On Doubt, Faith, and Prayer


I was, like all of us, heartbroken to wake up and hear about yet another tragic act of violence and so many lives lost. How can someone do something so terrible? And we ask: Why did God allow this to happen?

At church we are working through a series of sermons on common sins, amazing grace, and a few weeks ago my pastor spoke on doubt. He titled the message Doubting God: When Faith Meets Confusion, and he talked about how we should respond when we believe God is real and yet we wonder why he would allow this to happen. This, of course, can be anything from an act of violence to a personal hardship to a tragic accident.

Confusion itself is not a sin. Even the disciples, who walked with Jesus, questioned and didn't understand all that was going on. But confusion can easily lead to doubt, which can lead to pulling away from God out of anger or fear.

I am the first to admit that I am no biblical scholar, but I did want to share an overview of the notes I took during that sermon a few Sundays ago, because I found the message helpful, and in the wake of what happened in Las Vegas, I thought you might also.

1. Worship God even when you are confused and hurting. 
It is not a lack of faith to feel deeply. It is not a lack of faith to be confused. But it is what we do in response to our hurt and confusion that shows where our faith lies.

2. Remember that you will never know all the details.
If God were small enough to understand, he would never be big enough to worship and put our faith and trust in. I personally find it so comforting to remember that God knows everything and he is never surprised. I know that's not comforting to some because it's easy to ask if God knew what would happen, why didn't he stop it? We have to realize that we will never know all the answers and we have to trust that God does.

3. Speak and pray the truth even when you do not understand.
Let your words of response in hard and difficult times be true, Christ-centered, and always pointing toward grace and the hope of Jesus. It is easier to lower our view of God than it is to raise our faith to a height such as this. It is easier to respond in fear and rage than it is to respond with grace and hope.

Friends, it is not always easy to believe in Jesus. There are things I don't understand, and I wish I could know more answers as to why things happen. I wish these types of things didn't have to happen. But it wasn't supposed to be like this, and soon Jesus will make all things new and it won't be like this anymore.

When things like this happen, messages are sent around the world calling for prayer, and it can feel so futile and, honestly, useless. What good is prayer in the face of such evil?

Last year after the shooting in Orlando, I wrote a post about prayer. I encourage you to go read it. It's summarizing part of a book I read on prayer last year by Philip Yancy, and it was encouraging to me when I went back and read it today and a good reminder about what prayer is and why it's important.

Philip Yancy wrote this in his book: "For most of us, prayer serves as a resource to help in a time of testing or conflict. For Jesus, it was the battle itself." Then, Yancy quotes from another source, saying: Where was it that Jesus sweat great drops of blood? Not in Pilate's Hall, not on his way to Golgotha. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane. There he 'offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could have saved him from death' (Hebrews 5:7). Had I been there and witnessed that struggle, I would have worried about the future. 'If he is so broken up when all he is doing is praying,' I might have said, 'what will he do when he faces a real crisis? Why can't he approach this ordeal with the calm confidence of his three sleeping friends?' Yet, when the test came, Jesus walked to the cross with courage, and his three friends fell apart and fell away."

So yes, let's pray for the situation in Las Vegas and all those affected. But let's also not forget to pray daily for our world, our leaders, our friends, our neighbors, our children, and for our own hearts. That we may be able to take our confusion and doubt to Jesus and let him teach us how to respond with courage and hope.

p.s. I thought this was a great article on prayer and Las Vegas.
Unknown said...

<3 <3 We did a study on doubt in our life group. It was pretty eye opening. I, of course, wish we had the answers, or knew why things were happening the way they were ahead of time. But it's all part of God's plan. We just need to have trust and pray.

Michelle said...

Love this. I keep coming back to Lamentations 3. Good and bad things happen all at the Lord’s command, but He is our portion and salvation. It’s so comforting to me. Thank you for these words. It makes me sad when people slam the power of prayer. I can understand why it would sound trite to someone who isn’t a Christian, but I’ve seen the power of prayer so evident in my life lately that it makes me sad to hear people knock it.

Audrey Louise said...

From a Christian perspective it can easy or so so challenging to turn to God in a time like this. I think this post makes it a little easier to turn toward God. Thank you for writing and sharing this, Amanda.

Rach said...

It's hard to know what to say in light of tragedies like these, but this was really well said. Thanks for sharing your heart today.

Jenny Evans said...

I love how you point out the difference between confusion and doubt. It's all in what we DO with our confusion that matters: we can go to God for answers or we can say, "I don't get it, maybe he's just not there after all" and let our confusion turn into doubt.

Nadine said...

I love how you remind us all that we don't know all the answers and that we aren't supposed to. I don't think we can ever fully understand the power of prayer.

Beka @ Sunshine to the Square Inch said...

I've never in my life thought about what that author said about how Jesus had sweat drops of blood during prayer, not during the other times. Prayer is a real battlefield.

Your pastor has lots of wisdom. I'm glad he shared what he did.