Weathering Doubtstorms with Faith
THERE ARE SNOWSTORMS. There are hail storms. There are rainstorms. And there are doubtstorms.
Every so often a doubtstorm rolls into my life, bringing with it a flurry of questions and gale- force winds of fear. And, soon after it comes, a light shines through it. Sometimes the storm comes after the evening news. Some nights I wonder why I watch it. Some nights it’s just too much. From the steps of the Capitol Building to the steppes of South Africa, the news is usually gloomy . . . thirty minutes of bite-sized tragedies. A handsome man in a nice suit with a warm voice gives bad news. They call him the anchorman. Good title. One needs an anchor in today’s tempestuous waters.
Sometimes I wonder, How can our world get so chaotic?
Sometimes the storm comes when I’m at work. Story after story of homes that won’t heal and hearts that won’t melt. Always more hunger than food. More needs than money. More questions than answers. On Sundays I stand before a church with a three-point outline in my hand, thirty minutes on the clock, and a prayer on my lips. I do my best to say something that will convince a stranger that an unseen God still hears.
And I sometimes wonder why so many hearts have to hurt.
Do you ever get doubtstorms? Some of you don’t, I know. I’ve talked to you. Some of you have a “Davidish” optimism that defies any Goliath. I used to think that you were naive at best and phony at worst. I don’t think that anymore. I think you are gifted. You are gifted with faith. You can see the rainbow before the clouds part. If you have this gift, then skip this chapter. I won’t say anything you need to hear. But others of you wonder . . .
You wonder what others know that you don’t. You wonder if you are blind or if they are. You wonder why some proclaim “Eureka” before the gold is found. You wonder why some shout “Land ho” before the fog has cleared. You wonder how some people believe so confidently while you believe so reluctantly. As a result, you are a bit uncomfortable on the padded pew of blind belief. Your Bible hero is Thomas. Your middle name is Caution. Your queries are the bane of every Sunday school teacher.
“If God is so good, why do I sometimes feel so bad?”
“If his message is so clear, why do I get so confused?”
“If the Father is in control, why do good people have gut-wrenching problems?”
You wonder if it is a blessing or a curse to have a mind that never rests. But you would rather be a cynic than a hypocrite, so you continue to pray with one eye open and wonder:
• about starving children
• about the power of prayer
• about the depths of grace
• about Christians in cancer wards
• about who you are to ask such questions anyway.
Tough questions. Throw-in-the-towel questions. Questions the disciples must have asked in the storm on the sea.
All they could see were black skies as they bounced in the battered boat. Swirling clouds. Wind- driven white caps. Pessimism that buried the coastline. Gloom that swamped the bow. What could have been a pleasant trip became a white-knuckled ride through a sea of fear.
Their question—What hope do we have of surviving a stormy night?
My question—Where is God when his world is stormy?
Doubtstorms: turbulent days when the enemy is too big, the task too great, the future too bleak, and the answers too few.
Every so often a storm will come, and I’ll look up into the blackening sky and say, “God, a little light, please?”
The light came for the disciples. A figure came to them walking on the water. It wasn’t what they expected. Perhaps they were looking for angels to descend or heaven to open. Maybe they were listening for a divine proclamation to still the storm. We don’t know what they were looking for. But one thing is for sure, they weren’t looking for Jesus to come walking on the water.
“‘It’s a ghost,’ they said and cried out in fear” (Mart. 14:26). And since Jesus came in a way they didn’t expect, they almost missed seeing the answer to their prayers.
And unless we look and listen closely, we risk making the same mistake. God’s lights in our dark nights are as numerous as the stars, if only we’ll look for them.
Can I share a few lights with you that have illuminated my world recently?
A friend and I sat in front of my house in his car and talked about his dilemma. His chief client pulled out on him, leaving him big bills and few solutions. What the client did wasn’t right, but he did it anyway. The client’s company was big and my friend’s was small, and there wasn’t a lot he could do. My friend was left with a den of hungry lions wanting six figures’ worth of satisfaction.
“I called my uncle and told him what had happened. I told him I was thinking of filing for bankruptcy.”
“What did he say?” I asked.
