Recently I’ve had the guest from hell. Bloke by the name of Doubt. Big and mean and smells of smoke. Can’t keep his hands to himself, even though he knows I’m married. ‘You don’t belong with that Husband’ he says. ‘You’re junk, like me’. I tell him where to go. But even when I board up the doors, he seeks me out and breaks them down.
At night I can hear him – scratching. Sometimes he retreats: but he rarely leaves.
I’ve tried fighting him with distraction: shopping and box sets. I’ve gone on retreat, (an enjoyable sojourn but not a fix). Worse of all, I’ve tried to out-think him and explain His existence. A list of Possible Causes. Hormones, friends with struggles, meds, missed quiet times. But at the top of it is this: ‘Life’. The Christian Life.
Doubt – for me at least – is a part of faith. Minor wobbles – but also – occasionally, full-on meltdowns.
Is God there? All the stuff about Jesus: just a nice story? A crutch? Or an irrelevance? Why are these things happening – to strangers and people I love? Am I praying at the ceiling? And (my favourite) – If God is there, why can’t I FEEL Him? Why can’t we go back to the beginning: when we were young and in love and faith was simple as breathing? Prayers spilling from my lips, evidence of miracles in the everyday, an incredible bear-hug of divinity that warmed my bones and pressed me close. Dear God, make it like it was.
I’m tired. Grumpy – and bored. The same ground and the same lessons and the same endless struggles. I’ve learned this God; now make it stop. A holiday from holiness. Stuff godliness, I want comfort. Not perserverance or endurance or obedience or faith. Answers and results and evidence and proof. Not your will – Mine.
I keep going to church. But inside, I’m hard. I look at others; the real believers who Feel It and Know It to Be True. Pathetic really. I watch them eat and I’m hungry- but I’ll feed myself. I look in the opposite direction. ‘Come sit by me’ says Doubt. ‘Warm yourself by the flame of self-pity. After all, you deserve it’.
He’s right. I deserve to be left outside. The hell of my own company – it’s what I say I want. But even though I hear Him, I stay where I am. There’s another voice and it’s one I recognise. Someone praying for me:
‘I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified’. –John 17:14-18.
Without friends telling me that God is loving and real and still at work, I don’t know where I’d be.
Without scripture reminding me that it’s hard to follow Christ, I think I’d give up.
Without the Son of God praying for me and carrying me to the Father on His breast, I’d be dead in my sins.
But because of Jesus, I am carried.
Because of Jesus I am safe.
Because of Jesus I can return to the cross and start again – every day.
Because of Jesus I have no faith in Doubt. And a Husband more faithful than my feelings.