Is It Okay For A Christian To Doubt?

written by Zach

Almost a decade ago, as many of you know, I consistently struggled with severe anxiety and depression. There were multiple reasons for this, but one of the reasons was due my skewed  conceptions about God. Some of the incorrect thoughts were a result of my own incomplete personal studies, but some were also taught by different teachers.

As a person struggling with fear and anxiety, I remember leaving some specific sermons and reading certain blogs that left me more confused (and scared) about my issues with anxiety and depression. There’s a perception in the evangelical community that for a Christian to doubt  is a bad thing or even a “slander against the almighty.” But I actually think that perception is a bit unhealthy, and maybe even dangerous to teach.

Some might teach that Jesus died so we didn’t have to doubt anymore. However, I’ve learned to view doubt as my friend, not the enemy.

I see doubt and faith as two different sides of the same coin. I see Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane at the end of his life, full of faith, but  also full of wrestling with doubt. I read in Paul’s letters, including the letters toward the end of his life,  written by broken man- full of faith, but also full of insecurity.

There is prevailing thought and belief among Christians that maturity equals certainty. It’s thought in some circles that the more certain a Christian is about their practices, beliefs, God and following his ways, the more mature they are…(especially if they declare these beliefs with much bravado in their voice). I see and hear it all the time and everywhere...in sermons, the songs we sing, and in conversations I overhear at the coffee shop...and it's not healthy. Certainty does not equal maturity.

A person’s trust in Jesus, in the midst of doubt and much uncertainty, produces real faith and maturity and is a lot healthier on the person’s mind as well.

In my opinion, the Christian will not one day come to a place when he or she does not experience doubt in some form. Where there is great faith, doubt will be present. Will you and I continue to trust still in the midst of it?  

I want more grace in my life and the in the lives of those I counsel. In this post I’m offering you a different perspective- it’s your choice to agree or disagree. However, if this perspective is resonating with you, I want you to know that if you ‘struggle’ with doubt- it’s okay. You are not less of a Christian than someone who is more 'certain.' My doubt has deepened my faith in Jesus and helped me to have true compassion for others. For faith to even exist, doubt must be present. For faith to continue to grow, doubt should be right there with it. I'm not afraid of my humanity anymore. I've embraced it, and by doing so, have allowed it to be transformed by Holy Spirit into deeper faith.

Read This Before You Create Your 2018 Goals

written by Zach

New Year’s Eve has always been my least favorite holiday. I’m not exactly sure why this is the case, but it probably has something to do with me usually feeling lame with whatever I am doing for the holiday, and there is always something better I could/should be doing. It could also be the awkward memories of that ball drop meaning you had to have someone by your side to kiss. This rarely worked out for me, especially since I was usually around Christians on New Year’s, and I guess Christians don’t kiss strangers when the ball drops. Go figure…

However, I love New Year’s Day! I love eating black-eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread. I love watching football all day. I love new beginnings and looking ahead at goals for the year. I know the statistics show we probably won’t be able to keep our New Year’s resolutions, but I still like the idea of having goals. I love that we have a calendar year that finishes and a new one that begins, offering us a fresh start.

For some, 2017 was a year you may like to forget, but even if 2017 was the worst, I believe we can look ahead to 2018 with hope in mind. And I believe this starts with taking care of ourselves- to make specific self care goals for the year.

I know it can seem selfish to think about how you are going to take care of yourself better this year, and that your goals should be about “pouring” yourself out more for the sake of others. However, I would submit that a person can never truly be there for someone else the way he or she might want to until they learn how to take care of themselves properly. So how are you going to take care of yourself better in 2018?

As I’ve written much about, I believe every human being is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual human being, and for that person to be operating at full capacity, I believe that a person should be working towards bettering themselves in each of those areas.

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How are you going to take care of your body? Is it a better eating plan? Do you need to join Weight Watchers for some help and accountability? Some of our best friends used Weight Watchers and lost almost 100 pounds combined this past year.  I’m not a paid sponsor for Weight Watchers, but I am always a proponent of people having a plan and a community as it relates to health.

Psycho

How are you going to better your mind this year?  Are you going to read a certain amount of books this year? Are you going finally take care of those toxic thinking patterns? Counseling really helps me (and still helps me) replace my irrational, fearful thinking. And if it works for a messed up person like me, it could possibly work for you too.

Social

Are you going to live in community this year or are you going to isolate? Who are 3 people you’d like to say you were closer to at the end of 2018 than you were in 2017?  This could mean regular coffee dates or vacationing together. Who are your people?

Spiritual

Do you have a plan for growing in your relationship with God this year? People immediately go for upping their devotional time with God, and while I would definitely agree with that being a solid option, can I suggest a little more specific creativity with this one? We serve a BIG God who wants to connect with us in so many ways than just during our 'quiet time.' Still have a devotional time with the Lord, but how else are you going to connect with Jesus this year that will help the relationship grow?

So here’s a toast to 2018 from Hopetown and the Dicksons! We don’t expect perfection in 2018, but we do hope for progress in each of us.

 

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

Harvey and Irma- In Times of Crisis, Let's Show Up

written by Ashley

I love living here in the upstate of South Carolina, but I have to be honest with you- my heart is in Florida. Especially over the past 72 hours. My family and close friends hunkered down through Irma and are now living in her aftermath. Flooding and loss of power are two major issues in the area where I’m from (North East Florida). Most of the state is in some sort of disaster recovery. 

