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Christians often behave as if they’re afraid of their own questions.
Perhaps this comes from preachers to don’t want to face the same questions in themselves and who attempt to answer the anguished “Why?” of a suffering parishioner with platitudes or, occasionally, accusations of a lack of faith.
But the truth is, there is a reasonable basis for these questions.
“Life,” as President John Kennedy famously said, “isn’t fair.”
Sometimes the rich get rich, the good die young and bad things happen to good people.
That alone is enough to drive any sensitive person to take a good long look at claims that God is all-powerful, all-merciful, all-loving, all-knowing and all-just.
If that is true, why aren’t the baby rapers of this world piles of ash? Why didn’t Hitler die along with so many others in World War I? How is that the heads of big banks can bring down whole economies and get paid off with our treasure to refrain from finishing the destruction they created?
I could go on.
But the point is made.
This God of ours, with His long list of “alls” can seem a poor fit for the reality of what is often cruel and difficult human existence.
Sensitive, thoughtful, nerdy people, as Kyle Cupp, the author of Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt describes himself, are bound see the conundrum and ask themselves their own little whys. These questions are not the Why of a mother whose son was murdered in front of her house, or a girl who was raped and beaten and left for dead. They are the confused questions of a bystander who sees this and cannot balance the two columns, one a column listing God’s attributes, the other a column listing the many instances of “where was God?” that they see around them.
People who are caught in the snares of life’s anguish don’t ask these questions, or if they do, they don’t ask them in the same way. The irony of dwelling in doubt is that the doubts tend to vanish when you are confronted by the hardest realities. There is no choice then but to live by faith or to die psychologically. More to the point, these deepest pits of human suffering are when the Holy Spirit meets us most reliably and in ways that undeniable.
Backward as it seems, intense suffering, which sparks doubts in those who witness it, often increases faith in those who endure it.
Mr Cupp has had his own life’s hardships. He’s dealt with them by living in faith, all the while shadowed by nagging doubt. But difficult as the things he’s borne, they do not reach the level of all-eclipsing cataclysm such as sometimes happen to people.
There are things that are not survivable without God. It is possible for some people to survive them physically, but without God they will never be intact again.
Perhaps the one such encounter that everyone must face is their own death. Without God, death means annihilation. People can pretty that up or, more often, just dismiss it from their thoughts when death appears far off on a horizon they don’t expect to ever reach. Most people who talk blithely about dying without God do not, in their hearts, really believe in their own mortality.
But actually facing death your own death for real is quite another matter. The blithe burbling dries up and your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth.
It is the time when people make the final choice as to whom they belong, the point at which that choice becomes eternal.
Everything — every grief and small annihilation we face in our lives up to that point — is a practice session in making the eternal choice. Doubt is not a sin. It is not a lack of faith. It is simply thinking it through.
What matters is not so much the question, for in essence all these questions are only one, what matters is our answer. Dwelling in Doubt is simply the question in whatever form your life experiences direct it to.
And that question, directed to Our God Who made us, is, “can I trust You to be Who they tell me You are?”
The answer is either living by faith or going the opposite direction and turning your back on the only hope you have.
Kyle Cupp writes an honest book with Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt. He lays bare many of his own sorrows and weaknesses. By his own confession, he is a nerdy, introverted man. But his prose reveals a strikingly honest person who is not afraid to admit that there are days in which the faith he lives by dwells in doubt.