I often joke with my friends that I have the “gift” of doubt. Though it is a gift I haven’t really wanted, in some ways it has served me well. Doubt has kept my conversation with God authentic as life’s “unexplainables” press in. Why does the church keep splitting, fighting, and judging when Jesus prayed so hard for its unity? Where is the Creator of time when a friend diagnosed with stage 4 cancer has to wait four weeks for chemo to begin? And why on earth are believers often known more for what they are against rather than for doing justice, and loving mercy, and walking humbly with God?
For starters, I don’t know how to live in the world and not question and wonder about God, faith, doubt, dogma, and practice. I connect with the father who wasn’t quite sure Jesus could heal his son but asked him anyway:
“If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:22–24, NASB)
A father riddled with fear and doubt—“I do believe; help my unbelief”—still threw the whole weight of his desire and longing on Jesus. And Jesus counts the imperfect, fear-laced request for help as evidence of faith! Why? Faith is not the same thing as knowing something absolutely. God alone sees all dimensions. Only God knows absolutely. We always know in part. That’s why faith is different from certainty—faith is a risk.1