“If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” —James 1:5-8
Martin Luther didn’t care much for the Letter of James. He called it “the Epistle of Straw” and suggested that it be removed (along with the Book of Revelation) from the Christian canon.
He objected to its emphasis on “works” in opposition to Paul’s emphasis on “grace.” And there is a bit of a “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” feel to many of James’ words.
For example, in today’s reading he admonishes his readers to never doubt. I have known a few believers in my life who say they never doubt, and I admire them for that. Perhaps the absence of doubt requires a special personality type, or it might be a particularly effective form of self-deception.
But for me, and I am guessing for most of us, our faith exists in the midst of doubt. I take comfort in the belief that my relationship with God is founded on God’s initiative and not on my shaky faith. This keeps me from preoccupation with my various states of mind, and the regular taking of my spiritual temperature.
Still, I’ll give James his due that doubt should be avoided. Although I can’t rid myself of doubts by some Promethean act of personal will, I can ignore them as much as possible. And I do.
Prayer: I believe, O God. Help my unbelief.