What if He’s not real?

 

“What if He’s not real?” He asked, almost in a whisper, as if the question would offend me.

Pausing a moment to consider, I reached for another fry and decided the best reply was the truth. “I have had many doubts throughout my lifetime.”

He tilted his head, surprised, and interested in what I was going to say next.

“I would go as far to say that every Christian has had doubts, at least once. I mean, we’re human.. ”

“I may doubt,” I continued, pushing my plate aside and looking directly into his eyes. “But at the end of the day, my belief is bigger than my doubts.”

“Whenever I have had a season of doubt, God has faithfully and gently answered them in a way only He could. He has come through and done things that I have no other explanation for.”

Sharing our doubts..

I think something amazing happens when we are honest with unbelievers about our faith and our doubts. In those moments of honesty they see that this faith is all-inclusive, it’s not meant for the über religious. It’s meant for all of us doubters, sinners and skeptics. When we share how Jesus works in spite of our doubts, we give them encouragement to step into that faith for themselves.

I don’t believe we should “hide” the places where we struggle in our faith with the world. What would this prove? We are not perfect. Seeing our imperfections while we walk this road, shows them we are aware of our shortcomings and that Jesus is still the answer to them all.

 

Yes, Christians doubt.

We love Jesus, but we have moments of doubt because of this world we live in and our humanity. Maybe some of you can’t relate, but I know some of you absolutely can.

Within our church communities there needs to be a space for understating and encouragement while we share our struggles with doubt. We provide hope and lift each other up when we show how Jesus meets us in these rough places.

And really, doesn’t if feel like sweet relief when someone speaks out loud a fear you secretly have struggled with? It certainly does for me.

Why do we, as Christians, behave as though none of us struggle with this?

Because we do.

We doubt because we’re human.. and God isn’t holding it against us.

Everything I have learned about His character is that He longs to show us more of Himself and isn’t mad at us when we stumble into a pit of doubt.

Remember “doubting Thomas?” Did Jesus scold him and tell him how awful he was for doubting? Nope. He actually showed Himself to Thomas. He offered for him to look at His wounds, to inspect the evidence and then He called on him to make a choice.

I think many people are under the assumption that faith in Jesus Christ is a blind faith. It’s not, and this scripture proves that. He gives us evidence and then He asks us to make a choice based on that evidence.

“Reach here with your finger, and see my hands; and reach here your hand and put it in my side; and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” John 20: 27

I have always loved his story within the bible. It’s just so me. I can completely relate to wanting proof. But more than this, there is a particular blessing from Jesus that is neatly tucked within in this story, meant just for us. 

“Thomas answered and said unto him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed?”

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  

How beautiful is that? That’s for us, friend! Jesus spoke these words over 2,000 years ago about you and about me. There is a special blessing on us because we have specifically believed without seeing.

He absolutely knows our faith is hard. He knows it’s not easy to walk by faith and not by sight. He knows we will be tempted to doubt. And he’s not upset with us for that.

I doubt. I am a Christian. I believe in my Lord Jesus Christ, I love him. But I doubt.

In some of my darkest days of anxiety one of the greatest fears that nagged at me was the very question my unbelieving friend asked me.

What if He isn’t even real?

I have come to find that we have a God and a faith that can stand up to the questions we ask and the doubt struggles we have. Some of my greatest faith strengthening moments have come from Him meeting me in my times of doubt.

There are 6 words I pray when doubt enters my mind.

“I do believe, help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24

I have whispered these words and He has answered in incredible ways. They carry  truth and power in the fight with doubt because we are coming to the only one that can cure our doubts.

And He is faithful to do so.

So, I suppose in the end, it’s not our questioning that matters. It’s what question are we asking?

The more important question isn’t, “What if He isn’t real?”

It is, “What if He is?”

The evidence is there to answer the question, each one for ourselves.

 

**Want to read more? John chapter 20 and Mark chapter 9 are the scriptures I mentioned in this post. Some other great scripture in times of doubt; John 4:39-42, John 14, Psalm 28:7, 1 Peter 1:8-12

 

Come check out this and other fantastic writers at the Salt & Light Link-up

 

 

To be sorry…

The door swung open to my right as the lukewarm water splashed over my hands in the sink.

