“Sometimes I wonder if this is all in my head, just a crutch to make me feel better.”
My brother dug his toes in the dirt as we walked, the sun going down and kissing the top of the lake in spectacular Colorado fashion. How many bouts with life had led us to this shore? How many doubts demanded answers we never seemed to have?
“What if…” he paused. “What if I keep hope and God around just so I can think that someone actually has my life figured out? Because I don’t. I sure as hell don’t.”
I didn’t grow up with that question between my teeth. As long as I could remember, there had been God. On Sundays, my family went to church. When bad things happened, there was always a reason why. There was right, there was wrong, and I was supposed to know the stark difference between the two. And all of that made sense because that is what I had been told.
But this morning, I woke up. I woke up, and I ate some breakfast, and as I sipped on a steaming cup of black coffee, I scanned my computer screen.
200 dead. Click.
50 dead. Click.
War. Click. Refugees. Click. Sickness.
Click. Click. Click.
Every day there is another reason to doubt. Believing in some sort of “plan”, an orchestrator, a purpose, a hope, it was easy in the land of middle school crushes, Friday night football games, friends and holidays and basketball practice. But today, I can feel the pain of the world. I know you can too, and the questions that used to be so comforting are now the ones that keep me up at night.
I believe there is hope for the brokenness of America…but what if I’m wrong? What if that hope actually doesn’t exist?
I believe good will overpower the bad…but maybe I’m just being overly idealistic? What if the world is going down the tubes and there’s nothing I can do about it? What if I’m completely powerless?
I believe in God…but what if that’s just a stupid daydream? What if there is no plan? What if the joke is on me?
Believing—to the devout and the cynical alike—some days just seems like a load of BS.
It’s hard to keep track of all the sorrow. I mean, we look and see the French community and the world band together after such a brutal attack in Paris last November. We get encouraged to think that a broken city could be healed. Then a man drives a truck through a crowd of people celebrating freedom and life and takes it all away.
Most days, it seems there is no rest. No peace. Belief is exhausting after so much disappointment, so much tragedy. So many unanswered questions.
Why even bother?
About two years ago, I climbed the tallest mountain in Colorado. As my feet ached and blistered, as the tree line came and went, I could see the peak of where I was going with excitement. My group and I were eager to be on top, to know of the reason behind our grueling climb.
Yet, as we crawled over the first ridge in the hopes of finding ourselves on top of the world, our stomachs sank. It was a false peak, and we could see up ahead of us that we still had a really long way to go.
In that moment, it seemed pretty pointless to keep going. Our hopes had been shattered. And who was to say that the next peak wouldn’t be false as well? What if we never reached the top? What if we never understood why we were climbing?
That is where we find ourselves today. We started off 2016 or 2015 or 2014 so excited to reach the peak, to accomplish our dreams, to see beautiful things unfold in the world. And then we finally got to that point in time only to realize we are nowhere near the top of anything, that instead the climb is all big rocks and bruises.
This year, last year, the year before that? They have been brutal. And as we reach this plateau and it hits us that we have been let down once again, we have a decision to make.
Doubt is not the opposite of belief. I always thought that if I believed in hope, if I had faith in a God, that I couldn’t question the details. That I was weak if I questioned the details. But the decision we must make, in the wake of sadness and terror and discouragement, is not whether to believe or doubt. It is whether we take a step forward with resilience or shrink back altogether.
Go, or stop. Wrestle, or give up.
Belief is exhausting, is utter bull, until we realize that it’s a process and not one grand achievement. Believing in God, for me, means that I sometimes think he doesn’t care or isn’t there. I sometimes get angry with him. I sometimes wrestle and scream and wonder why he would allow for all this ugly mess around me.[clickToTweet tweet=”There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness.” quote=”There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness.”]
To believe in hope, that tomorrow will be better, and that we have the power to make the world a little brighter, is a difficult decision. There are days we will wake up and it seems that what we believe is impossible and we might be fools for even trying.
At the end of the day, though, we must let the right combatant win and the other to be put in his rightful place. We must give doubt credit, because through our doubts we come to understand why we believe what we believe. Doubt makes us stronger, not weaker.
But we cannot let doubt paralyze us from movement forward.
My answers often go unanswered for a long time. It takes months, even years, sometimes for me to understand why my circumstances ended up a certain way. And with things like terror attacks, deaths in the family, broken relationships, and abuse, I don’t think I will ever completely know the answer.
This I do know. I know that I can still see the peak in front of us. I can see a world that is better, more caring, more hopeful. Can you see the vision too? It’s an exciting one. I really don’t think that we should give up now. Even if I don’t have the exact solution, and the doubts still threaten my faith, I can tell you this—
Believing still has the possibility to change lives. And it starts with me.