I’ve been glued to my phone to get updates from family. Facebook has been a huge source of updates from people in my hometown. On Tuesday night, a friend posted a picture of a fellow high school classmate rescuing a family whose vehicle was swept away by floodwaters while they were inside. Another person posted a picture of a water bottle shipment at Walmart to tell people to hurry while it was there.  I just got off the phone with my mom who was washing dishes with water she boiled on her gas grill because she’s going on day 4 without power. A gas tanker in our hometown had a police escort as it replenished a gas station to keep people from bum rushing the fuel pumps. 

The past 72 hours since Irma (well really, weeks since Harvey) have brought some heavy images and awful conditions to imagine.  But I’ve also witnessed the most beautiful parts of humanity as people step in and lock arms during crisis. My cousin who is the Mayor of Hawthorne, FL was driving around with sandbags on his trunk to deliver to people. A family in my hometown spent their morning after the storm helping another family cut up and haul off a huge tree from their yard. On my Insta story yesterday I shared a picture of some of our neighborhood boys mowing our other neighbor’s yard. That neighbor had just worked 14 hours restoring cable and internet in the upstate of South Carolina.

Sure, FEMA is going to do a lot of work to help families rebuild, but I also think the impact of a neighbor helping a neighbor is speaking an even louder language of love in our country’s current climate.It can be easy to see so much need, yet not act because, well, where do we even start? The past 72 hours have reminded me to just start somewhere. Anywhere.

The needs may look different depending on where you live, but I have to believe we can offer hope to someone just by showing up.

Also- this is a shout out to the heroes who are restoring power and utilities, officers offering protection and direction, medical staff who are literally keeping people alive in the middle of chaos, and county/school personnel who are away from their families keeping emergency shelters open (my dad and brother in law!). You are all just incredible humans and we are so thankful for you.  

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When SILENCE is No Longer an Option

I had this great post about creating more margin in our lives, so that we could live more healthy, full, and successful lives. I was going to talk about the importance of saying, “No,” as one of the best ways to create the margin that people desperately need in today’s society. And I still will post it. But not today.

Today, as I watch the news, I want to take this saying “No” to a deeper level.  As I watched and read everything happening in Charlottesville, I am filled with anger, sadness, and frustration. I’m filled with thoughts like…

“Should I say something? “I don’t want to be one of ‘those’ people on Facebook, starting arguments” “I don’t want to cause any harm to the business I just started….”

However, I’m not writing this post because I “need” to, but because I want to speak up. You see, I don’t want to just say ‘No’ in order to have more margin in my life. I want to say NO in order to live a truly holy and righteous life, a life that is lived closely with Jesus. And my friends, the White Supremacist protesters in Charlottesville are not close to Jesus.

So, I’m saying NO to the idiots carrying torches in Charlottesville like they still live in the 1950’s..

I’m saying NO to White Supremacy.

I’m saying NO to trying to stay in the middle on injustices like racism.

I’m saying NO to my White friends that scare the crap out of me when they blame Obama for everything.

I’m saying NO to President Trump when he refuses to unequivocally say “No” himself to the facts of hatred happening in Charlottesville. He continues to show character of an accusatory man that I would never want my daughter to emulate.

Even though I didn’t vote for President Trump (or Hillary), my SILENCE of him in this moment would mean supporting the injustice he is refusing to name.  As Reverend and Dr. Martin Luther King said,

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

One of my favorite authors and pastors, Jonathan Martin, tweeted a statement regarding Charlottesville and it has haunted me since I read it on my phone in a Chick-fil-a drive-thru. He said,

“Preachers, this is what happens when we "stay in our lane" saving souls, & leave the "real world" up to the politicians.”

I pride myself on trying to be bridge builder for different groups of people, but the bridge building mentality has been tested to the fullest since November. I’m realizing more and more that all too often, I stick to MY lane and MY world and leave the justice stuff to the missionaries or to some of my more liberal friends. However, I believe it’s simply cowardice on my part and the real reason for my silence is for fear of losing MY kingdom. And while I might hold on to my kingdom, I believe I am forsaking myself from experiencing the joy and peace of God’s Kingdom here on earth.

So I am asking for forgiveness if I have been too silent up until this point. I especially ask my Black friends for forgiveness, since this crap did not just begin in Charlottesville.

Before some of you start worrying about me, I WILL remain in my lane with Hopetown. I will continue my counseling of men and women towards wholeness and healing. However, I refuse to NOT use my platform, as unimpressive as it might be, to speak out when bullcrap happens like it has the past couple of days in my country, especially crap like the President refusing to name and call out the true ugliness and ungodliness of White Supremacy.

As my beautiful and wise wife posted on Facebook earlier, she said that we are “Overwhelmed with what to do tonight...Prayer, reflection of my unknown prejudices, repentance, realizing the weight & importance of raising my white daughter to love, honor, & defend people who are different than her. May I lead her by my example.”

And that is why I’m writing this to you. This is not just for me. This is for my marriage. This is for Hopetown. This is for my conservative, white friends. This is for my liberal friends.  This is for my younger brothers and sisters in Christ who may look at me as an example on how to follow Jesus. This is for my black niece, Charlotte. This is for my pale, white, blue-eyed, blonde-haired little girl who is currently asleep upstairs in her strawberry-footed onesie, with no ability to yet understand the injustices and evil which reside in the world she lives in today.

I pray she is one day proud of her mom and dad who know when to speak and when to remain silent or when to stand and when to sit down. I pray she sees a mom and dad who do what is right, and are quick to repent when they are in the wrong. I pray she truly understands the Kingdom of God is for EVERYONE and ANYONE, and that she never supports anyone or anything that would try to demonize “the others” of the world. I pray she would know when to say YES and when to emphatically say HELL NO!

Photo by Kayla Velasquez