Our biggest Secret…Doubt!

 In Featured, Mark Slaughter's Blog

by Mark Slaughter

Throughout my 38 years of ministry, I struggled with doubt. That’s right, doubt. It is the secret that no pastor or ministry leader wants to admit. If you are like me, you can spend a lot of energy building the case of faith versus doubt in your mind. You will also find times you vacillate from powerful moments of faith to times where God seems to be absent and a figment of our conjecture and wild imagination. I would like to encourage you today to be present in both moments…times of great faith and times of sinking doubt. They both have much to teach us and they are not in opposition to one another. Doubt is not the demise of our faith, but an open door to consider the mystery of God and the mystery of how we experience belief.

For just a few moments I want to give you permission to doubt. This doubt is not a weakness or your spiritual demise, which can lay a blanket of shame across your soul, but an acknowledgment that you are human. This aspect of humanity can shape honest and courageous conversations that open the door to dialogue about faith and doubt and remove the veil of secrecy and bring to light an aspect of faith that we all struggle to overcome.

Let’s consider a few ways to deal with the secret and bring doubt into the light.

  1. Tell someone you trust about your doubt and look for meaningful ways to see what your doubt can teach you. Sometimes spiritual suspicion is related to bad theology or spiritual triteness that just doesn’t hold up in the pressures of life. Honest dialogue with a person or small group will remove the secrecy and allow for opportunities to explore what you really DO believe.
  2. Read Brian McLaren’s new book, Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to do About It. This book struck a chord with me and helped me to NOT see myself as damaged Christian goods, but as someone who is moving to a new dimension of faith.
  3. Explore the mystery of God through mystical spirituality. Now, if you are uncomfortable in this place, good! There is no harm in being uncomfortable, and if you are ever going to grow in your faith, then move beyond the herd mentality with all the pat religious colloquialisms and infomercial spirituality and take a step into mysticism. Start with the early church fathers (Augustine, Bonaventure, Ignatius, St. Francis), and mothers (Theresa of Avila, Joan of Arc, Julian of Norwich) and delve into their expansive view of spirituality. There is a purity and honesty that you will find refreshing.

Finally, don’t be controlled by fear and the need to conform. McLaren says, “The greatest threat to our moral and spiritual health wasn’t questions or doubts but rather dishonesty or pretense about our questions and doubts.” You owe it to yourself and your life of faith to be open and not always trying to put some spiritual lipstick on the pig of doubt. Let it out in the open and facilitate conversations with those who are willing to be courageous with the discomfort and possibly open a new door into a new faith.

Dr. Mark Slaughter serves as Minister of Worship Arts at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church

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