Friday, June 13, 2014
Faithful Fridays ~ When You Doubt.
Hey there, and Happy Friday! :) I sort of took an unannounced break from Faithful Fridays last week--time got away from me and then I wasn't feeling well for the last part of the weekend. BUT! I have good news. I've been keeping you guys updated on my aunt's progress after the stroke she had several weeks ago--it's been a bumpy road, but tons of prayers have been going up for my aunt Missy, and God's definitely shown up. She's back home now (since last Monday) from the hospital, and we're hoping she'll really improve from this point on and stay on the healthy side. Thank you so much for your prayers, and please keep them up! :)
Faithful Fridays is a weekly linky party hosted on my blog. I made it so that Christians could have one special day out of the week (Friday) to share something from their walk with Jesus on their blog. If you'd like to participate, write your post, grab the button from the Faithful Fridays page on my blog (so that it will link back here), and come link up at the bottom of this post! :)
It's honesty time.
I'm going to share something with you guys that I haven't shared with very many people, because it's not a past struggle--it's a current one. It's something I deal with every day, something very real and something very hard and it frustrates me more than anything.
If you were to ask me what I struggle with the most in my faith, I'd say doubt. Funny how faith and doubt are the exact opposite.
I think everyone doubts at some point, in some shape, form, or fashion--whether it be doubting God's plan, His wisdom, His love, or just God Himself.
I doubt God's word; I doubt His love; I doubt His truthfulness; His goodness; even His realness.
For the longest time, if you would have asked me what my greatest fears were, I would say "losing my family and losing my faith." Those are the two most important things in my life. And sometimes this attacks on my faith would seize me--questions I couldn't answer, feelings that I couldn't shake, thoughts that I just wanted to push away, but which still hung around the back of my mind, tormenting me.
With Him, it is well with my soul. But when my belief in Him begins to ebb away and uncertainty mars my thoughts, it's like a wall comes up in my relationship with God.
"If God loves you, why is He letting you face this?"
"Is God even there at all?"
"Isn't the thought of worshiping and following an invisible God crazy? That somehow, someone who wasn't created Himself created everything by just His word?"
"Is following Jesus really worth it?"
"Did He really rise from the dead? Were all those miracles He performed just some sort of trick?"
"Is God's word trustworthy?"
"Is everything I've believed and lived for all my life true?"
It's a crippling fear to have hanging over you. I think some of it was caused by emotional stuff that messed with my head and left my mind weak--a perfect target for an attack of the enemy, don't you think? And on the other hand, some of it was simply questions about my faith in God that needed to be answered. My faith was being challenged by a world that hasn't accepted God, and I was letting the voices of those who don't know Him invade my own mind.
And it was hard. I hadn't faced that before. I'll be honest, in the past I was always that one person that has no problem believing--for whatever reason, I never doubted God. And then all the sudden, there it is in front of me, a bucketful of doubts and questions dumped into my lap, unexpected, and I didn't know what to do with them or how to face them.
And I didn't have answers for them. I had no idea how to face them, or how to approach them.
"Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts. It's no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them."
I'm a writer. And a thinker. And a deep person. I think a lot. I feel a lot. And I'm also a very fear-prone person (read: a worry wart). I tried pushing the doubts away; that doesn't work because it reminds me that I just don't have answers to all these questions. So I found myself hashing over these doubts and these fears constantly, over and over in my mind. It left me feeling depressed and alone and distant from God and everyone around me. I got so wrapped up in my own head that I forgot to live life. It left me feeling like a hypocrite when I talked about Jesus to other people. I started becoming a cold, grey cynic. Every time I went to pray or read God's word, the questions and doubting and confusion were magnified. It's not a fun place to be. It's hard to find peace and joy in God when He's the one you're doubting.
