Remember the Battle Cry (On Doubt)

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There are moments when I want to chuck my Bible at God and say, “Here, I’m done.”

Sometimes I look at Tage’s empty crib and think How did I ever think God really loved me?

I see the pile of maternity clothes folded neatly on the ottoman in my bedroom, staring at me daily while I figure out what to do with them now, and wonder How could a loving God put such a strong desire in my heart for biological children only to allow the mixture of Josh’s and my genetics to create the life destroying horror that is Leigh’s Disease?

I watch the stories on the news of babies abandoned, killed, neglected and abused and think How can there be a God? How could He refuse to give us healthy babies and instead give them to a drug addict who doesn’t protect them? It doesn’t make sense.

Those are the days I convince myself the atheists must be right: all this Jesus talk must be a fairy tale that my optimistic, weak heart convinces me to believe so I can feel better.

Those are the days I sit across from a dear friend of mine at a coffee shop with tears in my eyes and have to look away from her as I whisper, “What if I’m wrong? What if Jesus is not real and there is no loving God? What if I’m just too weak to face the cognitive conclusion that Jesus is man-made and there is no Hope for the world? What if I’m writing a bunch of lies?”

But even on those days, I feel a still, small voice Who swirls around my heart beckoning, This is the way, walk in it.  And so I found myself sitting in Tage’s rocking chair this morning with tears running down both cheeks as I said the only sentence I could muster: Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief.

I am reading through the Bible from cover to cover for the first time in my 30 years. On some of my darkest days, I found myself (unfortunately) in the third book of the Bible, Leviticus, reading about punishments and animal sacrifices and other things that were less than, shall we say, uplifting.

Now, in the Christian circles where I’ve grown up, the first part of the Bible (before Jesus was born) gets a bad wrap for being mostly about an angry God who is full of wrath and judgment. I wondered if perhaps this Old Testament was not the part of the Bible I should be studying right now. Yet, I also felt strongly that if the Bible is truly The Word of God, there should not be parts that are off-limits during certain times of our lives. If it’s His Word, He is in ALL of it.

So, I’ve continued to read the long, sometimes fresh, sometimes tedious, history that God has with His people, and daily I have been blown away and caught up in the incredible God I am discovering in new ways.

I have encountered a compassionate, generous God in those Old Testament pages. He is a God who is just, yes, but who is also quick to show mercy and very slow to anger, freely forgiving and lavishly loving. Time and time again, the history there demonstrates a God who is radically willing to open His arms to anyone if they would just turn to Him (even if they had betrayed Him countless times after countless warnings), a God who is always protecting and providing for His people, and a God who does not forget His promises to His people.  No, He never forgets His people.

Disease struck. Families were enslaved. Babies died. But God was there. Sometimes He prevented, other times He allowed. Still hardest to comprehend: sometimes He ordained the circumstances that would ultimately bring suffering but that would lead to good, and other times He doesn’t record how He tied up the loose ends.  However, His promises assured that nothing ever happened that was out of His sight and out of the boundaries of His perfect love.

But despite this mind-baffling love I encountered, there was still suffering, and He didn’t always explain Himself.   To my feeble mind, love and suffering don’t mingle.  Tears are left unexplained. Questions are left unanswered.  Reasons are not given.  How can death be loving?!

I want to know the why!  And God stays silent.

This is messing with me, because I trusted God with other people’s messy stories.  But now He’s messed with mine.

Sometimes, I hold His love hostage to this baby and shout, “Unless You explain Yourself, I’m walking away!

Sometimes, I doubt because I don’t have the facts and figures that show me proof He’s still really got this.

But God doesn’t measure in facts and figures. He measures in faith and obedience.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” and “without faith, it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him,” (Hebrews 11:1, 6).

I do long to be sure and certain of the things I cannot see, but it was a lot easier to claim I trusted Him before I lost the ultimate.  And now I see: Truly, I cannot say that I trust God until I am trusting Him with and for the ultimates of life.

Lord, help me with my unbelief.

I miss my son, and today, I seem to have overwhelmingly more questions than answers, more mystery and less understanding.

But such is the essence of our faith – living a life of hope while staring mystery right in the face. We can’t have one without the other. My faith won’t survive without hope, and my hope won’t survive without the realization that all mystery will not be answered this side of the curtain. It doesn’t make sense to our humanly-limited minds. But if I embrace both, I can have a vibrant faith and an unwavering trust in God.

Still, some days, I doubt.

Again, I wonder if my optimistic heart is holding onto a fairy tale called Jesus so that I can feel better. I wonder if this is just my weak cop-out.

I came across another faith-filled Believer who must have been asked about the argument that to believe in Jesus Christ is to believe in a fairy tale.  I was built-up as I read this excerpt from a sermon from the late Peter Marshall (1902-1949):

There are in our day some philosophies growing

in popularity that teach the attractive idea

that God always reveals His love by removing the

distasteful and the unpleasant from our lives.

