It’s Sunday morning, 10:30 a.m. We’re crammed in the choir room after first service is over but before second service begins (pre-Covid days).
Someone closes the door. This is serious now. A choir member has asked for prayers for healing. It’s time to get down to business.
In the church I grew up in years ago, we weren’t bold with our prayers. Sure, we asked God to help us…if he wanted to, if he didn’t have anything more important to do, if he thought us worthy enough.
It felt a little flimsy.
But the prayers in this choir room are of a different flavor.
And they make me nervous.
They’re outrageous. They don’t just ask for future healing; they declare it to be so. And further, that it’s already occurred.
Everyone in the room needs to agree.
I’m not used to this.
Um, should I walk out if I don’t fully believe that the healing has already occurred? I don’t want to be a hindrance.
But my leaving would be quite noticable. I would be embarrassed. I would be pegged an unbeliever.
Is It Okay to Ask?
But I can’t fully convince myself I know what God will or won’t do.
And I further can’t convince myself that if God DOES want to heal, my belief or unbelief wouldn’t outstrip his ability to do so.
Does that make me a heretic? Of little faith? A lesser believer?
Are questions a bad thing?
I understand how more certainty and less doubts can bring more peace, less stress.
Science agrees that those who regularly participate in religious practices with strong beliefs report greater well-being than those who don’t, for a variety of reasons.
Psychologists also examine how certainty comes into play.
“With belief—that God will intervene, that a ritual will heal—comes certainty. And with certainty comes a kind of inner peace.”
– David DeSteno, How God Works
People who are more certain that God is at this moment killing all the cancer cells as they pray are more likely to be calm. They’re more at peace. They have less stress.
I’m Not Convinced
But my questions remain.
What happens if the choir member finds out at next week’s scan that his cancer has not gone away, but in fact has grown? What does that do to his faith? To the faith of those who prayed away the cancer already?
Start the process over and believe even harder next time?
I’m not convinced this is how faith works. I’m not convinced this is how God works.
And I’m not convinced that God is bothered by my questions.
God created some of us more inquisitive than others. My dad was that way. He was always asking questions. Always curious. Always wanting to learn more. Maybe I am this way, too.
I don’t think it’s a negative. Or a sin.
It doesn’t mean I love God less. Or trust God less. Or have less faith. It just means I’m inquisitive.
God is stronger than my weakest doubt. My faith isn’t dependent on my certainty about how God works.
I’m not even capable of understanding how God works anyway.
None of us are.
Uncertainty Is Uncomfortable
As I walk through this year of Uncertainty as my One Word, I’m learning that making peace with uncertainty is both harder than I ever imagined, but also more necessary than I thought.
Because, after all, if I’m never uncertain about anything, I’ll never change. I’ll never grow. I’ll never move closer and closer to actual truth.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to be sure about things. There are plenty of things I feel sure about. And yes, it comforts me (or, depending on what it is, it disturbs me).
But we can’t be sure about everything. Too much of life is volatile. It’s unpredictable.
When I am positive I already know everything, I shut myself off from learning new things.
And I can’t afford to do that. There is always more to learn.
I need to learn new things. I need to grow. I need to be transformed more and more into the image of Christ by experiencing him in new ways and by thinking new thoughts and by learning new behaviors.
Better ones. More accurate ones. More godly ones.
I believe it’s what God wants me to do. He wants me to keep searching for him. And he’ll keep providing evidence to prove his presence.
Uncertainty can be a bridge between here to there. It requires humility to cross over. It requests arrogance be left behind.
Am I wrong even now about some of the things I’m certain are true? Most assuredly so, even though I can’t see which ones yet.
I trust God to continue revealing truth to me all my life, if I’ll remain open to receive it.
But Uncertainty Is Okay
I stay in the choir room that Sunday morning. It feels rude to leave.
But I pray my own prayer, my honest prayer.
Like the others in the room, I want to believe God has already stripped away the cancer cells from my friend and that the doctor will find nothing on the next x-ray. I ask with audacity for complete healing. I’ve done so many times in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
But I just can’t demand God to do it.
And I can’t guarantee his answer.
Uncertainty is okay. Even good. It leaves space for God to show up in unexpected ways.
Even when it’s uncomfortable.
How does God work?
I can’t say for certain.
I’ve just seen that he does.
Even if I don’t understand how.
My thanks to NetGalley for the review copy of How God Works: The Science Behind the Benefits of Religion by David DeSteno. It’s a fascinating look at how religious practices themselves affect our lives from birth to death (but it’s not about how God does or doesn’t act through the practices).
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