Last Monday I sat down and wrote the following: Sitting on my desk next to my computer is the book "Faith and Doubt" by John Ortberg. It looks to be a good read and my care group from church is using it for our discussion guide this year. Last week we looked at chapter one and had a very interesting and spirited discussion around the role of doubt in the life of the Christian. On the back cover of the book the question is asked "What if the most important word is the one in the middle?" Faith and Doubt.
The author makes this suggestion: "When people of faith are not willing to sit quietly sometimes and let doubt make its case, bad things can happen." I believe that is a true statement. I also hope that the opposite of that is true: "When people of faith are willing to sit quietly sometimes and let doubt make its case, good things can happen." My personal discovery is that in the midst of grief, doubt has a way of slapping you across the face and saying "take that" or "explain that" or "how do you like those bananas?". Sometimes I sit quietly, at other times I walk around not so quietly, as doubt makes its case in the midst of the faith system that has defined my life all these years.
I was surprised last week by something not expected. It was my assumption that once the holidays were behind me, things would get quite a bit easier, because those "firsts" were out of the way. In some ways that has been true, but now the reality of the "routine" of life is taking hold without the business of the holidays and all its activities. It is time to start creating some kind of "new normal" as a single person...figuring out what I am going to do with the rest of my life.
For some reason I lost ability to write any more and so today I continue: What surprised me was that things are more difficult and certainly not easier. Talking with people this last week who have experienced grief they are not surprised to learn that right now the sledding is tough. So I balance faith and doubt...juggle the emotions that come and go with grief.
I received an email from my friend John Sundquist in which he shared something from Richard Foster's book, Celebration of Discipline, that was most helpful. Foster quoted Isa. 50:10: "Who among you fears the Lord and obeys gthe voice of his servant, who walks in darkness and has no light, yet trusts in the name of the Lord and relies upon his God?" The author then says: "The point of the biblical passage is that it is quite possible to fear, obey, trust, and rely ukpon the Lord and still walk in darkness and have no lighyt. We are living in obedience but we have entered a dark night of the soul."
What are we to do in a time of inward darkness. One of Foster's suggestions is that we "try not top explain for justify why you may be 'out of sorts'. God is your justifier; rest your case with him. If you can actually withdraw to 'a desert place' for a season, do so. If not, go about your daily tasks. But whether in the 'desert' or at home, hold in your heart a deep, inner, listening silence and there be still until the work of solitude is done".
I am actually in Scottsdale, AZ right now, surrounded by desert. I am here with good friends, with whom Jan and I have often traveled. But this morning I am getting ready to get in the car and take a drive by myself out into the desert. I am going to spend a good part of the day alone. I am going to strive to hold in my heart a deep...inner...listening silence. I have been working hard to surround myself with people and activity. Today I am going to seek solitude. Today I am going to balance the scale on the side of faith. Today I am going to listen for that still, small voice of hope and comfort.
I wish you peace.