Updated: May 17
Have you ever heard something that you were told was absolutely true, but in the back of your mind it didn’t feel quite right? From the information you possessed on the topic, the new data did not seem to fit. Or, at least not very well. So you got that look on your face. You know the one. One eye closed more than the other, eyebrows furrowed. The person talking to you knows that look as well. In fact, most of the time they will call us out on it. “Wait… You don’t believe me, do you?”
Perhaps an example or two will help.
1.) Reno, Nevada is farther west than Los Angeles, California.
2.) Maine is the closest US State to the continent of Africa.
3.) If you fly directly south from Detroit, you will hit the Canadian border.
4.) President Richard Nixon owned an amphibious car and used to drive
guests into the lake to scare them while screaming about brake failure.
* Answers are in the comments below.
When facts are presented to us, and our face begins to show the faint tracings of doubt, I believe there is a simple explanation. It doesn’t matter if we are in the midst of a personal conversation or anonymously analyzing information from behind a computer screen, the underlying cause for our doubt is the same. Behind the statistics, data, facts and the interpretation of the facts, we inevitably find our fellow humans.
When we say that we doubt the data, I believe that we are really doubting the more subjective, human components. How was the data obtained? Was there an agenda that influenced the way the information was collected? Were the conclusions presented predetermined? Is the goal designed to motivate action on our behalf, and if so, to what end?
So, here is the real question about doubt… Do we trust the people presenting the information; the official, the scholar, the friend, the child, the spouse? If not, why not? Has something happened in the past that has compromised our trust in them? Like a rock striking our windshield on the highway, even a slight failure in someone’s integrity can produce a tiny crack of doubt that soon grows and spreads. As that crack grows, the trust which undergirds the entire relationship can become quickly compromised.
In the film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Dr. Jones (a.k.a. Han Solo) is forced to cross a seemingly bottomless cavern without a bridge, rope or even his whip to help him. Instead, all he has is the trusted journal of his father (a.k.a. James Bond). As he stares into the bottomless abyss, he knows that there is no possible way to cross this chasm. And, if Indiana chooses to turn back, his wounded father will surely die. He must take the next step forward into nothing but thin air. So, with a deep breath and clutching his father’s notes, Indiana reaches out his leg and commands his first step into the void. But, instead of dramatically ending all future movie sequels, Indiana's outstretched leg lands on a bridge that was designed to blend with the cavern itself, making it invisible. The trust that lead him to take this “leap of faith” was not placed in a worn journal, the facts and sketches themselves, but in the one who wrote them. When his life was on the line, Indiana trusted his father more than the world he could see in front of him.
Triumphantly, Indiana physically demonstrates his death-defying faith in his father. However, what is the first thing Indiana does after he crosses the bridge? He bends down, grabs a handful of sand and throws it back over the bridge so it will be visible for his return trip. After all, who wants to make a leap of faith twice?
I doubt we are much different. Even when we decide to trust someone, there is still a temptation to look back and make sure the bridge it still there. I am not saying that Indiana was wrong to toss sand over the bridge or that we are ill-advised to question the information presented to us by even the most trusted source. Trust is not a binary concept. Trust can be crushed or confirmed with every new situation and relationship. Trust is not static, but forever dynamic.
Most of us will never be faced with a literal “leap of faith” like Indiana Jones in that cavern. But, we do face moments where we need to make a “leap of faith” decision based on information obtained from those around us. We may have gathered all of the evidence and all of the facts available, but facts and evidence will not make the decision for us. Evidence can point us in a direction, but the integrity of the people who present and frame that evidence will ultimately guide our decision. No one said this would be easy. Doubt is an ever present reality. Trusting others requires commitment and risk. So we keep throwing dirt over the way we came.
Up to this point, it might sound like I am making doubt the enemy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, doubt can cause us some sleepless nights and even put strain on our relationships. However, doubt is not the enemy or a sign of weakness.
In fact, if we are going to have courage to take our leaps of faith, we need to admit to ourselves that doubt is not the enemy. Instead, doubt informs our next step. It is our reaction to doubt that will reveal the strength of our character.
We are not alone when it comes to dealing with doubt. Historically, even the very best of us struggled with doubt from time to time. There are countless examples of individuals who did not run from doubt or hide their moments of uncertainty from those around them. Instead, they had the courage to tell future generations about their experiences with doubt! For example, when John the Baptist was facing a death sentence while shackled in Herod’s prison, he had some doubts about Jesus. He wondered if Jesus was the one the world was waiting for, or if should they still be expecting someone else to save them (Matthew 11:2-3). After all, what was happening in John’s life did not look like a rescue mission.
And, John the Baptist was the best of us!
I am not exaggerating here to make a point. God had used John to prepare the way for Jesus and his ministry. This same John baptized Jesus and heard God’s voice clearly and unequivocally tell him that Jesus was the One they were expecting. Even Jesus Himself said that of every, single person ever born of the planet, including; Moses, David, Abraham, my wife, everyone, there was no one was greater than John the Baptist.
Yet there John sat in the darkness of a prison cell, consumed by doubt. So, what did the greatest of us do when confronted with doubt?
Did he ignore it?
Did he try to muscle through it?
Did he hide from it?
No. He did something about it. He sent his friends to ask Jesus directly if He was really the One they were expecting. What was happening to John did not square with his expectations, so he asked about it. His circumstances, the information he had, the data he observed all contributed to his doubt. So, John leaned on someone in whose integrity he trusted.
John did not leave, hide, or ignore his doubt. He followed after it.
The real question is what happens when the situation is reversed; when those around us are facing doubt? When they are standing, facing a chasm of uncertainty, wondering if they can take the next step, are you and I the kind of person they would ask for help? Is our integrity in the small things strong enough to give them strength and confidence in us when the big stuff happens?
May those who know us, never doubt us.