“He didn’t say anything,” my friend responded. “After he was silent for a long time, I said it for him. ‘We don’t do it like that, do we?”’
“‘No, we don’t,’ he told me. So I’ll pay the bills. If I have to sell my house, I’ll pay my bills.”
I was encouraged. Somebody still believed that if he did what was right, God would do what was best. There was still some we-don’t-do-it-like-that faith in the world. The sky began to clear.
Light number two came from a cancer ward.
“We will celebrate forty-four years tomorrow,” Jack said, feeding his wife. She was bald. Her eyes were sunken, and her speech was slurred. She looked straight ahead, only opening her mouth when he brought the fork near. He wiped her cheek. He wiped his brow.
“She has been sick for five years,” he told me. “She can’t walk. She can’t take care of herself. She can’t even feed herself, but I love her. And,” he spoke louder so she could hear, “we are going to beat this thing, aren’t we, Honey?”
He fed her a few bites and spoke again, “We don’t have insurance. When I could afford it, I thought I wouldn’t need it. Now I owe this hospital more than $50,000.” He was quiet for a few moments as he gave her a drink. Then he continued. “But they don’t pester me. They know I can’t pay, but they admitted us with no questions asked. The doctors treat us like we are their best-paying patients. Who would’ve imagined such kindness?”
I had to agree with him. Who would’ve imagined such kindness? In a thorny world of high-tech, expensive, often criticized health care, it was reassuring to find professionals who would serve two who had nothing to give in return. Jack thanked me for coming, and I thanked God that once again a sinew of light reminded me of the sun behind the clouds.
Then, a few days later, another light.
Larry Brown is the coach of the San Antonio Spurs, the local professional basketball ream. I don’t know him personally (although rumor has it that he wants me to sign a multi-year contract and play point guard for the team . . . nice fantasy).
Coach Brown recently spent an afternoon at a local men’s store, signing autographs. He was scheduled to spend two hours, but ended up spending three. Pencil-and-pad-toting kids besieged the place, asking him questions and shaking his hand.
When he was finally able to slip out, he climbed into his car, only to notice a touching sight. A late-arriving youngster pedaled up, jumped off his bike, and ran to the window to see if the coach was still in the store. When he saw he wasn’t, he turned slowly and sadly, walked over to his bike, and began to ride off.
Coach Brown turned off the ignition, climbed out of the car, and walked over to the boy. They chatted a few minutes, went next door to a drugstore, sat down at a table, and had a soft drink. No reporters were near. No cameras were on. As far as these two knew, no one knew. I’m sure Larry Brown had other things to do that afternoon. No doubt he had other appointments to keep. But it’s doubtful that anything he might have done that afternoon was more important than what he did.
In a world of big-bucked, high-glossed professional sports, it did me good to hear of one coach who is still a coach at heart. Hearing what he did was enough to blow away any lingering clouds of doubt and to leave me warmed by God’s light . . . his gentle light.
Gentle lights. God’s solutions for doubtstorms. Gold-flecked glows that amber hope into blackness. Not thunderbolts. Not explosions of light. Just gentle lights. A business-man choosing honesty. A hospital choosing compassion. A celebrity choosing kindness.
Visible evidence of the invisible hand.
Soft reminders that optimism is not just for fools.
Funny. None of the events were “religious.” None of the encounters occurred in a ceremony or a church service. None will make the six o’clock news. But such is the case with gentle lights.
When the disciples saw Jesus in the middle of their stormy night, they called him a ghost. A phantom. A hallucination. To them, the glow was anything but God. When we see gentle lights on the horizon, we often have the same reaction. We dismiss occasional kindness as apparitions, accidents, or anomalies. Anything but God.
“When Jesus comes,” the disciples in the boat may have thought, “he’ll split the sky. The sea will be calm. The clouds will disperse.”
“When God comes,” we doubters think, “all pain will flee. Life will be tranquil. No questions will remain.”
And because we look for the bonfire, we miss the candle. Because we listen for the shout, we miss the whisper.
But it is in burnished candles that God comes, and through whispered promises he speaks: “When you doubt, look around; I am closer than you think.”
http://www.maxlucado.com Used by permission.
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