The countdown to Christmas is on. Everyone I’ve talked to is beyond busy with programs, parties and deadlines. The Duffer crew is facing one band concert, two choral concerts and 4 nights dedicated to the church musical this week. Much needs to be done for work, and, like you I’m sure, our calendar is bulging.
I’m finding this Christmas season to be more difficult than the past few. It seems that I just can’t get motivated or excited about Christmas. It’s not that I’m not looking forward to the time off with my crew. It’s not that I’m not thankful—I’m incredibly so. It’s not that I’m worried that my crew won’t have a good Christmas–they will, plus they are getting to the age where that is not nearly as important to them as spending time together is, which is a very nice age to be at.
No, I think the reason I am finding this season to be more difficult is that I’m struggling in my mind with doubt and despair. I find myself leaning toward cynicism. Toward critique, not acceptance of what I know must be truth.
We all battle doubt from time to time, I know we do. I don’t think there is anyone that I’ve talked to about the subject that, if they’ve been completely honest, hasn’t struggled with doubt from time to time. What bothers me about this doubt at this time is it’s proximity to Christmas, a time of year that I love to celebrate and to remember Christ’s birth.
I took some extra time this morning to do some scripture work on doubt, in hopes that it would help to kick me out of this frame of mind. It definitely helped, though I still have a ways to go and more work to do. One thing I do know about doubt from experience: it must be fought. It can not be allowed to lay there smoldering.
I remember one time when my ex-husband dumped some coal and ashes that he was certain were out in the forest next to the parsonage. An entire day later, he began to smell smoke coming from the forest. When he went to investigate, he found a small but quickly growing fire. Those ashes had been smoldering for 24 or so hours…and had turned into a fire that was not easy to put out. Fortunately, somehow he managed to get it put out. But had it been left alone, it could have taken out the entire forest along with our house!
The same is with doubt. It can not be allowed to smolder. It must be attacked and “put out”. The only way I know how to do this is through scripture work and prayer. One of the verses I worked on and wrote about this morning was James 1:6–
There are things that I believe I have asked God for in faith, yet he has been terribly silent on them. We are to ask in faith with no doubting, according to James. I love the description of the one who doubts: he “is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” And when I read that I want to shout “YES! That’s exactly what doubting is like! It’s exactly what my mind and my soul does when I doubt…it tosses to and fro like the wave of a sea.” And honestly, I’m getting a little bit seasick.
Another passage I studied this morning was Proverbs 3:5-8:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
Here’s where I get into trouble……I trust God, but maybe not with my whole heart. Maybe I lean too much on my own understanding. I’m inquisitive. I want to know the “why” behind things. When I read something in scripture, I often find myself wanting more information about it than what God had put into scripture and it frustrates me. And I am so arrogant; I often think I am wise in my own eyes. All of this goes against this passage in Proverbs. One would think that by now, with all the evidence I have, I would be able to trust God with all of my heart and not doubt!! But I still run into doubt, and run into it hard. Why is that? What is behind that? What’s behind it for you, when you are facing doubt? And fear?
I think, for me, doubting is my comfort zone. And when things get hard, when I am hurting, when I am afraid, I run to my comfort zone of intellectual and spiritual doubt, like one runs to a favorite blanket. I get there and declare myself safe. I get there and declare myself sane. I get there and declare that I can handle this on my own; that I don’t need to trust God.
But that often ends in disaster. I know this. So why do I keep doing it? I don’t know, but here I am, with my favorite blanket, once again.
In doing some research on doubt, I found this bit of a hymn, written by Lucy Bennett. It struck a chord in my soul. I quickly memorized it, and would like to share it with you, particularly if you find yourself doubting and struggling to trust God in whatever circumstances you are standing in:
Trust Him when dark doubts assail thee,
Trust Him when thy strength is small,
Trust Him when to simply trust Him
Seems the hardest thing of all.
That’s where I’m at today, where I find myself as we march toward Christmas. As I plan a trip to the prison before Christmas for our entire family. As I hurt over an unresolved issue. The doubts are dark, my strength is small.
But I must fight, and you must fight, to simply trust Him even though to do so seems to be the hardest thing of all.