When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted." ~ Matthew 28:17
But alongside an intentional focus on sabbath practice this past year or so, the Lord has really confronted me with words like delight... cheer... gladness... celebration... enjoyment. I've been noticing that I don't do a very good job of "having fun," in the sense most people would identify the term. My preferred recreational activities tend to be a whole lot more serious-minded and introspective than they are silly or playful. That's not a bad thing, except when I slip into judging and criticizing "less important" uses of people's time.
A while back, reading a book called Pastors at Greater Risk by H.B. London, Jr. and Neil B. Wiseman, I was deeply moved by one of the authors' convictions: that a minister of the Word should, above all, be one who is enjoying putting on the character of Christ.
Oof. That stopped me.
Long story short, God has taken me on a bit of a journey this past year, teaching me how to give myself permission to enjoy, to celebrate—to allow myself to be happy, for crying out loud, about the good gifts He gives. I'm still learning. That's a topic all on its own for another day.
I've spent a lot of time being excited and terrified about that, but this morning, as I was journaling about these developments, it hit me: I haven't really taken the time to just be happy that this is happening. I've felt thankful, blessed, eager, humbled, affirmed, intimidated, and still wondering where exactly this is supposed to lead—but I hadn't stopped long enough to feel any plain old happiness about the way things are working out.
When I took the time to ask myself why, I was a little surprised by what God brought to the surface. I figured it's just a product of my practical, outcome-oriented nature. But when I dig in, it turns out my hesitation to "get too happy" comes down to a lingering flicker of doubt.
The thing is... even after all of the neon signs God has used to point me in this direction over the last several years, I still don't know where He's taking me, and I still don't know if I'm sure of what I'm hearing.
Confronting this doubt at the feet of Jesus this morning, I made a point to write these words in my journal: Lord, I am happy I got into the counseling program! I'm happy it's available. I'm happy it's possible. I'm happy it's happening. I'm happy You lined it up so perfectly, when I wasn't even expecting it. What a happy surprise, Father. I am SO happy about what You are doing right now!
There, I read, "But then I started to doubt, 'what if I got my leadership call wrong—and I’m mistaking my own desires for God’s will?'"
That's a question I've been asking myself since 2012, when God boldly called me to begin a path toward ordained ministry, and for some reason, I followed Him... long before it made any sense to go that way. The question still lingers, never quite satisfied for sure. Even today, this morning, looking forward to beginning the clinical counseling program I've desired to pursue for who-knows-how-long now, right in the middle of being glad about it, I still found myself asking, in the back of my mind, "Is this really God's will, or is it just what I really want to do?"
So I kept reading...
In the midst of this wrestling, I came across this article by Jennie Allen, 'If Your Heart Is Right, Ignore the Critics'... In it, she shares a comment from her friend that resonated with me, 'It always seems easier to sit in the back row and kill my dreams than to fight the sin that may be attached to those dreams.'
As women, many of us are especially susceptible to criticism, which, instead of causing healthy questioning of our motives, causes intense doubt of our callings... While she doesn’t say this explicitly, I think Allen would agree that it’s not always possible to completely purify your motives, and that waiting for that to occur can be an excuse to avoid following your God-given passions and yearnings. But God gave us these passions for a reason, and it’s equally problematic not to act on them."
I've read this verse a hundred times, but today, God's Word shouted in my face. This comes after Jesus has been raised from the dead and is now appearing in Galilee, to His disciples who saw Him crucified back in Jerusalem. These are the remaining eleven out of the twelve who shared intimately in Jesus' life and ministry for the last three years, hearing everything He taught about God's kingdom—even recognizing Him as Messiah toward the end there.
"When they saw Him"—they saw Him. They saw Jesus Christ, raised from the dead. They saw Him—all of them. The text doesn't say some of them saw Him; they did. The eleven who were there—all of them. When they saw Him, "they worshiped Him." Still the same "they"--all of them; the eleven of them. They saw Him, and they worshiped Him.
They worshiped Him.
"... but some doubted."
Can we even grasp the significance of this detail? They all saw Him. They all worshiped Him. And some of those who were right there, seeing Jesus and worshiping Jesus, still doubted.
It is possible to stand in the presence of the living Christ, seeing Him for Who He is, worshiping Him for Who He is, and still doubt.
It is possible to know God and recognize God, and still doubt.
We are faulty, short-sighted little folk, we disciples of the Lord—aren't we? And yet... the Lord gives one Great Commission, indiscriminately.
He came to them and said,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." ~ Matthew 28:18-20
"Go and make disciples," even you who doubted. "Baptize them," even you who doubted. "Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you," even you who doubted. "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." All of you—even you who doubted.
That's the end of the book of Matthew. Period. The disciples who doubted are sent out with the exact same Great Commission as the disciples who didn't doubt.
It is possible to see God, worship God, hear God, and serve God... even when we doubt. "Was that really God? Did I hear Him correctly? Does He really want me to go out and do the same things He's calling these other folks to do? They seem so sure about what they heard—if I really heard God, wouldn't I be sure, too? Maybe I misunderstood. Maybe He wasn't really talking to me. Maybe I made a mistake, and this isn't really where He wants me to go."
We can keep walking in the direction He sends us, even if we're asking these questions all along the way. And what's the answer to the doubt? Jesus is with us always, those of us who see Him and worship Him. God is with us.
What sort of response should that produce in us? Shouldn't we be... well, happy?
Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." ~ Psalm 37:4
When we desire what God desires, we can't get it wrong. God desires what is right, even if we don't know exactly where He's sending us from here. With that kind of confidence, when we're faithful stewards of the talents He has given us, we can look forward to the Day approaching, when we see Jesus and worship Him, face to face. When it's time to settle accounts, may all our motives be purified when we hear His delightful invitation:
Come and share in your Master's happiness!"
~ Matthew 25:23
By His mercy,