As a youngster, I had a passionate love for my grandma’s gravy, whether it was her sausage gravy in the morning or the gravy she created to go over my small mountain of mashed potatoes. Truth is, she didn’t create much of anything in her kitchen that I didn’t want to be first in line to get, and in spite of my active life, I was a chubby little guy. I hated it when I had to sit down with her to order jeans from the latest edition of the Sears & Roebuck catalog. She’d always pat me on the leg and say, “Now let’s see what they have in the ‘husky’ sizes.”
One Saturday afternoon, I was on a major safari into heretofore uncharted rabbit territory and came upon one of those barbed wire fences, a familiar part of the landscape around family farms like ours. I considered going in another direction, but there was a honeysuckle thicket on the other side that was the perfect hiding place for rabbits. I could just see some snarky little rabbit crouched in there snickering at me, thinking I couldn’t get to him because chubby guys like me couldn’t get over the fence. I couldn’t let that stand, so I considered my options.
No Easy Way ~
I could get on the ground and try to slither under the bottom strand, but that was problematic. The space was pretty tight, and chubby guys don’t do slithering very well in any situation, and the close proximity of barbed wire would make it even worse. Another option was to try to push the center strands apart and hold them long enough to get through the space in between. That wasn’t likely to work either, but there was one possibility left. There seemed to be just enough slack in the top strand to enable me to push it down far enough to get a leg over if I got up on my tiptoes. Thoughts of that testy rabbit laughing at me in the thicket was beyond tolerance, so I slid my gun underneath the fence and took a deep breath. I summoned my best imitation of a slightly pudgy ballet dancer (if there are such things) and threw one leg up and over. As I tried to toggle over to the other side, I got an unexpected reminder of why they call it “barbed” wire.
One of the barbed sections snagged my Sears & Roebuck denim huskies, wrapped them up like a gordian knot, and I was hopelessly hung up. I could touch the ground with the toe of my boot on either side, but rocking back and forth was the best I could do. The barbs at that point were embedded in my jeans but not yet penetrating any flesh. That was a condition that would almost certainly change in any effort to get off. Both sides were equally available, but coming down on either side was going to involve some unpleasant consequences. Other than a divine intervention to protect a sniveling little rabbit, God used that little episode later to teach me about the deceptive danger of doubt.
Another Definition ~
The Greek words translated “doubt” always connote a sense of indecision and/or uncertainty and could generally be interpreted as being “in two minds.” A state of doubt represents a kind of unclaimed, in-between space separating alternative territories. The classic picture is that both sides are equally available, but the one in doubt actually occupies neither. For some, that in-between space appears to represent a kind of “safe zone” that frees them from having to make a costly commitment to either side. The truth is that doubt is not a safe zone at all. It can be quite catastrophic, because conditions can change and the options may not always be available.
Sometimes No Decision “Is” A Decision ~
A pastor friend relayed a story to me about a wedding he was asked to perform. It was a fairly large affair, and the church was full of expectant family and friends. Everything went just as planned until the final moment when he asked the bride whether she would take the groom as her “lawfully wedded husband.” She looked at her groom, then down at the floor, then back at him, and again at the floor. Then she tearfully blurted out, “I don’t know–I just don’t know,” and ran out through a side door. She didn’t say, “No,” but she didn’t say, “I do,” either.
Perhaps the young woman was torn between facing the changes that married life would demand and the alternative impact of turning away and remaining single. Either way, the point is that even though she only said, “I don’t know,” the result was that a wedding never took place. In her effort to avoid making a major decision that day, she made one anyway. Doubt provided an option beyond “yes” or “no” and offered her a way out of a tense moment. She retreated into territory that felt safer and where she might continue to contemplate her options before making a final commitment. Her actual intentions weren’t clear in the story, but what was clear is that the issue involved a relationship and she wasn’t the only one involved. As it turned out, the moment that she escaped would not be offered again. To the one who was willing to accept her as his mate for life, an “I don’t know” was not enough.
Jesus’ vicarious sacrifice and subsequent resurrection secured a means for all of us to be forgiven for our innumerable transgressions, but receiving that incredible gift demands a decision. A clear and unequivocal choice must be made to abandon every contradictory belief system and to trust Jesus alone as Savior. All other options must be rejected, and that can be painful. Our natural craving for self-destructive behaviors makes turning away from them hard. We embrace lies as truth and employ them to make our sins acceptable. Giving them up is not done without significant internal resistance. Claiming doubt as a reason for putting off a decision to surrender everything can feel like a temporary “safe zone.” Technically, doubt isn’t unbelief, but it can’t be substituted for faith, either.
A Redemptive Confrontation ~
Jesus’ resurrection represented the final, ultimate victory needed to secure our salvation. As the news began to spread among the disciples, Thomas hadn’t yet seen the risen Christ and chose the safe zone of doubt, saying that unless he could put his hands into the very wounds in Jesus’ body, he wouldn’t believe (John 20:24-29). Jesus addressed Thomas’ doubt by confronting him with the truth and demanding a decision. He said:
…Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing. John 20:27 (NKJV)
Doubt is a deceptive trap to keep us from the glorious benefits that faith has to offer, and it can hold eternally catastrophic consequences. The ultimate question is whether Jesus Christ is who and what He claims to be. Are the testimonies of the hundreds of eye-witnesses who saw Him alive after His resurrection valid, or were they all lying? Did those who gave their lives to declare what they saw, die to promote a lie? Have the millions upon millions of stories of transformed lives been utter fiction? We must decide. Doubt can only exist in the absence of truth, and Jesus continues to offer a personal meeting with all who want to get it settled. Doubt isn’t a safe zone. It’s an uncomfortable fence the devil built to ensnare your soul.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to Tweet & Share from the pull quotes below. Each quote links directly back to this article through Twitter.
- “Receiving Jesus’ incredible gift demands a decision. A clear and unequivocal choice must be made to abandon every contradictory belief system and to trust Jesus alone as Savior. All other options must be rejected, and that can be painful.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Claiming doubt as a reason for putting off a decision to surrender everything (to Jesus) can feel like a temporary “safe zone.” Technically, doubt isn’t unbelief, but it can’t be substituted for faith, either.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Doubt is a deceptive trap to keep us from the glorious benefits that faith has to offer — and it can hold eternally catastrophic consequences. The question is not how we feel about Jesus Christ, but whether He is who He claims to be . . . ” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Doubt can only exist in the absence of truth, and Jesus continues to offer a personal meeting with all who want to get it settled. So know this . . . Doubt isn’t a safe zone. It’s an uncomfortable fence the devil built to ensnare your soul.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
Check out Ron’s book, “Right Side Up Thinking in an Upside Down World ~ Looking at the World through the Lens of Biblical Truth.”
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