“Excuse me.” Said the woman pushing her way through the bathroom door.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” The words spilled out of my mouth before I even realized what I was saying. As I finished drying my hands, the elderly woman closing the stall door quietly said, “Never be sorry,” with a smirk.

I politely smiled as I started to walk out the door, face flushed red at the admonition. Good Lord, why do I always say I’m sorry for everything?

“Sorry, I’m in your way, sorry I’m in line before you, sorry I’m breathing, sorry I’m alive..”

It’s what I say.

It’s this annoying, knee-jerk response I have to any inconvenience, even if I did absolutely nothing to be sorry about.

“Why do I do that?” I muttered to myself under my breath as I walked to the car.

Exhaling deeply, I fastened my seatbelt as I thought about those words the woman exhaled.

“Never be sorry.”

They sound wise.

All of the things that I was sorry for began marching through my mind. The list was long.

Turning out of the parking lot, I turned down the radio so I could hear my own thoughts a little more closely.

“Never be sorry,” I whispered to myself. I like the idea of never being sorry, it’s like “no regrets.” But truth be told, I am sorry. I do regret. It sounds so virtuous to never be sorry, to yell at the top of my lungs, “no regrets!”

The problem is, I have lots of regrets.

There’s plenty of things I wish would’ve done and even more, I wish I wouldn’t have. Words I’ve spoken that I can never take back.. and so many I’ve left unsaid.

“What right does she have to tell me to never be sorry?” I asked the silence sitting next to me.

Frowning, I realized I was being unfair. She may have been sorry about many things in her life and wanted to give a little encouragement to those that still have many days of regret ahead. I don’t know the life she’s lived.

But nonetheless, I’m sorry.

It’s okay to be sorry

Reading this morning about King David and his life in I and II Samuel I noticed that he was a man who was sorry. Psalm 51 is one of the greatest “I’m sorry’s” in the whole Bible. At its simplest, it is an I’m sorry for what I did. In return, God extends His gracious forgiveness.

“For I acknowledge my transgressions…against you, you only, have I sinned. According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.” Psalm 51: 1,3,4

If we’re sorry, a true repentant sorry, that’s never a bad thing. We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. There is so much to be sorry for. And quite frankly, that’s okay.

Having said that, I don’t think God intends for us to walk around constantly sorry. The point of this Psalm and the forgiveness we find in Jesus is restoration. We can be sorry but then we move on in the grace and freedom we find in Him.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Looking up the various meanings for steadfast within the Bible, the word translates to be firmly established, stable, secure or settled. I just love that. We say, “I’m sorry” and in return, he gives stability and security.

That sounds like freedom to me.

Even within our earthly relationships, there is so much to gain from being sorry. In parenting, I have learned the importance of saying I’m sorry to my children when I’ve messed up. For years I did not realize that it is as essential in our relationship, if not more so, for me to speak I’m sorry as it is for them to say it.

There is a barrier that breaks down when they see the humanness of their mom. And for me, a perfect humility created within my own heart when I turn to them and ask for forgiveness.

I believe this seeking and giving forgiveness is a basic relational component designed by God for us with Him and each other.

So, next time I knee-jerk speak those 2 words, I’m sorry, I’ll be a little nicer to myself. Even if not completely necessary at the time, I’d rather be open to being sorry and the freedom that comes with it, than not.

 

 

Carry on

She would’ve been 92 today. 92..

Had she not passed away nearly 8 years ago.

I remember her lying helpless in her hospital bed, appearing tiny, shrunken under the scratchy blanket. Having suffered a stroke a few days earlier, by the time we came to the hospital, she was fading fast. We were told there was nothing more they could do. And so we waited. The days that followed had people telling me “At least she had a long life,” to which, I wanted to reply, “I’ll be sure to tell you that when you’re dying.” But I refrained, simply nodding dutifully to the awkwardness that accompanies death. I didn’t care how long her life was… I wasn’t ready for her to go.

Carry on…

 

Carry On

It’s what she said the day she had the stroke. It was the last words out of her mouth as the bleeding in her brain took over her functioning mind. She was stuck on repeat, “carry on, carry on..” Over and over, gazing carefully at each of us from across the room with intensely ice-blue eyes that were her signature. There we stood, roughly seventeen of us, without my little brother who was traveling our way. Tears rolling down faces, not realizing these were her last words, but completely comprehending she was saying goodbye and trying her best to send a message with the little she could say.

