A hedge of doubt

I woke this morning for the first time in weeks without the heaviness of condemnation on me. I haven’t been able to shake those feelings lately, no matter how hard I’ve pressed myself against the robe, no matter how much I’ve bent my face over Jesus’ feet. I’ll be honest, I began to doubt some things. Even now, writing this, my mind is replaying a litany of doubts. Do you really believe that God loves you? Do you really believe you’re worth something to Him? Do you really believe that anyone could love you at all? What makes you think He’ll be happy with you?

They pile up and attack what I know to be true. And so this morning when I woke up gently, quietly, I held my breath for a moment or two, waiting for the doubts to assemble and charge. But they didn’t. And I couldn’t figure out why.

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One of the greatest gifts God gave me was the gift of doubt. I doubt that many of us would see it as a gift, but I know it to be the deepest grace to me. He gave me the wide pasture of doubt and pleasant boundary line of truth. He wounds me with my doubt, but heals with me with His truth.

Like most who grew up in the church in one manner or another, I bought the lie that a fortified moralism would lead me to paths of great joy—purity until marriage, marriage by 22, children by 24, ducks lined up before me and behind me, I got them in a row. I organized my life to make sense.

And then life didn’t make sense. Life dealt me, as one person called it, a bad hand. I’ll never forget walking away from that conversation wondering how to play these cards. What do you do with a handful of threes and no partner in this game? I’ll tell you what you do: you doubt.

You fall full into it, bathe yourself in it, wash your soul with sin and shame. When the answers you’ve been given by well-meaning people fail, when the theology you believe (that God responds when we pray harder, give more, seek deeper, and repent faster) proves you the fool, and when God does not seem good, I’ll tell you what you do: you doubt.

And here’s the thing about doubt: it is a seemingly endless plateau. God has given us the gift of reason and logic and thought, and so doubt will take us where nothing else can because there is always another question, another possibility. Even if we bump up against a wall of truth, we are like little squares in Atari games, bouncing for eternity.

Doubt doesn’t seem like a gift.

This morning I read the first chapter of Job, the righteous man who we might also say was dealt a bad hand. But today I noticed a word: hedge.

“Have you not put a hedge around him and all that he has?” The enemy asked God before he unleashed upon Job the full fury of his minions.

God permitted the enemy to do what he would, only told to keep his hand from Job himself, and today I think about the hedge God has set around us. I want to believe that the hedge prevents the enemy from coming in, but that is not what we’re told. No, the hedge prevents the enemy from going outside the bounds of what God has set for him. It is Job’s hedge, but it is also the enemy’s.

This morning I woke up and felt myself hit the hedge. Not my limitations, but God’s. Not the end of myself, but the time when God holds up His hand and says “No more. This is the safest place I have for you. Within these boundary lines. Here. All the rest I have for you lies within these boundaries. All the struggles I have for you too lie within these boundaries. But do not worry: I have set this hedge around you and the enemy will not prevail.”

 

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