Q&R Dealing with Doubts – Brad Jersak
I get caught up in my 5 senses. I want to move past these things and accept God and Jesus and the afterlife and in my good moments, I do. But I have these sad downturns where I question everything. How is your faith so strong? Do you ever have moments of doubt? How do you move past them or how can I build my faith up so I no longer doubt?
I’d probably be a bit worried if you never had doubts. Doubts are often an invitation to bring our hard questions to God and it’s exactly at those moments (or seasons) that our wrestling turns into deeper convictions. For example, those who experience suffering may have deep questions that need to be faced with prayers of lament or frustrations… but it was exactly that which made David a man “after God’s own heart.”
As for cultivating a spiritual life that transcends five-sense materialism, you might consider exercising your sanctified imagination in prayer, and using creative thought as a venue for communion with God. For example, you might try picturing various gospel stories in your mind and sort of step into them as a character within the story. Then, you might engage that picture with your internal five senses to notice what you can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell as you walk through each Gospel episode. For example, what do you experience in an imaginary walkthrough as Peter in Jesus’ foot-washing story or as Mary Magdalene when she met Jesus in the garden on Easter morning?
OR you could do just the opposite and learn how to find the Spirit of Christ WITH and IN your fives senses as you explore this world and your real human relationships. How? By looking for God’s divine presence and attributes (beauty, truth, justice, mercy, love, etc.) in the good world and precious people that he’s created.
I think faith comes to God’s children so naturally that we often end up not counting it because “in him we live and move and have our being.” It’s like the elder fish who casually asks two younger fish, “How’s the water?” and they ask, “What’s water?” Absolutely everything has its being in Christ, whether visible or invisible. But we’re prone to not count our encounters with God in everyday life because they’re too … what? Common? Normal? Not grandiose?
The divine Gardener sows good seeds in our hearts and lives all day long but the birds that steal those good seeds are often, first of all, questions that lead to nowhere, such as “Was the just me? Am I just making this up?” I would apply the same skepticism to those questions themselves. Ask yourself, what good fruit has ever come from giving those dismissive questions a green light? Probably none. They’re most often just fears anyway. And then we might say, “Okay, fine, then let’s be truly empirical about this. If I pray and live AS IF God is loving, caring, personal, and responsive, what fruit will I see from that?” Try that for one month and pay attention or even journal what you see.
In other words, if we’re going to put life and faith under scientific inquiry, then we should be willing to practice contemplation and prayer experimentally, and not rush to throw out the data that we haven’t even collected yet. This doesn’t mean anything goes. And it doesn’t mean we’re looking for proof. But it does say we watch for the “fruits” of our spiritual practice. And we become attentive and grateful for those experiences that seem to serve a living connection or a lived experience of love, which is the nature of God.