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Posts Tagged ‘Doubt’

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At Easter this year, I heard several sermons on the Resurrection that reminded me that those who had spent significant time with Jesus were heartbroken and scared by his death, and were later confused by the disappearance of his body from the tomb. The people he had forewarned about his death and resurrection were shattered by his death, and when his body disappeared, they didn’t even consider the possibility that he had risen from the dead as he had promised.

In the last few years, I’ve made more of an effort to be in the word and in biblical teaching daily, starting each day in an atmosphere of worship and the word that helps me focus on the Lord. But though I’m more focused on God and on seeking his presence, I still have moments of doubt. Will he ever answer my prayer? Does he even care? Is he even there? Is this all a joke? What if I die and there’s nothing?

We don’t like to admit it, we believers. After all, we’re distinguished by the fact that we, unlike others, believe. Do other believers ever doubt? I mean real serving, committed, bible-quoting believers? And if they do, do they ever admit it? I rarely ever hear anyone speak of doubt. It’s like a four-letter word to Christians. I think we’re too ashamed to admit it. Some might look down on our faltering faith that we’ve professed it to the world, after all. If we admit we have doubts, people will think we’re hypocrites, frauds, or worse, suckers.

Do you ever experience doubt? If so, what do you do with it? Are you disturbed, unsettled by it? Wonder if there’s something wrong with you, or with your faith?

Doubt Is Understandable

The Bible is FULL of people who doubted. People who should have known better. People who made choices we would never make… hello, Golden Calf? Moses hasn’t been gone five minutes on the mountain of God and they’re already melting earrings and making a new god to worship. A cow, of all things. Were they abysmally stupid? Or were they humans who by nature have a hard time really listening to God?

Those closest to Christ suffered some seriously egregious doubt. These are men who walked with Jesus, ate with him, listened to him teach and watched him heal and forgive and deal with people. Saw the miracles, the power firsthand. Saw the one person on the planet who never slipped, never sinned, never missed a chance to obey his Father in heaven.  We know they followed him constantly, heard him teach, believed him and believed in him. And yet, there are so many instances of them quickly forgetting what he had just done for them and responding to unpleasant or difficult situations with worry and fear, hiding, even lying.

Don’t we all suffer from short-term memory loss when it comes to God? Although I have seen God answer more prayers than I can ever count, I still forget his faithfulness, his attentiveness, his provision. He has proven himself faithful time after time after time, and yet I struggle to hope and trust he will provide or take care of or resolve something. Why?

I think doubting God is not as strange as we may think. It’s not strange that we read the Bible and pray and share our faith and still forget about his goodness, still wonder about his eternal kingdom and plan and preparations for us, still wonder and worry that he won’t answer and do what we believe and say he will.

The Israelites quickly forgot all the miracles, provisions, promises, lessons, kingdom declarations, and presence of God.

The disciples quickly forgot all the miracles, provisions, promises, lessons, kingdom declarations, and presence of Jesus.

The women at the empty tomb and the eleven disciples quickly forgot what Jesus had told them about his death and resurrection repeatedly, and recently. And audibly. And in the flesh.

What I’m wondering is this: If the people closest to Jesus had such a hard time believing him, how can we expect to never entertain some doubt?

…And have mercy on those who doubt. Jude 1:22

Doubt is Forgivable

The Israelites in the days of the Kings had lost sight of God and turned to idol worship, and this had gone on for so long that the people eventually forgot the Lord and his decrees. When young king Josiah ruled, a copy of the Law was found during the repair of the temple. When it was read aloud, Josiah was grieved and moved to make changes.

The pair on the road to Emmaus had quickly forgotten what Jesus had said. We notice that Jesus didn’t show them who he was. He had done plenty of miracles; clearly those weren’t enough, and actually, miracles weren’t the point. Instead of proving them wrong, he took those sorrowful, distraught men to the word of God, to the scriptures. And he didn’t just quote a couple of key verses, he took them back through all the scriptures that told the story, from the beginning and up to this point in history, about the Messiah’s coming, about what the prophets had said, up to the necessary fulfillment of all these things. He patiently addressed their doubt by taking them back to the perfect plan of God, from the Word of God.

So why hadn’t these men seen it? Perhaps they had heard Jesus speak of God’s coming kingdom and latched onto the parts they wanted to hear or their interpretation of what they wanted it to mean and tuned out what he was really telling them. They had been looking for a political hero, an immediate fix to their unpleasant situation, their discomfort, their discontent. They had allowed their daily, earthly difficulties and challenges to cloud their understanding of God and his bigger, eternal picture.

