The Answer to Doubt Is Love (Refiner’s Fire, Pt 36)
NOTE: This is part 36 of the “Refiner’s Fire” series, now available as a book from Amazon and other retailers. To read it on the blog, go to the Matthew series and scroll down for the “Refiner’s Fire” section at the bottom.
Although it’s not a popular subject in this day and age, judgment is a theme that runs throughout Scripture. The gospel has an edge; the message God speaks is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. Jesus has come to gather his people to God, but in the process he has come to divide sheep from goats, truth from falsehood, belief from unbelief, believer from unbeliever.
So Matthew 11 includes four verses we haven’t discussed in detail in this book — four verses where Jesus pronounces judgment on those cities and towns that saw his miracles, heard the message John preached, and were given every reason to believe Jesus was the one God had sent — and yet rejected him.
Then He proceeded to denounce the towns where most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes long ago! But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until today. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” (Matthew 11:20–24)
Some people in Jesus’s day, given every reason to believe in him, would not. As Dallas Willard has pointed out, there are many things we can know about God and about the truth — but no one has to know them.
In the end it always comes down to choice. We choose to seek until we find. We choose to learn what there is to be known. We choose to trust.
We choose love.
In the end, the answer to doubt is not certainty, it is love. The spiritual fabric of the universe is relationship, and in relationship we cannot prove anything. We can only demonstrate, and we can only trust.
Proof will not keep us here. In fact, if we continually demand proof, we will never really enter into love. Imagine a bride who cannot rest in her husband’s love unless he somehow proves it to her, anew, every day. Imagine the cracks in that relationship as he realizes she does not trust him and never will, because his efforts will never be enough to satisfy her doubt.
It’s true that truth is not always easy to find. God has, in fact, hidden it — it is his good pleasure to reveal it to the seeking and to draw us into relationship with himself by the summoning power of that which is secret. We are invited to know and to understand. But ultimately, we will only reach knowledge and understanding by traveling through the questions, the doubts, the fears, and the challenges. We will gain it through experience, not merely through intellectual exercise.
And we will not find assurance in nailing down every question but in encountering something of God, and from that place, learning to trust like children. We will choose to lay our doubts down, not because they have been satisfactorily answered (they can’t be), but because we choose to love.
In that place, too, we will find relief and refreshing. We may even find healing — the kind of healing that enables us to trust more deeply. Few things are more intense than the refiner’s fire, but even it is not the end of the story. On the other side is “turning again,” repentance, strengthening, and rest.
At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure. All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him. Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25–30, my emphasis)
To be continued …
This is Part 194 in a series on the Gospel of Matthew, which you can access here. Unless otherwise marked, quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.