Doubt Does Not Disqualify You
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
Doubt characterizes my walk with Jesus. I used to be embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve grown to appreciate how my tendency toward doubt shapes and refines my faith.
But often, when I’m stuck in the pit of doubt, I feel useless to God.
How can God possibly use a doubter like me-or why would he want to? How can I teach my disciples the character traits of God when I’m not sure I believe them right now? How can I tell others about how Jesus changed my life when He feels unreal to me right now?
I love the book of Jonah because it is the story of how God used a doubter like me to change an entire city for his glory.
God calls Jonah to go and warn the people of Nineveh, Jonah’s arch enemies, to repent and turn to God - or else they will be destroyed. But Jonah doesn’t want to go to Nineveh. He fears for his safety and, furthermore, he doesn’t want Nineveh to have a chance to escape God’s wrath. Jonah doubts God’s provision in this calling. How could his God, the God of Israel, possibly show mercy to those disgusting people of Nineveh? So, he defiantly runs away from God.
God catches up with him, of course, and sends a storm to overtake the ship on which Jonah is fleeing. Jonah now realizes he can’t run away from God. But, instead of trusting in God’s mercy-the mercy he is willing to show to even his enemies- he tells the other passengers to throw him overboard.
We can never outrun God’s relentless mercy. So, God sends a giant fish to swallow Jonah and rescue him from drowning. Stuck for three days in the dark, putrid belly of the fish, Jonah has nothing else to do but contemplate. In his prayers, Jonah finds his faith and acknowledges that God is merciful and his love is steadfast. God makes the fish vomit Jonah out onto dry land.
God tells Jonah again to go to Nineveh and this time, Jonah obeys with his rediscovered faith. But, his journey of doubt does not end here. After he warns the people of Nineveh about their sin, the people of Nineveh actually repent-they mourn over their sin and place their faith in God, so God shows them mercy and spares them from disaster.
This. Ticks. Jonah. Off. He begins to question God’s character. Is God withholding something from him by sparing his enemies?
“He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Jonah is such a drama queen. It makes us laugh, but at the same time it stings a little- doesn’t it? Because we do this too. We think we see God doing mighty things for others and we question whether God is withholding something good from us-and we forget that he just saved us using a giant, miraculous fish.
It gets even more ridiculous. Jonah goes outside the city to pout in the heat of the day and God graciously grows a plant over his head to give him shade. The next morning, God sends a worm to eat up the plant and again Jonah screams, “just kill me now! I’m better dead than sitting in this heat!”
Again, he doubts that God really cares about him. But God responds, “Jonah, how can you have mercy on this plant, which you didn’t even grow, and not expect me to have mercy on the thousands of dying people in Nineveh that I created?” Jonah doubted because he was fixated on himself and not on the character of God.
But God, knowing fully that Jonah would respond in doubt, sends him to do his work anyway. God refuses to give up on Jonah. God refuses to give up on you too-even in your darkest of doubt. Your doubt does not disqualify you from worship or from mission.
God could’ve let Jonah drown and found someone else to do the mission. He didn’t because he cared about Jonah and about changing Jonah’s heart though the process of worship and mission. And he cares about you and your heart too.
And he cares about others’ hearts. Sometimes I believe the lie that, because I work in full-time ministry, I need to appear to have it all together for the sake of my disciples. But others need to see your weakness-they need to see you doubt and persevere. The reality of this faith-walk is that it is full of difficulty, uncertainty, unanswered questions, and deep struggles. There are no easy answers or quick fixes, as we’d like to believe there is. Disciples need to see that their mentors doubt and yet continue to walk with Jesus because this is the reality of faith.
How is God calling you to serve and worship Him, in spite of your doubt? When we bring our doubt into worship and into our mission, God will mercifully not allow us to drown; He will change our hearts.
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