Sunday, July 10, 2011

Struggling With Doubt

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"
Mark 9:24 NKJV

Have you ever struggled with doubt? I'm reasonably certain we all have at one time or another, but as believers shouldn't we be immune to doubt? After all, if we believe in God and the fact that He is omnipotent there really isn't any room left for doubt is there? Unfortunately, this passage from the book of Mark shows us the answer to that question is yes, there is plenty of room in our human minds for doubt. In this verse we see that both belief and unbelief can exist at the same time in the minds of those who choose to follow Christ. So exactly what does this mean and what can we as believers do about it?

I remember a time when I took my three daughters on a trip to see my parents in California which required a two hour trip by plane. We were all excited as we went through the preparations to leave, and as we finally climbed on board the plane. However, as we began to taxi out to leave I could see the expressions on the faces of my daughters begin to change somewhat. The excitement was slowly being replaced by anxiety, and as the engines began to roar and we accelerated down the runway there appeared a little fear on their faces.

Now I certainly had my failures as a father, and I can remember things in the past I wish I could change or do over, but this was one of my shining moments. As I looked at their faces and saw them beginning to be afraid I began to fly the plane myself to show them I had everything under control. No, seriously. Since I had flown so often before I knew the route and when and where the plane would turn and bank, so as I sat in my seat I pretended to have the controls in my hand and began to “fly” the plane. The effect on my daughters was hilarious as they began to smile, giggle, and even laugh as Daddy flew the plane.

I think this is a perfect example of how someone can believe, yet also doubt. You see my daughters had no problem getting on the plane because they believed it could fly and get them to California. Yet once we left, they began to experience some unbelief because the ride was not exactly what they expected due to the fact they had not flown nearly as much as I had, and didn't know what to expect. I think this is a perfect picture of how we as believers can choose to believe in Christ and accept Him into our lives, yet as we begin to experience the bumps and turns of life, a little doubt begins to show itself. Our cry then is the same as this fathers' cry; "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"

A wonderful picture of this situation, and how we can deal with it is found in the book of Psalms. In this psalm written by Asaph we find that although he believes, he is troubled by his circumstances and begins to doubt. He then deals with his problem of doubt by following a two step process that all of us should commit to memory because it is by far the most effective method we have to cure the seeds of doubt.

To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph. I cried out to God with my voice--To God with my voice; And He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; My soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah
Psalm 77:1-3 NKJV

Have you ever been so troubled that you complained to God? Hey, who hasn't? We all have, and probably more often than we should. Yet isn't it a little comforting to find we are not alone? We can find situations like this in the lives of just about everyone we read about in the scriptures. In this passage Asaph tells us he was so troubled he couldn't sleep! He was stretching out his hands to God in the middle of the night. Ever have a sleepless night? Been there, done that!

You hold my eyelids [open]; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, The years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more?Has His mercy ceased forever? Has [His] promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah
Psalm 77:4-9 NKJV

Here we find his doubt is so great that he feels like God has turned His back on him, and the possibility exists that God will never again take care of him! Wow. This is serious doubt, and although we might not know his exact circumstances, his trouble was enough to cause him to question the fact that God still loved him! I think this is a perfect example of a believer experiencing unbelief. Deep down in his heart I know Asaph believes, but his circumstances are such that he is as low as he could possibly go. Yet there is a way out, and Asaph shows us what it is.

And I said, "This [is] my anguish; [But I will remember] the years of the right hand of the Most High." I will remember the works of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
Psalm 77:10-11 NKJV

“I will remember”. We all have a past, full of experiences of times when God has come through for us. The first thing Asaph does is to remember the times in his past when God did in fact deliver him. He mentally starts a list of the things God had done for him before, the “works” and “wonders”. How has God delivered you in the past? What are some of the things He has done that you probably have forgotten? Has God ever failed you? Of course not, and I'm sure that there is probably a whole lot we have all taken for granted without really giving God the credit. God never fails, and the first step to dealing with doubt is to remember the times in the past when God has come through for us.

I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, [is] in the sanctuary; Who [is] so great a God as [our] God? You [are] the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with [Your] arm redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
Psalms 77:12-15 NKJV

It's not enough to just remember according to Asaph, but we also need to “meditate” on all that God has done for us. The Hebrew word for meditate is “hagah” which in effect means to “growl over” like a lion growling over it's prey. When I think of that picture and apply it to doubt I can't help but think of where doubt comes from. Since we know it doesn't come from God, it can only come from one other source; Satan. So get the picture in your mind of God as a lion standing over Satan and growling while saying something like “how can anyone doubt me after all I have done!” To “meditate” is to not just remember what God has done in the past, but to use it as an offensive tool against doubt. God has delivered us in the past, and He will deliver us from whatever situation we find ourselves in now.

The more “belief” we can store in our minds leaves less room for “unbelief” to creep in. The key to dealing with doubt during our times of struggle is to “remember” what God has already done for us and to then “meditate” on it until God delivers us as He has promised to do. Make a mental list of everything you can think of that God has done and then memorize it and repeat it over and over again to remind yourself of His faithfulness. Remember, God is flying the plane, and God never fails.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose.
Romans 8:28 NKJV

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