I struggle with doubt. I sometimes feel I understand Rene Descartes when he began to doubt everything until he came to his infamous conclusion, "Cogito Ergo Sum" (I think therefore I am). Call it the curse of overthinking because I just can't leave some things alone. When a pastor preaches on Adam and Eve I can't help but spuriously ask whether or not they were real or just characters in a play? If a string of coincidences favor my way and clearly display God's handiwork in my life, I will question the coincidence. I am convinced that if God came to me and revealed his very form I would even then find a way to cast doubt on the experience as time passed. What is faith if I cannot stop doubting?
I recently read a debate between up-and-coming atheist Sam Harris and the pop-pastor Rick Warren. They exchange blows to each other's beliefs and, at one poignant point, Harris questions whether beliefs are really unbeliefs? When addressing Islam, Harris points out to Warren that, on the issue of Islam as a religion, they both stand "in a relationship of atheism." The Californian pastor fires back, "We both stand in a relationship of faith. You have faith that there is no God." They have certainly centered on the real question, "Is atheism a lack of faith in God or belief that there is no God?" I have been wrestling with this very question, not in relation to atheism but to my own doubt. When I doubt am I expressing a lack of faith or am I believing something different about God than what I had beforehand?
If you read the entire Harris v. Warren debate, you will find that Harris emphatically expresses belief at various points in the discussion. Both men are trying to interpret the world around them through evidence, experience, and bias. After reading the article in its entirety, I have concluded that atheism is a set of beliefs and unbeliefs. Similarly, when my doubt peeks its head, I am interacting with beliefs about God and his character as well as unbeliefs about what I have known him to be. It is at this crucial pivot point where my experience is ushered to center stage.
My friend John Wilson once told me the greatest encouragement to his faith was the experience of his conversion. "The reason I continue to believe," he would tell me with great intensity, "is that I was once a certain way, living a certain way, and not wanting to change, then God interrupted my life with love and now I am heading in the other direction." Truth be told, John was a rebellious jailbird when he met Jesus and now he is an incredible family man and soon-to-be scholar. He would invariably follow his story with John 9:25, "though I was blind, now I see;" a quote from a blind man Jesus healed.
We frequently turn faith into this magic feeling we must always maintain or else face the terrible judgment of God. More often faith is presented as an act of remembrance in the life of a believer. In Psalm 103:2-3, David writes, "Bless Yahweh, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit..." David goes on to declare the wonderful things God has done to interrupt his world with love and mercy. He further reminds man how small he truly is in view of eternity (vv. 15-16). Faith as an act of remembrance is what Robert Robinson had in mind when he wrote in "Come thou fount," "Here I raise mine ebeneezer, hither by thy help I come." An "ebeneezer" is a stone of remembrance whereby the Israelites would remember God's help.
My friend John proudly carries his ebeneezer stone of remembrance. When my faith is in peril, as it has been for the past five months, I need only return to "mine ebeneezer" to remember the God who rescued me from darkness. Beyond my conversion, I can bear witness to countless blessings and times when God has intervened to show me his unending love and affection towards me. What is your ebeneezer and when is the last time you sat before it? Gal. 2:20.