Tag Archives: doubt

God-faith-fear

Meeting God in the storm

“…there were peals of thunder and lightning….When the Lord came down to the top of Mount Sinai, he summoned Moses to the top of the mountain.” (Exodus 19:16-20)

Imagine standing at the base of a mountain in a great storm—thunder and lightning, the mountain trembling violently—and God saying, “Come on up.”God-faith-fearI have been known to tremble violently in the face of bad storms—thunderstorms, hurricanes and blizzards can send me into hiding until they pass.

But what about the storms of life—disagreements, disappointments and facing the unexpected. Those events can cause the same reaction in me—violent trembling.

And there is God, inviting me to step into the storm, to intentionally climb into the midst of it, not to shy away, but to actually face it head on. And there God will be, waiting for me, in the midst of the storm.

I envy Moses’ trust and courage to walk up that mountain in the midst of a violent storm.

If I were Moses, I am sure I would have said something like, “God, really? You want me to climb a mountain that is trembling, and walk right into the middle of a thunderstorm?” My fear of lightning would have been the first hurdle—and I don’t know that I could overcome it, even to meet God face to face.

But God waits patiently for me to change the narrative, the script that runs in my mind telling me to be afraid.

Like a toddler taking her first solo steps, God is in front of me, hands outstretched, waiting to catch me if I start to fall, waiting for me to trust Him.God-faith-fearChanging the narrative takes practice. Like the toddler or an actor learning a new role, there are many missteps before the performance works. Trusting God is like that for me.

It seems that every situation calls for me to relearn how to trust God. Every storm takes me to some default position of cowering in fear, and I have to visualize God with outstretched arms, calling to me, Come on, Madeline, God encourages me. It is going to be ok. I would think God would get tired of it, but that has not happened.

Instead, with great patience, God keeps inviting me.

I have had several jobs that had ominous beginnings. In one of them, I went home sobbing every night for the first six months. What have I gotten myself into? I would cry out to God. Over time, though, things began to settle down and eventually I came to love that job. Leaving it was painful. Now, when I am facing storms in my current work, I recall the people and incidents from that other job. I remind myself that God is with me and storms do pass.

God invites me to look up, to the top of the mountain, and to take the steps I need to take to meet God in the midst of the storms of my life.

Touch My Wounds

“Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believing.’” John 20:27

I love Gospel stories that are as graphic as the one of Jesus inviting Thomas to touch his wounds. I can easily picture the scene and imagine the event unfolding. I place myself in that room, a bystander, watching the interchange between Jesus and Thomas.

I imagine Thomas’ reaction—the embarrassment at having been called out in front of his friends, not to mention that touching physical wounds can be revolting. I visualize the reactions of the people in the room, the relief of the other apostles that they had not been singled out by Jesus.

Then I am standing in front of Jesus, and my stomach clenches at the thought of being challenged as Thomas was challenged.

But I know that I am like Thomas with his doubting attitude. “Prove it,” is often my position. I fear being seen as gullible and tend not to commit until I can see with my own eyes. In common parlance, I have trust issues.

Thomas believes once he has seen Jesus’ wounds; and I wonder if that sense of certainty held or if he went back to being a doubter on his next encounter with something incredulous. I know that for me, one event of trusting has not necessarily led to another.

It is often difficult for me to move beyond my skepticism when I encounter something that seems implausible. I have to process my incredulity, push past my doubt and actually decide to believe. Usually, I have to act “as if” I believe—until I do believe. Acting “as if” is a tool which has helped me many times.

I do notice one big difference between Thomas and me in this scenario. Just three days earlier, Thomas had betrayed Jesus by fleeing the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion; and yet his position is somewhat arrogant (“Unless I see…I will not believe.” John 20:25).

In Thomas’ place, no matter how unbelievable the story may have been, I would have hoped it was true, silently prayed for it to be true, so that I could apologize for my betrayal. When I am the one who has betrayed someone, I am filled with self-loathing at the knowledge of my treachery, and I long to be forgiven. I usually beg for forgiveness; I grovel.

In Thomas’ place, no matter how skeptical I might have been at the tale the others were telling about Jesus’ appearance, I am pretty sure I would have kept that to myself—hoping the story was true so that I could apologize for my cowardice and be given another chance.