18 January, 2009

Faith and Doubt

I was reading Genesis 18 yesterday, in which the Lord appears to Abraham and Sarah and announces that they will soon be with child. The Bible tells us that Abraham and Sarah were old and Sarah was beyond her child bearing years (v.11). The Lord, who appeared along with a couple angels in the form of men, was sitting was Abraham when He delivered this proclamation. Sarah was listening and laughed to herself. The Lord called her out of her unbelief, and she denied it.

I have to admit Sarah is not my favorite person in the Bible. She is rash, jealous, a follower - and never really does anything all that wonderful. She just follows Abraham around and reaps the benefits of his belief. In Gen. 16 we read about Hagar and Ishmael - two people who are deeply affected by Sarah's selfishness and jealously. She repeatedly takes fate into her own hands, and then gets upset and blames others for the mess she creates... Our world is still reeling from her meadling ways...

Yet, God used her to create a nation. In the story of Gen. 18 God does two things by coming to proclaim the birth of their son. He states a promise only He can keep. And by calling Sarah out on her doubt, He is preparing the way to replace her doubt with hope.

We are never told how Sarah responds to God calling her out on her lie. Sarah and Abraham soon have a son, Isaac, and the Bible continues on.

But Sid Buzzel, adds this note to the story
On occasions (of doubt) we ... need to continue believing in God for an outcome so big and so 'outrageous' that only He can accomplish it. And when the seeds of doubt choke our faith and hope, we need to recall that God understands and is faithful to help us and remove our doubt. Rather than hiding from God when our dreams are beginning to fade, we must run to Him and pray all the more fervently for their fulfillment. (p.22, The Leadership Bible, Zondervan)

I am in a place of needing to trust that God is fulfill the dreams He has put in my heart in a really outrageous way. I want to be overseas. It is a dream that has been brewing for years. And I don't think until I went to Cambodia that I realized how much I want to live outside the US, how much I am made for the simplicity of the "third world" vs. the hustle and materialism and "be this way" demands of the US.

But, for now, I am here - and it is hard to believe that God can move me from this place. Yet, unlike Sarah, I admit my doubt to God and restate my desire for things to be different - and whether it takes a month, a year, or five years, I know that if I am faithful to Him and continue to walk in His will, that He will lead me to where I should be.

Faith is hard. Doubt is easy. It is easier to think of all the reasons something can't (won't) happen and all that could go wrong, or all the reasons God won't deliver. And in the instant culture we live in, it's hard to remember that sometimes God's answer is "wait" or "later." We often take calls for patience as a "no" and then become Sarah and start to scheme in our own way - leaving nothing but a big mess in our wake.

At any time we can stop this cycle, fall on our knees, repent, and walk with Him again. I love that about God - there are no hail-Marys or slaughtered calves, or periods of repentance before He extends His grace. It's an instant forgiveness that comes when we repent. And while we live in the consequences of our sin that does not mean that He loves us less or is punishing us. Walking with Him is not easy, but it is the best place to be.

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© Amanda Lunday