Tuesday, May 15, 2012


In the Bruce Willis movie, "TEARS OF THE SUN," there is an exchange between a priest and a nun upon learning their African mission church is under attack by rogue soldiers. The nun confides her fears to the priest who sternly rebukes her, saying she must have faith and not doubt. ...Okay, even I would encourage her to have faith in that situation. But, no doubts? Really? EVER?

I don't call that faith. I call that sticking your fingers in your ears, closing your eyes and chanting "La-la-la-la-la!" to life's challenges. I think you would have to have the nerves and imagination of a bag of cement to NEVER doubt.

Perhaps this in not what the screen writer meant to convey. Maybe he simply meant we should have faith in God and not doubt God's love. Maybe that's what he meant. But I still have a problem with this thinking. It shows a weak grasp of the reality of human nature and the true message the scriptures teach us about God's expectations in light of our many failings.

Doubt is normal. It is human to go into a situation wondering if it will work out; fearing it won't. Faith is not the absence of doubt. Faith is trusting that God is good and working for my good even when things are falling apart around me. As a young believer I really struggled with the meaning of faith because I was not working with a good definition.  I thought faith was something you felt--like love, or happiness, or seasickness. I did not know faith is something you do or don't do.

The Greek word used in the New Testament is "pestueo." It is eye-opening to realize it takes three English words to encompass the meaning of "pestueo:" faith, believe and trust. When we talk about faith we must  keep belief and trust in mind. It is one thing to say I have faith in that two hundred year old rocking chair. It is quite another to trust it to hold my considerable weight.

Put it another way: as a boy, my dad taught me to swim by standing in the deep end of the pool. "Jump," he'd say, "I'll catch you." When I jumped, I had faith in my dad. When I did not jump, it is because I did not believe he would really catch me.

Sometimes--even after my dad had caught me numerous times--I doubted. Did my dad give up on me? Disown me? No. He stood in the deep end and said, "Jump, I'll catch you." That is a much better picture of faith and doubt than some stained glass, philosophical exercise.

Some people turn up their nose at this reality. Like the fictional priest on "TEARS OF THE SUN" they sternly demand perfection. Thank God the Almighty is a bit more realistic. I know, I know, someone will quote "be perfect for I am perfect" at me. But in fact, the word translated "perfect" in English actually means "mature," or "complete."

Aside from God, my favorite person in all the Bible is the man who brought his sick son to Jesus for healing. He says, "If you can do anything, help us." Jesus answered, "If you can’? Everything is possible for one who believes." The father's answer is classic: "I do believe; help my unbelief!" You know what? Jesus healed that boy and did not rebuke the father for doubt.

You are going to have doubts. The good news is you don't have to believe your doubts. You can doubt them.

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