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    Assistant Pastor, Youth/Families
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    Assistant Director, Youth/Families
  • Ty Commons
    Assistant Director, Youth/Families
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    Administrative Assistant
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    Assistant Pastor, Shepherding & Young Families
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    Director, Children's Ministry
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    Director, Nursery
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    Director, Community Development
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All That’s Fair: I Doubt It

Suffering is universal. If you haven’t experienced suffering, just wait. It will come to you. There are varying degrees and different types of suffering, but it’s inevitable that all of us will feel it. And it’s futile to fight it because there’s really nothing you can do to make it go away. You just have to wait until it stops. You receive it, accept it for what it is, and just move through it. All the while, hopefully, without losing your mind!

In my life, and I would expect this to be true for many others, hard and frustrating times seem to have the same net effect. They open a door for doubt to enter my psychological house. And the intensity of the doubt matches the intensity of the suffering. When things are going really well, and I’m experiencing success and fulfillment on multiple planes, I can put off dealing with really hard existential questions. But pain and futility tend to dig up all sorts of buried residual. Suffering puts everything you’ve ever wondered about and then stuffed down under the surface, right in front of your face… Am I strong enough to make it through this? Am I desirable to anyone? Will the ones I love still be with me? What does it mean about the future? What does it say about me? What am I doing wrong? Did I do something to deserve this? What does it mean about God? Or the Church? Is anyone there at all? Can I be certain of anything anymore?

When the ground shifts underneath you, it is profoundly destabilizing. And the earthquake metaphor is perfect because that one thing you’ve always been able to trust … the ground itself … is now acting as if it has a mind of its own. It’s a bull trying to spit you off of its back. When you can’t hold on or even stand anymore, what can you trust now?

We all feel it. It’s a human thing. And nothing is inherently wrong with any of this. It is completely normal to experience profound doubt and unrest. But what many of us tend to do is sprint as fast as we can to the closest available uncomplicated answer. In efforts to assuage the trouble, because we long just to be anesthetized until it’s over, we latch on to simple explanations. Anything to keep us going. We pretend that we know for certain why the Lord allowed our children to get leukemias, our fathers or mothers to die when we were young, our lovers to betray us, our friends to desert us. We say to ourselves and to each other, “God’s ways are not our ways… there is a reason for this… God has a plan.” Not that those things aren’t true, but they at least provide little to no consolation. They band-aid the problem. What if a reason never reveals itself? What if you just got hit with the freight train of reality just because? That is not to say that our faith is in vain at all. But it does mean that wrestling with doubt and uncertainty requires brutal honesty. Accepting an easy answer will not get you anywhere; it will only make you comfortable. And in fact, the nature of faith itself assumes the presence of doubt. In this sense, then, the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. If we knew the answers to all of these questions, if we didn’t see through a glass dimly, then why would we need to hope, trust, or believe in anything? Not understanding, yet choosing to be grateful anyway, is a deep spiritual practice. Many mystics and artists have left breadcrumbs for us to follow and to eat. We can be encouraged because we are not EVER alone!

If you are hurting, I feel you. You are not by yourself. And I cry with you and for you. Here are a few breadcrumbs I’ve kept close to my heart in hard times. May you find encouragement and solidarity in the universal Christ and his unending empathy.

“I guess I just feel like, Good things are gone
And the weight of my worry, Is too much to take on
I think I remember, The dream that I had
That love’s gonna save us, From a world that’s gone mad
I guess I just feel like, What happened to that?”
John Mayer, I Guess I Just Feel Like

“So I said, ‘God, will you bless this decision?’,
‘I’m scared, there’s my life at stake.’
But I see, if you gave me a vision,
that I’d never have reason to use my faith.”
David Wilcox, Hold it Up to the Light

“Prosperity will have its season.
Even when it’s here, it’s going by.
And when it’s gone, we pretend we know the reason…
But all the roots grow deeper when it’s dry.”
David Wilcox, All the Roots Grow Deeper

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude