Throughout this blog, I have tried to be honest about my struggle with doubt. In fact I have called 2015 the Year of Doubts. During the year I have “doubted” Easter, church music and good works. I have also looked at the stages of doubt and Jesus’ disciple Thomas, who has ever been labeled as “Doubting Thomas.” When I have used the word doubt in these contexts what I have really been trying to do is take an honest and fresh look at some of the aspects of my faith. As I wrote in my opening Year of Doubts post: “I haven’t lost my faith. I’m not leaving Christianity or the Church/ church. I’m not even somehow testing the claims of God, Jesus and the Bible. What I am doing is being open about my doubt- what I don’t know, what I don’t understand, what I cannot explain and what question I have.”
My posts haven’t been about doubting God but rather the ways that we have made God work (or limited God to work) through our religious systems.
That’s until I realized that I am in the midst of doubting God right now.
I’ve been working through a process for a couple of years now of trying to discern if God is calling me in a particular direction. I still don’t know what God might be leading me to do but I know that I didn’t really believe that God could do it. I didn’t believe that God could make the vision work. God could issue the call and give the vision but God couldn’t actually make it work. My thoughts, fears and prayers have been focused on whether or not God has the power to do the things God calls us to do.
I know I’m not the only one who has ever experienced this kind of doubt. God has an inconvenient habit of asking those who believe in him to do the things that seem, at first glance, to be too crazy, too grand or too consequential. Perhaps it is fair to say that when God calls us to a specific task it’s one that seems either too big for us or too small for us. Either way, I think God calls us to tasks for the purpose of seeing if we trust God; to see if we believe God is powerful enough to do the task God has assigned.
It’s God’s power, however, that I have a hard time believing.
Paul the Apostle by Rembrandt, 1633
A couple of days ago, I was reading in Ephesians and I began to see the way I have been doubting God and God’s power. At the end of chapter one, the Apostle Paul prays several things for the Ephesian church and the Ephesian Christians, one of which is that they will know the “surpassing greatness of [God’s] power toward us who believe.” Then, in typical Pauline fashion, he elaborates on God’s power so extensively that it appears he has moved on to another topic. However, Paul wants his reader to fully understand what kind of power it is that God has toward the believer. Paul first says that the power at God’s disposal is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, seated Jesus at God’s right hand, gave Jesus all authority and placed everything under Jesus’ rule. That would be enough, but Paul doesn’t stop there. He continues by describing God’s power as the same power that took you and I, people dead in sin, and made us alive (just as Jesus is alive), raised us up and seated us with Jesus where Jesus is seated in the place of supreme rule and authority. Paul also goes through great lengths to show that this power comes completely from God- there’s no power you and I bring to the table.
Paul is clear in his message: God possesses great power. God has the power to raise Jesus from the dead and give him all power and authority and God has to power to take people dead in sin, make them alive and place them where Jesus, himself, sits. If God has the power to do that, then God has to power to make what seems too crazy, too big or too small, not only possible, but a proven certainty.
Paul also says that this is the power that God has “toward” us. It’s the power the pushes us, like wind in the sails of a ship. A ship cannot make wind but if the wind is blowing toward the ship, the ship can use its sails to be pushed by the wind. It is similar with you and I. It wasn’t our power that raised Jesus from the dead and it wasn’t our power that moved us from death into life- it was God’s power. We do not have God’s power stored inside us somewhere, waiting to be released; God alone controls God’s power and we simply want to have our proverbial sails ready if and when God blows that power in our direction.
When you and I doubt God’s power to accomplish the task God has given us, what we are really saying is that God may have the power to raise Christ from the dead and give Christ all power and authority and God may have the power to give us life and seat us with Christ in the place of power and authority but God doesn’t have the power to meet a financial need, to bring the right people to a team, to find the right location, to help us communicate God’s vision, to take a step away from the spotlight, to serve- or whatever our fears and anxieties may be when we think about the task God has before us. To say it another way, we are saying God has the power to save me for eternity but God doesn’t have the power to help me accomplish God’s calling on earth.
When we look at it in those words, our doubts seem awfully silly. It becomes one of those times where our emotions and fears don’t line up with our knowledge and logic. When this happens, our only response is to rest in faith that God does indeed have the power to accomplish all that God wants to accomplish. And that is true even when God decides to use imperfect human beings like you and like me.