I was talking to a good friend today and I realized I had not written anything lately about doubt. It is important for me to write about it, because I have seen how miracles go. Someone receives an incredible answer to prayer, there is an honest to goodness miracle, and as Christians we get excited and we start telling each other the story, and with time the story changes, the characters evolve into super humans of faith, who knew all along their miracle was coming, who never doubted and trusted God perfectly. Perhaps those people exist in the world somewhere, but I’ve never met them. I always think the testimonies lose their power when we try to make them bigger than they are.
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I understand that if Joel is healed the way I want him to be healed, our story will get told with inaccuracies, it will get blown up bigger than life and it will become an anecdote that someone like Ryan will hear about and say, “How do you know that’s true? Do you know them? If that happened why wasn’t it in the news?” This is his standard response to miracle stories. His response frustrates me, but I see how documented testimonies, people sharing their own stories in their own words actually inspires great faith in him. He is naturally a bit of a skeptic, and I am not, so we can grate on each other if we’re not careful. Anyway, I know that not everyone who hears Joel’s story one day will read about it in our actual words, but for the people who do, I want them to know that there has been doubt. I want them to remember that this was a long battle marked more perhaps by great endurance than great faith.
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When doubt comes, it is heavy, oppressively heavy. For me at least it comes on all at once, completely out of the blue, when I’m thinking about nothing at all. The doubt I have felt at least twice in the last week, is accusatory and strong. Doubt demands to be heard, and at least at first, it feels inescapable, it feels like a new and permanent reality that minimizes and overshadows all the things I have been convinced are true about God, His promises, and Joel’s future. The doubt I have felt feels external to me, because it is not drummed up gradually from worry or concern, it is an all-out assault, demonic and targeted. It feels external just like beautiful wisdom from God feels external, it is my thought, it is not an audible voice or something discernibly “outside” of myself, nothing about it seems foreign on its face, I just know that it was not really my thought, not what I was thinking about. I have learned to recognize God’s voice to me as that wisdom that is not my own, even though it is my thought, it is surprising and revelational, as soon as I think it my next thought is usually “I didn’t know that before.” I have learned not to give myself credit for that kind of wisdom, although that took time. The doubt is like that too, and I have learned, praise God, not to own it either, not to see the doubt as “mine.”
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Enough poetry, here’s how it went. Last week, Ryan and I went to see a movie, it was the day after we learned that Joel had weeks to live according to the doctors. (A friend had offered to watch the kids and we were glad to just pause life and get away for a couple hours.) I had been very sad, but also very hopeful. My faith was building gradually into an almost excitement that soon we would see God move on Joel’s behalf, the short time frame the doctor had given meant it couldn’t be long now. As we left the movie, I waited by the door for Ryan to use the restroom and it just hit me, “You realize you’re delusional, right? You’re going to lose your son. And what on earth are you going to do?” I put it in quotes here, but of course it wasn’t actual words, but with those thoughts came a deep despair, an almost panic, a feeling of inevitable doom that really our family could not handle what was coming and would never be the same and that I was ignoring the obvious. It was so heavy, it sat on my chest and I couldn’t shake it. Ryan came out of the bathroom and we walked to our van. I got in and sat down and in the time it took for him to walk around the van and get in his seat I thought, “What do those thoughts profit me, or my family, or Joel? What is the benefit of thinking that way?” This was also a thought external to me, I don’t credit myself with sharp wisdom that cuts to the heart of an issue, but I am the grateful recipient of it so much more often than I deserve. This thought was enough, it was like a light switch flipping on, the darkness was gone immediately. Then I thought all of these things through, and in my own reasoning could see that, choosing to live in doubt would not make anything better for me or my family. Expecting or anticipating Joel’s death would not make Joel’s death any easier if it came; it would not alleviate our grief to be able to say, “well, I knew it.” What’s more, I realized God had really placed my feet on a platform of faith. At least 90% of the time, maybe more really, my natural response is faith, it’s not doubt. So for me to live in doubt, I would have to choose it. I would have to work to drum up doubt and maintain it. (I’m sure it wouldn’t feel like work for long, I’m sure if I chose to step off the foundation God has given me it would start to feel simple to just stand in doubt instead, but the point was it would mean actively changing my footing.)
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In the end, that was enough for me. I didn’t feel the need to wrestle with that heavy doubt, to struggle and overcome it, I just felt like I could dismiss it, ignore it. Doubt was a real option, there was plenty of evidence to support it, but I had a choice and I was going to simply not choose doubt. The heaviness left, but the revelation remained, that while doubt would say I am being foolish, I have nothing to gain through a lack of belief in God.
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Today I got up in the night to go to the bathroom, (oh the joys of being six months pregnant) it must have been around midnight, and I felt that same heavy doubt. No specific thoughts this time, just a heavy oppressive doom type feeling, a hopeless feeling. It was strong, and just as I began to try to decide what to do about it, I just ignored it. I remembered it was not mine, and I went back to bed.
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That probably sounds too simple, but it really was that simple, because the answer of whether or not I would give in to doubt had been settled for me last week. I’ve thrown my hat in with God, no matter the outcome. I have doubts of my own of course, doubts that are my own thoughts, but they don’t carry the kind of weight that the spiritual, external doubt carried. The funny thing is, my personal doubts could probably do more damage to me, the thoughts like, “what if we leave Saturday and no one ever gets to see Joel again,” or “I should just give Joel his big hugs Elmo now so he really gets to play with it because who knows how he’ll be by his birthday and if he dies it will just depress me that he never really enjoyed it.” Those thoughts, completely my own, that I can come to throughout the day, those thoughts could overtake me I think, except for this, the devil overplayed his hand. He attacked me hard with real, spiritual doubt, too big to be reasoned with, and knowing that doubt was too overwhelming for me, God spoke into my heart directly about the real weakness of doubt, that it has no good fruit, that it doesn’t accomplish anything, and that word of truth has been the key to overcoming all my small doubts, the ones I do have to wrestle with and work through. Over and over again I have seen how the devil, afraid of our victory, attacks us, and God uses that attack to train us up in faith. I am stronger now because of all the ways the devil has failed to tear us down. I always marvel that he doesn’t just give up all together.

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