And you know what that taught me? It taught me that without God, I'm lost. I wrestled a lot and finally came to the conclusion that life without God is not worth living. Yeah, I want God. More than anything. I want to know Him, I want to have true intimacy with Him. I want to follow Jesus, even if it is hard. But the question still hung: how do I know it's all true? How do I know that He really is there? That He really loves me? That I can really trust Him? The fear still remained: I want God, but what if He's not really there? What if He's not really who I think He is?
There's this song that I love. In fact, if you know me very well, you probably have heard me talk about it. Or sing it. Loudly. It's "My Lighthouse" by Rend Collective. The first time I ever heard this song was when they played it live. I was waist-deep in doubt and fear, experiencing much of the questions for the first time, and this song spoke volumes, right from the first verse--
In my wrestling and in my doubts,
In my failures, You won't walk out.
Your great love will lead me through.
You are the peace in my troubled sea,
You are the peace in my troubled sea!
Wrestling and doubts? That's a language I know well. The song sort of slapped me in the face and made me realize, "Wow. God just might be bigger than my doubts about Him. He just might be able to work through them, in the midst of them."
"God is not afraid of my doubt. When I express it to Him, He doesn't flee from me and leave me in my confusion."
Life goes on, and as I found answers to some of my questions--more arose. It always amazes me when I lay my doubts and frustration and questions before God honestly, painfully and then go to His word--only to promptly find the answer. It shouldn't, but it does, and it's just an amazing thing to experience--it brings peace. But it's easy to let those answered questions and stilled doubts fall away to the sidelines and be forgotten when others arise.
I asked why He lets bad things happen if He's good. Age-old question, I know, but it plagues everyone. I was reminded that sin is the cause of most of the evil, the corruption in our world. And I was reminded that "In this world you will have trouble"--Jesus never said we wouldn't--"but take heart. I have overcome the world." (John 16:33.) Jesus said He said those things so that in HIM, we may have peace.
I cried out in frustration to God one day--"I can't see You! And I'm supposed to just believe You? How do I know that you aren't just pretend? How do I know that all this stuff isn't just dressed up to look like You? Why is it so hard for me to believe?"
I cringed at laying all that out in the open honestly, but then I picked up reading in my Bible where I had last left off--only to come across the verse in 2 Corinthians 4 where it says "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory Christ, who is the image of God."
Bam. Jesus is the mirror-image of the invisible God, the one we can't see. He's the window through which we see the God that we can't see. You want a clear picture of what your Creator is like? Just look at Jesus. The marvel of Jesus is that God made Himself human. Visible. Touchable. Knowable. Even those who aren't believers acknowledge that Jesus lived. And I think we all can testify to the fact that that tomb was empty. I would have loved to have been there when Jesus walked the earth, to look at this embodiment of God right in front of me. As I've heard it put before, "We have a backstage pass to the father through Jesus Christ."
One day I was definitely in the midst of troubled seas--I couldn't seem to find peace of any sort, just complete turmoil. So I grabbed my Bible, got alone, and wrote it out--God, You've got to give me peace. I can't do this. I flip open my Bible, turn a page or two, and my eyes fall on this passage just in Jeremiah 29:
"This is God's Word on the subject: 'As soon as Baylon's seventy years are up and not a day before, I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out--plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. When you come looking for me, you'll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed.' God's decree. 'I'll turn things around for you. I'll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you'--God's decree--'bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it."
Peace came, in a way I'm not sure I've ever quite experienced it before.
People doubted in the Bible. In Judges 6 and 7, God approached Gideon with instructions for him to lead the lesser, weaker nation of Israel to overcome their enemies a battle. Gideon was afraid, taken aback, and doubtful--Me? Weak runt that I am? How can you say that Your favor is on me? Look around you! Look at all this defeat! Gideon laid out those fleeces, asking God to show Himself for sure. And God did, despite Gideon's fear and doubt and weaknesses. So Gideon trusted, he took God at His word, and he carried through God's instructions. And you know what happened--surprise!--Israel won.
