Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2).
Sometimes the testing of our faith comes in the form of difficulties. Hard times can put a strain on anyone’s faith. Peer pressure, job changes, economic uncertainties, political squabbles, spiritual angst, all these and many more contribute to the potential erosion of faith, the elevation of fear and the increase of doubt. Rather than bad or dangerous, though, the Bible emphasizes a different line of thinking. Rev. Michelle Jones, my friend, colleague and Associate Minister at Friendship Missionary Baptist preached this good lesson to our church recently. “Count it all joy …” There is something redemptive about hard times that we can count on. God is at work in us. And there is more.
Peter Berger’s latest book, In Praise of Doubt, is also helpful on this topic. A Christian sociologist, his work and research over the decades maintains a wise hand on the pulse of our social trends. Trials can generate doubt. And doubt can be a scary thing. But many feel compelled to pretend that they have no doubts. Often, many spiritual leaders, politicians or others in positions of power convey almost a haughty sense confidence, that if only we will abide by what they say or do, all will be well.
The Bible says otherwise. It is “the testing of our faith that produces steadfastness.” Like this passage from James 1:2, Berger’s little book offers a similar perspective. Certitude, or the pretense of complete certainty and unquestioning fidelity, stifles the spirit. It retards the necessary and very biblical growth we must gain to understand ourselves more thoroughly and view the world more compassionately. In other words, faith needs doubt in order to keep growing. When you are struggling with doubts, you are in the process of deepening a vital aspect of your spiritual self. Doubt is not to be feared.
God gives us curiosity so we might dig more deeply; God calls forth discerning minds so that we might learn more thoroughly. We will never have all the answers, but faith birthed from trials and doubt will at least stimulate a number of new and exciting questions. And these will move us to new, hopeful stages of faith, love and humility.
With the season of autumn, with the changes of color and eventual falling of leaves, make your journey of faith one of deep interest in the world and the people around you. Do not be afraid of doubts or difficulties. Instead, learn, grow, ask questions, seek new answers, and most of all, count it all joy – steadfastness is on the way!
“Faith is not an alarm to warn us of burglars in the night, but a light to illumine the darkness. Faith is not a fortification against the encroaching sea but buoyancy to roll with the inevitable waves.”
—David Jordan, Approaching the Presence, pgs. 47-48