you realize the divorce you never wanted is final.

The same darkness into which Jesus screamed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Appropriate words. For when we doubt, God seems very far away.

Does God seem far off right now? For me it’s been a battle almost every morning this year, my body wracked with pain and mind racing with anxiety as I struggle to get out of bed. God are you there? Am I really going to be ok? The answer? Yes, I’m here - just take one step, and I’ll be right beside you. Then take another, and I’ll be there too - and before I know it I’ve got the kids dressed, fed, and in the minivan on the way to school for another day.

Like so many things, doubt is a burden just too heavy to carry on our own. Let’s take Max’s conclusion to heart:

If you are experiencing doubt. Lean into God and listen.

He’s nearer, than you might imagine.