Who in your life deserves the benefit of the doubt?
Who is that person that, when they do something or say something or post something that you at best don’t understand, and at worst hurts your feelings at least a little bit, that you choose to think the best of?
That’s what we do when we extend someone the benefit of the doubt. Though their actions might seem to be contrary to our assumption, we choose to believe that we don’t fully understand the situation. Or that we are misreading their intentions. Or that they made an innocent mistake instead of took a malicious action. That’s what giving someone the benefit of the doubt is – it means we choose to think well of them instead of badly about them because we assume there is some piece of the picture that we don’t fully grasp.
So who is it for you? Your spouse? A trusted friend? A long-time co-worker?
Here’s a better question – why do you give that person the benefit of the doubt? Oh, I suppose it could be that it’s just your general disposition to do so. You live in a posture of thinking the best of people, so you do just that in most any circumstance. But that’s not the case with most of us. Most of us have been hurt. Betrayed. Belittled. Stepped on. It’s happened one too many times, and so our natural bent is no longer to think the best of someone but instead to assume the worst. After all, that’s what our experience has told us.
No, for most of us the reason we give someone the benefit of the doubt is because we know them. We have spent considerable time with them. We know their character; we have observed their actions; we have benefitted from their presence. And because we know who they are, we are willing to extend the benefit of the doubt because of their proven track record of time.
It is very ironic, then, that most of us so quickly refuse to give God the benefit of the doubt. Some painful circumstance comes into our lives – an illness, a job loss, a broken relationship – and we are quick to point the finger.
Why would God allow this to happen to me? we think to ourselves. I thought God was for me, not against me, we pine. The reason this is so ironic is because all of us, if we would take the time to do so, can look back over the course of our lives and trace the line of God’s consistent faithfulness. His provision. His care and advocacy. In fact, we can even look at the most difficult times we have walked through and, aided by the perspective of time, can observe how God was still present. Still faithful. Still holding us up under the near crushing weight, and then even using those difficulties for our good and His glory.
He has a proven track record in our lives. And even more so, He has a proven track record in history. The question of God’s love is not in doubt for us or for anyone, for His love is not a mere platitude shouted from heaven; it’s validated. Proven. Authenticated.
God’s track record is secured in the cross of Jesus Christ. This is how we know He loves us – not because of our circumstances, but because He gave His own Son for us.
Friends, there will be a circumstance that comes into all our lives very soon that we will not understand. It will be painful and hard. And the temptation will be to adopt a posture of accusation against God who has allowed it to be so.
But God deserves the benefit of the doubt. The cross tells us it is so.