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Either we are just short-sighted in our desires, or our heart wants to hear only what we want to hear. We can’t imagine what he’s telling us, so we focus on what’s in front of us. We seek him for help, and he answers, but we aren’t really listening to what he’s saying. Thomas had heard, as had the others, that he would rise from the dead, and even with a resurrected Christ standing before him, his doubt was so huge that he insisted on touching Christ’s wounds.

Jesus said, “You believe because you see, that’s good. But blessed are those who believe without seeing.”

Doubt is Treatable

The people in Josiah’s day had been without the Book of the Law for 57 years. Josiah was only 26, and had likely never even heard of it.

2  Kings 22:11-13  When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”

They fell into idol worship and disobedience from a lack of God’s law, his word. I think some disobedience is marked by defiance, but sometimes marked by disbelief.

So, what do we do? How do we combat doubt?

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  Romans 10:17

We can combat doubt with faith, which comes from hearing. Reading the Bible, listening to truth. And with prayer. Charles Spurgeon said, “Prayer is doubt’s destroyer, ruin’s remedy, the antidote to all anxieties.”

In addition to attending church and hearing excellent biblical teaching, I hear (read, hear on audio) the Bible daily. But perhaps I need to be a better hearer. Perhaps I need to dig more deeply into God’s word, and learn to really listen.  Be willing and open to hearing his voice, his truth, his love, his nature, his plan, his word. Be more willing to allow it to speak to me, to be more open to understanding what it means. And maybe to take it a step further and put myself in a position to apply all that it says, not just the parts I like, and to see his truth, power, and love in action.

Come boldly, O believer, for despite the whisperings of Satan and the doubtings of thine own heart, thou art greatly beloved.  -Charles Spurgeon

Do you struggle with doubt at times on your faith journey? Don’t despair. While I too struggle at times, I also believe that God can handle our doubts, strengthen our faith, and remind us of the truth and relevance of all that we have come to believe and understand. Let’s come boldly ask and allow our loving God to do just that.

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I have finally decided to take part in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as we word nerds call it.

This is a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. This is something I’ve wanted to try but 1.) haven’t been in a place with novel projects to stop for a month and take part, and 2.) I have a steroid-crazed, muscle-bound inner editor who I fear won’t let me write non-stop without stopping to spend obscene amounts of time tweaking and editing.

But this is one of the beauties of NaNoWriMo. They help you (I’m told) learn to turn off the inner editor and just write glorious garbage like the wind. Something I’ve not done since Jr. High, and something, I suspect, could be very freeing and possibly even diamond-in-the-rough producing.  (All bets are off as this remains to be seen.) And since I’ve taken all of 2012 off of novel writing (the wedding was lovely!), I would love to end the year with at least the bones of a book in hand.

That inner editor can be helpful when the proper time comes to perfect all the nuances of grammar, style, rhythm, research facts, plausibility, plot holes, etc… the list is endless. The inner editor is an anal left-brain, shoulder-pinching, whispering detail-freak (at least mine is) who shuts down the right brain and stops the blood flow of creativity. There is a proper time and place for detail work. Unfortunately, some people, like me, can NOT figure out how to keep that thing from butting in when the Right Brain is trying to do its thing and get the story bones down.

Then of course there’s the problem of hearing voices in the first place, something that was probably nagging at the back of your mind, right? Oh, if you didn’t already know this about novelists, sorry.

There are voices you can listen to, and then there’s that other voice. The evil one. I get the inner editor’s voice confused with a very similar sounding voice, one that tells me what I just wrote was dripping dumpster slime. The one that whispers, “You thought you were a writer?” while hopping from one shoulder to the other, giggling. (Yes, this IS as disturbing as it sounds, be glad you don’t live near me.)

As a Christian, I understand the problem of listening to that lying enemy of our souls. Why is it that it takes no more than a tiny doubt-casting whisper to send us screeching to a halt in our walk of faith? It began in the garden with Eve, poor girl. “Did God really say…” It only takes one subtle seed to plant doubt, discontent and divisiveness that undermine and destroy. It takes going back repeatedly to the Voice of Truth, to God and his word, to tune out that crafty voice bent on complete destruction.

So as I prepare to block and tackle (holy moly, that sounds like defense and offense at the same time…) my inner editor, evil or otherwise, I will remember that I have a powerful weapon at my disposal: Truth. All I have to do is keep my eyes and heart trained on what’s true. And I have to trust God to keep me straight on that.

Just a little FYI: If during the month of November you see me plugging my ears and yelling “Shut up!” to no one at all, do not be alarmed, I’m totally fine.

And since I’m now preparing for this story and will then bear down like a rabid dog to get 50,000 words written in 30 days, you probably won’t see much from me in the way of blog posts, unless inspiration burns straight through my fingers. So your prayers and patience over the next several weeks are gratefully appreciated!

Q: How do you respond & deal with the devil’s critical lies?

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