Updated: Feb 9, 2019
As long as we live in a fallen world ravaged by sin, we will struggle with doubt. This past Sunday I made the following two points:
There are times when it is reasonable to doubt
There are times when our doubt becomes unreasonable
As we explored doubt in the Scripture, my purpose was to encourage us that sometimes our doubt is actually a reasonable response to our situation, and we don’t need to feel guilty for our struggle. Instead we must realize that in this fallen life we face real difficulties, but God is big enough to allow us to honestly grapple with our doubts. However, there is also a point when our doubting can cross over into testing God. That is the point when our reasonable doubt becomes unreasonable.
What can we do when we feel defeated by our doubt? Here are five practices found in Scripture that can help us in and through doubt.
Cry out: as we see Moses do when his life is threatened (Exod 17:4) or David in the psalms (13:1; 35:17) or even Jesus during his lifetime: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence
” (Heb 5:7). When we struggle, doubt or fear, we can cry out to God as our faithful ancestors modeled for us.
Remember: When God aided Moses, he first told him to grab the staff previously used to part the sea. Why? it was to remind the people of God’s faithfulness. We need reminders whether they are physical objects like the staff or just time to recall all the ways that God has been faithful to us. This is what the people failed to do in their doubt. In their fear of having no water, they lost sight of all God had done for them and in doing so, they tested the Lord (Ps 95:9). As we remember the Lord’s faithfulness, we can also find strength to trust the Lord in our hard times.
Walk in obedience: God did help Moses in his time of struggle, but he first called Moses to obey. God did not just make all of Moses’ problems disappear no matter how much Moses may have wanted that. Likewise God did not just to relieve the people of their struggle by immediately giving them what they demanded. Instead, He actually put a few steps in place that called Moses to obedience first. When we struggle with doubt, one thing we can do to work in and through that doubt is to focus on obeying God and walking in His ways even when we have doubt and even when we do not yet have an answer.
Let us test our ways: We know that God tested the people (Exod 16:4), and we know that the people wrongfully turned the tables and tried to test God (Exod 17:2). However, there is another option that we can practice during our times of doubt: we can test ourselves. In the book of Lamentations, the prophet says: “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!” (3:40). Sometimes when things are going wrong, we are struggling and doubt has arisen, we may need to focus on examining our own lives. How are we living? What are our motivations? What’s our heart like? Part of our struggle may be coming from our own sin, our lack of focus on God, our selfishness or our pride.
Remember that God tests for our good: no matter what the answer is to how long we will struggle or what is on the other side, we can always know that when God tests us, it is for our good. It is said perhaps best here: “who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end” (Dt 8:16). In our hard times, we can find comfort in knowing that God is using all things for our good because he loves us and calls us (Rom 8:28).