But where in the Bible do you find support

for this attractive and alluring concept?

Certainly not from the lips of Jesus.

On the contrary you are startled to discover how

plainly and bluntly Christ told His disciples to

expect trouble.

“In the world ye shall have tribulation.

But be of good cheer.” That is His message.

“Be of good cheer . . . I have overcome the world.”

No . . . Christians are not spared . . .

The calamities of life knock on their door

with the same startling swiftness . . .

and the rain falls on the just

as well as the unjust.

There is no hint or intimation anywhere in the Gospel

that they who follow Him shall never hunger

or be out of work

or be left alone.

No, there is no hint of such immunity . . .

But there is the promise of something far better . . .

the promise of deliverance . . .

not from these things . . . but in these things.

There is an air of reality about the Gospel . . .

It is not a fairy tale in which Cinderella’s rags

are changed into the robes of a queen . . .

but rather a promise in which Cinderella in her rags

becomes more queenly.

 Yes, Lord.  Make me more queenly.  Oh, that You would make me more like Jesus.

Last week, I was driving down the road listening to the radio when I heard these words written by the apostle Paul as he was dying:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”     (2 Timothy 4:7)

That last line struck my weary soul: I have kept the faith.

I have kept the faith.

I have kept the faith.

Faith during the good fight for Paul meant trusting God as he was being flogged, lashed, stoned, shipwrecked, lost in the open sea for two days, chased by thieves, sleep-deprived, hungry, homeless, naked and cold.

A man who keeps fighting like that is not weak.

Paul stayed in the battle when it got bloody. He persevered when the course seemed unending. And in the face of the ultimate, he didn’t walk away from his Lord.

And his faith was made stronger through the hardships.  In the battle, he became more Kingly.

I was reminded in the sermon I heard this weekend from Mark Vroegop that to keep fighting like that, you have to know what you’re fighting for.  I have to know Who I’m fighting for.  And when the heat turns up, I have to remember the battle cry as Paul did in Romans 8:31:

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”

God.  Is.  For.  Us.

It may not feel like it, but from Genesis to Revelation, He proves it.

The fight for us might begin as the doctor returns shaking his head, as he watches his wife back out of the driveway vowing never to return, as she walks to the car for yet another first date when all she wants is to walk down the aisle, as he stands next to his weeping wife who clutches a lifeless baby to her chest, as dreams are shattered, laughter is deferred, and futures are changed in an instant. But faith during the fight is when they get up the next day and the next day and the next and with a tear-stained face chooses to say, “I trust You, Lord. You are for me!”

A person who stays in the ring during those rounds, who keeps moving toward the finish line if only at a shuffle pace, who chooses to proclaim, “God is for me!” even when they have been beaten to their knees, is not weak.

No. Faith in an unseen God in the midst of suffering is anything but weak.

Jesus said:

“…Blessed are those who have not seen [me] and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (1 Cor. 13:12 MSG)

Belief with proof is easy. Belief amid doubts is supernatural.

And so I pick my Bible up from its sprawled position across the floor. I sit down and spread its pages wide on my lap. Instead of giving up, I choose to settle in to the red letters.  God…is…for…me.  Lord, strengthen my faith, make me more queenly.

With a deep breath, my shoulders go down, my eyes close.

I remember the battle cry.

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10 thoughts on “Remember the Battle Cry (On Doubt)

  1. Thinking of you. I, too, find wisdom in the words of Peter Marshall, and I’m glad to know you “know” him as well.

    Several years ago, I traveled to Mansfield, MO, to visit Rocky Ridge Farm, the final home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, one of my favorite authors from childhood. As the years have gone by, I often find inspiration remembering her story, her trials with failure and loss, including the loss of a baby boy, and how she showed strength of spirit and a true faith. When I was looking at her keepsakes under glass, I noticed the handwritten notes she had with her Bible, recording what her favorite “go-to” verses were. I copied them down that day, and I thought I would leave them here with you as well. They are familiar, but somehow warm my heart to know they helped such a strong woman to survive.

    “In facing a crisis, read the Psalms. When discouraged, read Psalm 23 & 24. When lonely or fearful, read Psalm 27. When things are going from bad to worse, 2 Timonthy 3. When friends go back on you, 1 Corinthians 13th. For inward peace, the 14th chapter of St. John. And make Psalm 57 your prayer.”

    Sending love and hugs, and much, much understanding. We all doubt, but God continues to overcome our doubt.

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    1. Thank you, Maryann. I’m writing that list down myself. Thank you for sharing it with me. What a treasure to know what scripture the saints who’ve gone before cherished during their time here. You are a lifter to me. Thank you.

