“Ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” - James 1:6
We do not enter each day the same way.
Some days are filled with hope and gladness. We wake up rejuvenated, with wind in our sails ready to meet the rising sun. Other days, not so much. We struggle to get out of bed, and when we finally muster up the strength, we feel as though we are moving through the day with cinderblocks in our shoes. Doubt and disappointment have seized us.
Perhaps more discouraging than waking up on one side of the spectrum or the other is to gradually move from one side to the other. To wake up with the wind of hope and gladness in your sails, excitement for all that is to come and all there is to do for the glory of God, only to lay down that evening on the remnants of the shipwreck that took place during the day. You begin to question and doubt God’s purposes, plans, and promises, His calling on your life and your confidence in Him.
I won’t say when or where, but recently I finished preaching a message that God had laid on my heart for some time. I delivered it and felt good about it. When I say good, I mean it. Not bad, not great, just good. Content. Truth be told, there have been very, very, very, few sermons that I’ve given where I felt like I crushed it. I can think of three instances.
After the message, I discussed it with the few confidants I have. I talked about what I liked, didn’t like, and my own highlights and insecurities about the message and night as a whole. The next day, I was told that one of them had gone to others and betrayed the trust I thought I had in them. Without getting into many details about what was said, I will simply tell you how I felt, as it pertains to the development of the content of our topic - doubt - I was in a funk. Defeated, distraught, doubting. I doubted that God had called me to preach His Word, that I had any kind of leadership ability, or that He had me in the right place.
Now why do I tell you that? Because as much as I would love to tell you that college is the time for solidifying your beliefs and destroying your doubts, that is a fallacy. For me, college was a time for identifying what it is that I believe, investigating why I believed, and inviting others to help me along the journey of faith. John Calvin once said, “Surely, while we teach that faith ought to be certain and assured, we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety.”
When you enter the territory of faith, the enemy of doubt will always prowl near, trying to keep you from exploring the places God has called you to explore and from doing the things that God has called you to do. I’ve always avoided talking much about Peter’s attempt to walk on water towards Jesus. I suppose I just don’t like talking about the things we’ve heard a million times before, but recently, I’ve been reminded to ask myself, “Who am I? That I would assume I’ve gotten beneath all there is to that Scripture and that the Holy Spirit could not reveal something new to me?”
When Christ approaches the disciples and says, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Peter calls out to Him and asks if he can walk to Him. Jesus says, “Come.” We know the rest of the story. Peter sees the wind and the waves, he doubts, and he begins to sink. Jesus says to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Even if Peter had never doubted and made it safely to Jesus, it wouldn’t have taken the storm away, it would have simply put the storm in perspective. When Jesus asks Peter why he doubted, I don’t think that Jesus is telling Peter that he had no reason to fear. If you read the story, Peter has everything to fear. He’s jumping out of a boat in the middle of the sea to walk on water in a hurricane. That’s terrifying.
We have to take Jesus’ question for what it is, “Why did you doubt?” Jesus isn’t asking Peter why he doubted that the storm was dangerous, clearly it was. He is asking Peter why he doubted that Christ’s call to come near to Him could be thwarted by the wind and the sea. The same breath that called Peter out of the boat is the same breath that the seas and the winds were made through and answer to.
When we doubt, we have placed more faith in the effectiveness of the storm than in Christ. One of the most infuriating things I experience is the idea that Christianity and Christians in general are called to be downright stupid, that faith means ignoring the obvious and holding onto the ridiculous. In some ways, I could see where that might seem to be the case, but it is not so. Jesus is not going to tell you that the storm is not dangerous, painful, or confusing. What He is going to tell you is, “come,” because He is our defender, protector, and peace.
Your doubts may very well have some legitimacy to them, but you would be wise to doubt your doubts. There is a call that Jesus has placed on those who are in Christ and it is simple, He tells us to come to Him.
I think so many of us are busy trying to navigate what Jesus wants us to do and why He has called us to Him that we are delaying the steps that we must take to actually be in His presence and acknowledge that His presence is enough. When Jesus says, “Come to me,” don’t shout back and say, “Lord! Is accounting the right major? I was talking to my mom and I just don’t know, I really like the engineering!” Just walk towards him.
James says that those who doubt are like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. When doubt drives us to ask tough questions, that isn’t an entirely bad thing, but when it sees the wind and the waves lacks belief in the One who has called us, that is where the trouble ensues.
No matter where you’re at in your faith and wrestling through your doubts, know this, Jesus will always reach down to you and pick you back up. Be aware though, when He has called you, doubt cannot destroy the call that Jesus has placed on your life. His character is the rock that the storms cannot sweep away.
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