For the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. James 1:6 ESV
I enjoy a good debate.
When someone tells me that they do not believe in God, I realize it’s probably not the time for debate but caring conversation. Many disbelieve in God because of hurt.
Woundedness resulting from bad decisions or actions by others or car accidents or your house burning down. All of which I have experienced. And you ask the question, “Why?”
James, in chapter one, uses the image of “driven and tossed by the wind,” which can also be translated “back and forth.” Back and forth, tossed to and fro between faith and doubt. Life is always sowing seeds of doubt.
Caring conversation listens. Somebody needs to talk us through and out of this cycle of doubt.
A woman came into my office years ago. Her son fought forest fires. He traveled by helicopter into the backcountry to get to the source of the fire. She told me that while landing and exiting, the helicopter was hit by wind, went sideways, and decapitated her son.
Through tears, she said, “I don’t know if he was a believer. I don’t know why God would allow this to happen. Can I still believe in God?”
With decades of ministry behind me, this question in this context was the most difficult that I have answered… Can I still believe in God?
I did not defend God. I didn’t discuss whether her son would be in heaven. I talked about the goodness of God. Yes, the goodness of God. How could I talk about a good God during something so terrible?
Initially, telling her that God is good seemed cruel. But the goodness of God is exactly what is being questioned. It is terrible to have loved ones killed by an accident, but it is cruel to lose someone with no hope of God working it out for the good.
Is God good or not?
During tragedy we don’t want answers, we want assurance of the goodness of God. If we think God is still good, faith grows. If we doubt the goodness of God, then we experience wavering doubt.
I spent an hour talking with this mother, asking about the good things in her life. I shared some of the things for which I was thankful. I reviewed with her that God created us, sustains us, and sent Jesus. I told her that Jesus died. We discussed various scriptures on hope. I prayed with her several times during the conversation.
In that moment, I experienced that God’s peace comes through His presence. Doubt keeps God at a distance but reviewing God’s goodness allows His presence to return. The treadmill stops as faith returns.
There aren’t easy answers on this side of heaven for tragedy. Faith brings the peace that surpasses understanding.
At the end of the conversation, she looked at me and said, “Thank you!”