Thursday, January 31, 2013

An Unexpected Bout with Doubt

Faith is one of my most prominent spiritual gifts, so it is usually easy for me to believe that which I can’t necessarily see.  But recently, as I began to ponder why certain things happen, especially after periods of fervent prayer, I found myself in a pickle.  Brutal honesty brought a hard realization:  I experienced some doubts about the power of prayer.

The details don’t matter, and I’m thrilled to report that I’m on the mend.  I don’t believe myself completely cured, but praise the Lord I have turned in the right direction again.  Here’s how the Lord got me there:  

First, He met me in my time of need when I cried out to Him for help.  Like the father whose son was thrown into the fire by a demonic spirit, I cried out to the Lord, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”  (Mark 9:24 NASB).   Never has this statement, seemingly so contradictory to itself, made so much sense.  I do believe that God is in control, sovereign, and kind.  At the same time, my heart is broken over the disappointment of matters given Him in prayer that do not look anything like I had hoped.

He has helped my unbelief and bolstered my faith by helping me recall “memorial stones” – the times in my life when His faithfulness and sovereignty were overwhelming.  As I lead a group of women through the book, Finding Joy in the Journey: Savoring the Fruit of the Spirit (available here), I re-read my own words:  “Even when what I see looks different from what I expect, I know who is in charge and surrender my cares to Him.”  This is a significant and very encouraging look at a personal memorial stone; it reminded me that this is not the first time life turned in directions I did not expect.  God was faithful then, and He will show His faithfulness now.  

Next, He showed me those in the Bible who struggled with doubt.  “Doubting Thomas,” walked alongside our Savior as His disciple, yet doubted His resurrection and asked for proof.  John the Baptist also had questions and asked that the Lord confirm whether Jesus was the One for whom John was sent to prepare the way.  If these two mighty men of God had periods of doubt, it’s reasonable to expect that I will face uncertainties too.  

Through His Word, the Lord reminded me that He does not condemn us for our doubt, but rather comforts us when we seek Him in spite of it. He gently and gracefully handles our questions and reservations.   Thomas and John both went directly to Jesus, the source of Truth, with their questions. To Thomas, He showed His nail-pierced hands.  To John, He quoted Scripture and presented fulfillment of prophecy.   He scolded neither, but lovingly gave each what he needed to cast his doubts aside. 

His love for me, even in my period of struggle, reached through a sermon from our pastor who knew nothing about my internal battle.  Through the sermon the Holy Spirit reminded me that God works ALL things together for the good of those called according to His purpose.  ALL things include matters that we might expect to look a particular way even when they end up looking almost completely opposite.   He works them ALL together for good.

Lord, thank You for loving us so fully and for showing Your grace even when our faith falters.  Thank You for showing me that in the life of spiritual giants and even in my own meager existence, You handle our questions and misgivings with care and tenderness.  I’m grateful that You are entirely trustworthy, whether or not I understand the things I see.  I believe.  Continue to help my unbelief!

“I assure you: If anyone says to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.” Mark 11:23 CSB

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