Does God Still Help Us When We Have Doubts?
Before I even want to start this topic, I want to share that when I implemented the simple methods and strategies in my book Closer to God: Simple Methods, Starting Today – that is when my faith really become rock solid strong. The idea behind the book is not a “What to Do” but it is a “How to do it in our modern, busy world.” How do you find time to pray, not even to mention how to “pray without ceasing?” How do you track your prayers? What can you do when you don't have a clue what to pray or don't feel like it? The strategies are simple and fun and created for the people who are “prayer slackers” – like I was. It takes what some call the “spiritual disciplines” and makes them fun and effective, and turns them from dry “disciplines” to replenishing “soul care.” The book is Closer to God: Simple Methods Starting Today and can be found through my book links in the video description or from my blog or on Amazon.
We are in the “Emotions and the Gospel Life” podcast series; and we've discussed managing our anger for good purposes, and in a few weeks we will be discussing the other big and often ugly emotions of depression and anxiety. However, I want to pause for a minute for this week's talk to look at the issue of doubt. I originally had not planned this episode, but I felt led to add it in because so many people - both people who are seeking Christ as well as those who are already Christians - struggle with doubt. Many of the strategies I have been sharing, especially the Christian, spiritual strategies assume that my listeners already have a fairly strong relationship with God through Jesus – but now that I have expanded to YouTube and even TikTok (yes! There is a good side to TikTok #christiantiktok and #theologytiktok) I am suddenly having more conversations with non-Christians, agnostics, and those with doubt. The often unspoken question I hear is this: “Will God help me if I have doubt? - doubt that he even exists? Doubt that he hears my prayers? Doubt that he actually cares about me as an individual person? Should I even be trying these “Christian-based” strategies if I have doubts?
I don't have an easy response. I wish I could say, “Yes! God will help you even if you have doubts!” Here is the truth though. God knows your heart. He knows it better than you do. God knows if you are authentically seeking Him; and He knows if you are merely testing Him. In my experience, I've seen that God does indeed help those who have accepted Christ and are authentically seeking His will, but still have doubt about His level of involvement in their lives. In my experience, I have not seen God pull through for those who are “testing Him out.” And the Bible tells us not to put God to the test. So I say that – not as a black and white division of truth; but just examples of what I have seen in my own walk with the Lord; along with examples and teachings in scripture, and in the lives of friends and family who have shared their experiences with me.
I can share some scriptures that back up what I am saying that if a person genuinely believes in Jesus for their salvation; and if that person is authentically seeking to walk through life with Christ; and that person still has areas of doubt or intrusive thoughts of doubt, even, that God may still be willing to help that person. Remember one of my favorite verses in Chronicles that I quote often is that “the eyes of the Lord search to and fro for those whose hearts are turned toward Him – so he can strongly support them.” The Christian walk is a walk of the practice of strengthening our faith and lessening doubt. I think that most people know if they really are truly seeking the Lord, or if they are more apathetic and just testing Him, thinking if he doesn't respond like they wish – then they aren't going to continue seeking Him.
Moses doubted God, telling God he had chosen the wrong person to speak to Pharoah and to lead the Jews out of slavery in Egypt. John the Baptist doubted. Do you recall that when John the Baptist was arrested, he sent some of his own disciples to Jesus to ask him: “Are you really the Messiah? The one we are waiting for; or should we be seeking someone else?” Later, Jesus called John the Baptist one of the greatest men who ever lived. Of course we know that Peter doubted while he was walking on water; and the disciple Thomas also doubted that Jesus had been resurrected until he saw his wounds for himself. Even some of those disciples who spent time with Jesus after his resurrection had some doubt. Yes, it's true – Matthew 28:16-17 tells that the 11 remaining disciples went to the mountain in Galilee where Jesus had told them to go. Verse 17 then says, “When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.” We don't get any more information than that – how kind of Matthew not to “call out” the disciples who doubted. The point is that doubt is a normal part of the Christian walk. I still have doubts. I will write more about doubts I have been through, with specific stories when my book on emotions is released – hopefully in the early part of 2024 – but for now, let's just see that having some doubt does not preclude receiving help from God. God knows our hearts. He understand the human condition, our emotions, and our cognition! After all – he created us; and He came and dwelt among us in Jesus. He understands us. That is why he is so merciful and forgiving. Jude taught that we should have mercy on those who have doubts in Jude 1:22.
There are also a number of examples in the Bible where doubt was not met with God's willingness to help. In these cases, though, if you look at the motivation of the individual, you will see the indviduals were actually testing Jesus. Like the religious leaders asked Jesus to “give them a sign” so that they would believe; and Jesus knew their motivation was to merely test him or even to entrap him, so he did not do any signs or miracles for them. He replied that the only sign he would give them would be the “sign of Jonah;” and by this he meant that – as similar to how Jonah was captured in the belly of the big fish for 3 days; Jesus would be in the tomb for 3 days and then would be resurrected. Jesus said this would be the sign that would be given to prove He was who He said he was.
So to sum it up – will God help if you have doubts? The answer from the Bible is – yes - when your heart is genuinely seeking more of Him. Probably not if your desire is not pure. It's not about doubt itself – it's where the heart is. There is a difference between having doubt and being very skeptical and merely testing the state of one's unbelief. I heard a testimony once of a young man who came out of the New Age belief system. He said he had thought he had “tried God” or sought Him before; but God had never revealed Himself. But one night – he really truly was seeking God with a commitment to change and follow Jesus. He said; honestly; that he wasn't truly seeking before. God showed up when his heart was truly ready.
Next, you may wonder – well how do I genuinely seek God, even when I have doubts?
I have a few recommendations for that - a few practical recommendations; however, we will discuss that next time. In the next video, we will look specifically at what to do to strengthen our faith even when we are in a season or circumstance of doubt.
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