Carry on…

I would come and go from the hospital that week, not sure what to do and completely uncertain about how to watch someone I loved so dearly die. I was familiar with death at a young age, but it was mostly sudden and violent. I was quickly realizing I wasn’t accustomed to the long goodbye and didn’t care for it either. She could no longer eat and the thought that she was starving to death tormented me.

The week she died I was fighting a cold that I denied was anything but allergies to continue to gain access to the ICU. My sister-in-law sat in a chair keeping vigil overnight, soaking my sweet grandmother’s lips with water from a sponge. She was selfless and unafraid of death like I was. Dragging myself back to the hospital in the morning I found her still sitting. I immediately felt shame for having gone home overnight and for the weakness that accompanied my very being. April looked up from what she was working on in the corner and smiled. “How was she?” I asked. Staring at my grandmother, who appeared little, almost like a child in the bulky hospital bed. “Same.” She answered. “They say that your hearing is the last thing to go before you die so I’ve been talking with her,” April said, thoughtfully. “Do you think?” I trailed off, motioning to the empty space next to my grandmother’s wilting frame on the bed. “Of course, get up there next to her, talk with her.” April patted the bed and then my arm. “I’m going to go downstairs for a bit and leave you two alone.” She disappeared out the door and I carefully climbed up next to my grandmother on the bed.

Don’t forget her hands… 

With everything I loved about her, I probably loved her hands the most. Lifting her fragile hand into my own, I studied them, they were weathered and knotted from arthritis that had ravaged them. I stroked her hand lovingly, tracing the raised veins with my fingers. Remembering her diamond wedding band that once circled her finger, big enough to fit over her knuckles, yet too big to stay stationary once on.

Her hand, dwarfed by my much larger one, rested in my open palm. With our fingers next to each other, my hand was much larger, this was true, but my fingers were long and delicate like I imagine hers once were. “Piano hands,” she had always called them, though I barely knew to play, and poorly at that.

Wynona, or “Ginger,” as she was called by most, was a small woman, maybe five foot two at her tallest. I towered over her at five foot eight. “Gro-mo,” had become my brothers’ silly nick-name they would tease her with as they’d engulf her tiny frame with a hug.

Though small in stature, she was mighty in love. I sat in awe, being pulled back in time and thrust into the future all at once. These hands had cared for me and in a matter of days, they’d be gone. They cleaned up after me as a baby and looked after me as a woman when broken by anxiety. Whether a baby or a woman.. they comforted me.

Sobbing, I stared lovingly at those hands, trying with all of my might to memorize them.

Carry on…

My mind drifted to the life she had seen, the work those hands had done. She was born in a time when little was had. Carried in a womb that didn’t necessarily want her. Her mother had cinched her in so tight by corset that she had a club foot when she was born and struggled with the pain of it all her life. Called a bastard when she was young and never knowing for sure who her real father was. Raised primarily by her grandparents in the oil fields of Oklahoma, she went out on her own at the tender age of 17. Traveling to California and as far away from the dust of Oklahoma as she could get. She worked hard, climbing San Francisco hills in 6-inch heels and raising a family at the same time. She was a career woman at a time when it wasn’t fashionable.

 

She had survived breast cancer 3 separate times and took the treatment so well that as a girl I thought cancer was tantamount to having a cold. Enduring an alcoholic, unfaithful husband for years and watching her only son spiral into drugs and eventually death, she was no stranger to heartache. She held her 2nd husband in her arms as he breathed his last breaths. She lovingly and faithfully held 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren. Strengthening her only daughter, my mother, as she laid her own son to rest far too early, she was ironclad. Love and devotion to her family and her Jesus was who she was. Those hands of hers cleaned up messes, wrestled rose bushes, patted away hurts, wrote out scripture and worked harder than any pair of hands that size should have. All the while belonging to a woman with a fierceness that belied her size.

Gently laying her hand on her chest, I thought simply,

And through it all she carried on…

“Carry on,” she had said with a smile only my grandmother could give as she knew she was dying. It was wisdom. Wise advice from a woman who did just that. Through abandonment, pain, disease, grief, and heartache she carried on.

