I was slogging through my grocery trip, pushing the cart and handing the cranky baby things to keep her occupied, when I turned a corner and almost ran into another shopper. I quickly apologized for my lack of shopping cart skills, and she replied with something that has pricked my heart ever since.
“It’s ok. I’m just over here drooling over your life.”
Circumstances are impossible to determine from the other side of the grocery cart. Perhaps she has lost a child. Perhaps her children are past the baby stage and she misses it. Perhaps she desperately wants to be a mom, and month after month was disappointed. I could see the doubt coming to the surface. The doubt that begins to question when life doesn’t look like we had hoped it might.
I will never be entirely sure of her intent, but under the surface, I could feel that there was a deep well of hurt. She outright stated that my life looked enviable. I was shocked, but I felt for her. That emotion wasn’t foreign to me. Did she, too, sometimes doubt that the life she had been dealt was really God’s grace and kindness to her? I know how easily we can believe that everyone else’s life is sunshine, while our own is overcast with doubt and fear.
Despite the outside picture, my life was clouded with doubt that day. What she couldn’t see behind the mom pushing a baby through the grocery store, is that the sweet, yet the cranky baby was a foster child who would be moving on from us in a few days. The childrearing stage I had dreamed of living while we faced infertility had come but in an abbreviated fashion. What she could see on the outside may have been both of our biggest dreams, but it was also the biggest storm. I wonder how many of the enviable lives I measure mine against are facing doubt of God’s goodness behind the layer I can see.
For a while, I had tried to avoid doubts as much as I could. But, I think storms may be meant to push us to face the doubts head-on. The situations I was facing at that time remind me of a storm Jesus and his disciples faced that was recorded in Luke 8:23-25.
As they sailed, he(Jesus) fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
Beth Moore referenced this passage of scripture in her Quest study. She says, “Knowing a story turns out well can have a terrible way of taming it.” From where I sit, knowing that the storm was calmed for Jesus and the disciples that day, takes out the terror of their immediate situation. They didn’t know whether they would die in the storm, or if Jesus would miraculously calm it.
At times I can think the doubts I have are too big, but the disciples had some pretty big doubts to deal with that day as well. Can you relate to any of these:
Doubt of God’s goodness
Doubt that he cares.
Doubt that he hears our cries.
Doubt that he has a plan.
The disciples went straight to Jesus, but they were filled with doubt rather than faith. Our storms can leave us reeling similarly. We don’t know where this story is going, but can we trust the author of the story, even when it looks grim.
All throughout the Bible, the people we see interacting with God had no idea what would happen. If you actually sit in the tension of the situations they were faced with, the outcome would be far different from the platitudes we often hear in the midst of trials. When we face our deepest trials and hurts, it is not the time to pretend that they don’t exist, or that they will somehow just magically be better and “turn out in the end.”
Should we begrudge Hannah, for pouring out her heart to God in agony, because, “It will all happen in God’s timing.”? Do we skip over the utter abandonment, and betrayal felt by Joseph as he suffered as a slave and later a wrongly convicted prisoner? Do we quickly run to Resurrection, and fail to reflect on the sorrow of the cross and the tomb?
As we start to see the narrative of the Bible through the lens of the struggle of human experience, we see a dance between doubt and faith, that I had been blind to. Just because everything does turn out in the end, doesn’t mean that it feels like it at the time. Instead of ignoring it, Jesus spoke directly to the storm. He can handle any doubt we face, and any trial that comes our way. Platitudes negate the storm, rather than letting the storm lead you to the only one who can calm it.
Experiencing Jesus in the middle of a storm is one of the greatest ways to turn seeds of doubt into faith. Doubts spring up in the darkness when we cannot see what God will do; Paradoxically, faith cannot exist if we already see the end. Somehow the same circumstances that make us feel out of control can either be experienced on our own, and lead to doubt, or with Jesus and lead us to greater faith.
The only way out of their storm (and ours) is to ride it out with Jesus. The disciples went straight to him, and instead of their fears actualizing, they discovered that Jesus was good to them. He did care about their plight in the boat, he heard them cry out, and he gave them a way out.
Whatever the storm you are facing today, whether it blows across the water or at your local grocery store, take your doubts and fears to Jesus. He can see through peaceful facades, envy, and doubt. He is there to shepherd us through the storms of our life.