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  2. Sweet friend of mine. I had those same questions. Felt those same emotions. SOOOOO angry at the “unfairness” of people having children that didn’t “deserve” or “want” them. I was made to be fruitful and multiple and couldn’t! Beth Moore’s Bible Study, “Believing God” saved my faith and saved my life. I prayed throughout the day for God to help me believe in my unbelief. When I felt the doubts creeping in, and lies swirling around my head, I would fight back with my battle cry and putting up the shield of faith….

    Hold your right hand up, and starting with your thumb, count these off out loud (there is power in words spoken out loud)

    1. God is who He says He is.

    2. God can do what He says He can do.

    3. I am who God says I am.

    4. I can do all things in Christ.

    5. God’s word is alive and active in me.

    Then point to your heart with your thumb of your right hand and say “I’m”, then with your index finger point to your temple area, then say, “Believing”, then point your index finger up to Heaven, then say “God!” Do it as a smooth motion as you say it, “I’m Believing God!’

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  3. Wow, Molly. Oswald Chambers says “Until we face the deepest darkest facts of life without defaming God’s character, we don’t know him yet” You are in the “knowing” of life that is holy ground. I use your blogs often in class content and in my discipling circles. Thank you.

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    1. Gosh, Lisa. Thank you so much. That is such an encouraging thought to me. I still can tell I have much to learn, and I’m not sure I “know Him” the way I want to in this yet. But I’ll keep seeking. I so appreciate you continuing to be a lifter for me, and I am humbled that you would share my writing with others.

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  4. Oh miss Molly…I have been following your story from afar for quite some time now. I don’t have any magic words to offer you, but please know that I think of you often and pray daily for your heart, your marriage, and your faith. Sharing your doubts with the Lord-even when those doubts are about the Lord-means you are on the right path. Thank you for your honesty, and for continuing to share your heart-the good, the bad, and the ugly. I learn from you with each post.

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  5. Dear Molly,

    You don’t know me well, but I’m a fellow member of CATC and used to sing in the choir with your mom. She was the first to welcome me and make me feel at home. I so miss her smile and her spirit! She was such a blessing to me when we landed at CATC.

    I’ve been following your blogs and have shed many tears with you. Many of your posts have brought to mind an old 4Him song that I performed long ago at a church and it keeps coming back to me. I’ve pushed the desire to share the lyrics with you away several times, yet it keeps coming back. So, today I’m listening to the Holy Spirit nudge me that maybe there’s something here that you could use or latch on to. I think over the years, my favorite lines are the chorus – “and though down here I may not understand, I won’t let go of the unseen hand, for it holds the reason why”. Also, the reminder that the “Lord isn’t afraid of our honest prayers”. I love that and these lyrics have comforted me many times over my years when I feel insubordinate in my questions to God of “WHY?!?!”.

    God bless you and Josh in your walk through this. Last week in our Wed night Bible study, we focused on Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego – and it was pointed out that Jesus met them IN the fire….and when they came out of the fire, Jesus remained there IN the fire. That was powerful for me. Praying you feel Jesus with you and Josh while you are in this fire.

    4HIM “Why”

    They say that into every life, some rain must fall
    For the pain is no respecter, of the mighty or the small
    But sometimes, it just seems so unfair
    To see the one who’s had more than his share
    Oh it makes you wonder why
    And Lord I wouldn’t second guess, your mighty plan
    For I know you have a purpose, that’s beyond the scope of men
    If you look inside my heart, you will find
    That I have always been the trusting kind
    Oh but still I wonder

    Why (I wonder why)
    Do the rainy days have to come
    When the storm clouds hide the sun
    I wanna know why
    Why (I wonder why)
    When the reasons aren’t clear to me
    When it all is a mystery
    I want to know why
    And though down here, I may not understand
    I wont let go of the Unseen Hand
    For it holds the reasons why

    The Lord has never been afraid, of honest prayers
    And He won’t allow the burden, to be more than you can bear
    When He knows, that your trust, is in Him
    He doesn’t mind the questions now and then
    Even if you wonder

    Why (I wonder why)
    Do the rainy days have to come
    When the storm clouds hide the sun
    I wanna know why
    Why (I wonder why)
    When the reasons aren’t clear to me
    When it all is a mystery
    I want to know why
    And though down here, I may not understand
    I wont let go of the Unseen Hand
    For it holds the reasons why

    When the storm clouds hide the sun
    I wanne know wanna know why

    Why
    When the reasons aren’t clear to me
    When it all is a mystery
    I want to know why
    And though down here, I may not understand
    I wont let go of the Unseen Hand
    For it holds the reasons why

    And though down here, I may not understand
    I wont let go of the Unseen Hand
    For it holds the reasons why

    Praying for you,

    Teresa

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