As long as I knew her, she never gave up and never sat it out. And with her last words to her beloved family, she said the thing that has shaped what I choose to do each day. When circumstances are not what I wish, when life is tough and when it is sweet…

I will choose to carry on. 

We’re carrying on grandmother and I think you’d be proud.

“I know the plae

Take Courage

I am well acquainted with fear.. and it’s close friend, anxiety. As I look back over most of my life these two have been my constant companions. When control was out of my reach, fear was close at hand. When answers were unclear and I wasn’t quite sure which way to turn, anxiety had a perfectly rational explanation.

Every. Single. Time.

It’s always made sense to run with the fear that was in my heart and mind, it was over-powering. It was the oppressor in my daily life that I just could not seem to shake. It followed me around and demanded I hand over my peace and rest like a schoolyard bully demands your lunch money.

Have you ever noticed how loud fear is? Fear yells.. I mean, it just screams. You can’t possibly hear anything else when it’s siren is so loud in your mind.. at least that’s what fear wants you to believe.

Truth doesn’t shout, not at first anyways.

Fear always seems to shout. It comes at you with a fierceness that is piercing, confusing and almost always loud. Fear demands our attention, I believe, more than any other emotion. If you have ever struggled with anxiety, fear, panic, or any synonym that closely relates to the aforementioned words, you know exactly what I’m saying. When you are so deep into the pit of despair that fear causes, when someone speaks truth to you it can sound barely audible, like a faint, far away whisper. The shouts and incessant clanging of the lies that surround you in that pit can be all-consuming and life sucking.

When you hear that little whisper behind the leers and shrieking of the demons that shake their chains in your face;

.Listen, I mean, really listen..

 because after all, even the loudest shout sounds like a whisper when you’re at the bottom of a pit.

Once you listen, once you open your ears to that truth, don’t let go of it. Grab onto that truth with both hands, and no matter how bloodied they become, don’t let go until that truth whisper becomes a shout. Hold on while you feel the fear falling away into the darkness of the pit as you are being pulled up by the rope of truth.

Hold on friend.. Be brave enough in that moment to grab hold and listen.

It’s scary when fear is screaming at you in the face, isn’t it? When I’m in that place, I tilt my head a little to the right,  just past fear’s hideous face and I see Jesus.. walking on the water..

Take courage..

In Matthew 14, after a day of ministering and feeding over five thousand people, Jesus put his disciples on a boat and sent them off to the other side while He went up on the mountain to pray. In the early morning hours after the disciples had been out on the water for hours, Jesus came walking on the water to them. The text reads that when the disciples saw Jesus walking towards them on the sea they thought it was a ghost or a spirit. Uh.. yeah, I’d be shaking in my boots also. But I just love Jesus’ answer, depending on what version you read, his basic words were this;

“Take courage! It is I; do not be afraid.”

In some translations there is no exclamation point after take courage, but I like to think that Jesus spoke with the emphasis that the exclamation point adds. Take courage! I just love this. I imagine Jesus effortlessly walking upon the waves and coming towards the boat as the disciples are terrified at this phantom gliding towards them. And what does Jesus say? He says take courage.

It’s the words I bring to the forefront of my mind when fear is screaming at me. It gives me the perspective I need in that moment to look past fears ugly face and stare at truth.. The truth that He is with me, I’m not alone in this and I am His.

And you know what? I like to think that’s why Jesus said take courage before he said do not be afraid.

Because it takes courage to not be afraid..

It’s not exactly easy to not take the fear route. It’s hard. Especially if you’re anything like me and it’s hard-wired in you to just be afraid. It takes patience, perseverance and practice. Jesus knew that.. that’s why he said it.

Fear and anxiety don’t exactly like to retreat easily but I’ll tell you this, in the presence of Jesus even the ugliest fear screams can’t stand. That’s truth, it’s rock solid ground to stand on when fear makes you shake in your boots.

So, take courage my friends. Do not be afraid, listen to this whisper of truth if you are currently in a pit; you are His, He is with you and you are held. Look past the ugly screeching and before you know it the truth of Jesus will be shouting louder than the fear.

 

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”