What's the point of all this? In all this, I've learned. I've learned that the only answer to trials and challenges of my faith is to turn and run closer to God, instead of turning a cold shoulder to Him in the pain.
"The key to joy is seeking God where we doubt He is."
I learned to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. I love reading about when Jesus called Peter out to walk on the water with Him.
"Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. 'It’s a ghost,' they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: 'Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.' 'Lord, if it’s you,' Peter replied, 'tell me to come to you on the water.' 'Come,' he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 'You of little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?' And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.'"
Peter began to doubt and sink when he took his eyes off Jesus. And when he cried out to Jesus in his doubt, Jesus reached out His hand and helped him up--and showed His power in the midst of Peter's doubts and weakness.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
I've learned not to spend so much time worrying about what everyone else believes, but to seek the truth out for myself and not let other people sway me from it.
I've learned that I'm not the only one who faces doubts--Eve was first tempted in the Garden when Satan made her doubt God and His word and trustworthiness. Even the most seemingly invincible Christians doubt, too, and I think it's time that we're all honest and open with each other about our struggles so that we can lift each other up.
"No temptation has over taken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you may endure it."
-1 Corinthians 10:13
I've learned that sometimes I have to not live based on what I feel and what I'm going through, but rather on what I know, and on God's truth and integrity and wisdom and love.
I've learned that when we have questions, we shouldn't push them away. We should ask for and search for answers in God and His word.
I've learned that what God asks of us is actually incredibly simple, even if it can be incredibly hard. He just says to believe. Just believe Him. Just take Him at His word.
"Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!"
It's not that we have to believe blindly--there is plenty of scientific and historical proof to uphold the truth of God's word--but sometimes it's the hardest thing in the world to trust God's goodness and His love when it feels like the world is falling apart on you, when it feels like He's not there.
"Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, 'For your sake we are killed every day, we are being slaughtered like sheep.') No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."
But I've also learned that unless you make that choice to say, "God. I don't understand. It hurts, and it's hard, but You're worth it, and You know more than I do. You're bigger than my pain and You're bigger than my doubt, and I know that you work all things together for my good, even if it takes some time, so I'm going to worship You and live and love and obey and believe and trust You right where I am. You love me too much to let me drown in my struggles and storms."
"Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall."
I used to be afraid of my doubts. I used to either live battling them or live in fear of having to battle them once again. I used to be afraid of God failing me. But do you remember that song My Lighthouse? After time after time of listening to it, another verse slapped me in the face once again.
In the silence You won't let go,
In the questions Your truth will hold.
My God's love will lead me through.
You are the peace in my troubled sea,
You are the peace in my troubled sea!
Do I still face doubts? Of course. Every single day. But I've learned that God's truth is strong. It will hold up under all my questions and my doubts and my wrestling. God is bigger than my doubts and my wrestling, stronger than my own mind and heart, and He doesn't shy away from my struggles and doubts. He loves me too much to let me go down in this. I've learned to keep seeking Him, even when I don't feel like it, and even when my soul is in turmoil--especially in those times. I've learned that trials without God will break you, but trials with God will make you, and that the only way we can make it through these storms is to give God the pieces and the hurt and the hardship and tell Him we trust Him with it and need Him to make beauty out of the ashes.
"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
I've learned to say, "God, I trust You, even though it hurts and I don't understand right now. I still need you." I've learned to sing "My lighthouse, My lighthouse, shining in the darkness, I will follow You. My lighthouse, My lighthouse, I will trust the promise; You will carry me safe to shore!"
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."
So I hope today that if you find yourself doubting God, or wrestling with something in your life, asking God why....that you'll remember to bring it straight to Him, and that He can and will lead you through it and even make something beautiful out of it if you'll just trust Him and allow Him to do so.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do."
"Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before so many witnesses."
-1 Timothy 6:12
"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him."
"And we know that in all things God works of the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
God bless you guys and have a great weekend,