Be at Rest Once More, O my Soul, for the Lord has been Good to You
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of FOCUS.
I am writing this to those of you who have ever struggled with your faith-based belief system. Maybe doubt is something that was once an issue for you and has since been resolved. Perhaps it’s something you wrestle with today. Either way, you are not alone. I believe having doubts in our faith is normal. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to walk away from your faith, it simply means you fit in well with most of the Christians I know (myself included). Let me share some of my own journey in an attempt to help you on your own.
I sat in church this morning as the Pastor encouraged us to close our eyes and think of what scares us most. For me it’s death. It is a challenge being in medicine and closely involved in seeing people die on a regular basis – in fact some days it feels as though everyone around me is dying. It makes it difficult not to live life with a fear of death. Death is a topic that has taken my journey of faith down some difficult roads in recent years.
After finishing my undergraduate studies, I spent a year away from Canada traveling. Part of those adventures landed me on a windsurfing beach in Vietnam. One afternoon, we had a lady collapse as her heart stopped beating. We performed CPR on her for hours as we waited for the ambulance to arrive. It made me sick to think she was my age and now dead. This experience was a large part of why I went into medicine.
Several years later, I again encountered death. However, this time it was someone I loved dearly. It has been a long and difficult journey learning to live without someone who was an integral part of my life. I have often wondered how people can get through pain and tragedy without a hope in an afterlife. My life was spared that evening as our car collided with a transport truck. I have learned that each day we have is a gift. Escaping death has made me appreciate my life as I truly feel as though I am on extra, undeserved time.
I had an interesting discussion with my classmate about heaven. He asked me if I thought the idea of heaven was created out of a fear complex in needing to believe in something. I had never thought of it that way. His comments were uncomfortable because they pushed me to think. Do I believe in heaven because I need to believe in something? I know it’s very scriptural, but do I truly believe in its legitimacy or is it simply a construction of someone’s imagination to make death more bearable. This led me down a path to not only evaluate my beliefs in the afterlife, but in the authenticity of the Bible and what I have been taught.
I have found that a belief and value in evidence-based medicine has permeated into my spiritual life as well. And so, I have found myself over the past several years evaluating whether my faith-based belief system is a product of simply how I was raised and what I was taught to believe, or whether it truly is what I believe. Do I believe because for my own sanity, I need to believe that what I have been taught is truth, or do I genuinely believe? It has been an uncomfortable journey at times, but it has also been liberating.
I like to think all of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus have, or will go through, periods in our lives where we have doubts about our faith beliefs. I find comfort knowing the Bible is full of people who struggled with doubts of various forms. Abraham and Sarah doubted God when He said they would have a child at their age. Thomas needed to see the holes in the hands of Jesus after the resurrection. Both Gideon and Moses doubted that they were good enough for God to use them. My grandmother of 98 years, a woman who has loved the Lord dearly her whole life and who has been a spiritual role model in my own life, recently told me that in her 96th year of life, she struggled with doubts about her faith. I hugged her. I thanked her for being real.
I believe the Bible can speak truth into all our lives. Yes, I both want and need to believe the Bible is truth, but I genuinely believe it is authentic. There will always be aspects of it that I struggle with, like how a couple of guys could build a ship 450 feet long and 45 feet tall and then fit 2 of all living creatures into it, or how a man can survive in a big fish for 3 days. But faith is a journey. I often remind myself I don’t need to have full understanding to have faith – in fact it is quite the contrary. I find comfort reading in Matthew that God can work with faith as small as a mustard seed. We may stumble and fall along the way, but it is our toughest trials in life that shape and define who we are and who we become.
Being a Christian is not an easy journey. I sometimes feel stressed being a Christian in a secular society. I used to have guilt when I would compare my level of “persecution” of occasionally feeling socially awkward because of my beliefs, to the persecution others face in the world where Christians are being hunted and killed. While my life may be easy in comparison to the circumstances of others literally dying for Christ, my spiritual battle is still legitimate. I think sometimes we downplay our own struggles of what it is like to live in a predominately secular culture. While we are not physically dying for the cross, our battles are real and they are our own.
I enjoy reading the Psalms. David was a man full of emotions. I have spent the last month reflecting on an excerpt from Psalm 116:5-9
The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
I frequently need to remind myself to “be at rest once more, O my soul.” It is easy to quickly forget what the Lord has done for me in my life. I often find myself like Gideon, asking God to give me some encouragement and reassurance of his presence. But just like God gave Gideon multiple signs that He was real, I feel that the Lord also continues to encourage me of His presence.
I hope this glimpse into some of my own journey encourages you today. Please know that if you have doubts and struggles, you are in good company. I know this is not a popular topic to discuss within our Christian circles, but it is there and it is real. There is no shame admitting our struggles; God knows we all have them. The Bible is full of broken, struggling people who God was able to use for grand purposes.