Recently, I had a bout with doubt.
Those words feel just as wretched to type out as they do to say out loud. But perhaps, one thing I have learned during this whole troublesome experience is that the term “doubt” feels like something much more than wretched. In fact, it feels downright despicable when it materializes as a thought inside the mind of a believer. The doubt I had presented itself as a thought I could not shake, no matter how much I tried to distract myself. It always showed up, pulling, nagging and scratching away.
Internal banter with your own voice can be quite dangerous. Now, do not misunderstand the term “dangerous” in the sense I’m using – I am in no way attempting to stop you from thinking thoughts to yourself. I believe knowing how to spend time alone with your own thoughts is important, but that is a whole other issue, and it is not the subject at hand. Internal banter can be dangerous when you do not know how to recognize your own thoughts apart from outside influences.
We have all heard of a sly and scheming character Christians refer to as “the enemy.” Well, as grotesque as it may seem, we must all accept the fact that the enemy can, will and is attempting to alter your state of mind. It is a fact; it is not a question or a theory up for speculation. As uncomfortable as this particular topic is, it is one of the most important, in my opinion, for all believers to address so that they can stand firm and avoid falling into a pit of despair as I have done. (Although, this post would not have come to pass if not for my bout with doubt, so we have ourselves in a bit of a contradiction, wouldn’t you say? God truly is in control).
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Luke 22:31-32 says, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Romans 7:23 says, “but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”
So, what these verses tell us is that the holy word of God has warned us time and time again of a spiritual battle that is not a historical recollection, nor a future forewarning. These things are happening right now, in the present. They happened to the disciples, they happened to our forefathers, they are happening to us and they will happen to our grandchildren.
Now, I am not attempting to spell out a message of gloom and doom. Please do not take my words as a warning to be afraid of your own mind, and let me tell you why:
Not only does the Lord tell us specifically that the enemy will try to prey on our weak minds, but he also tells us to arm ourselves with the very thing the enemy will try to overtake. In other words, the battle is not only taking place in our mind, but our mind is also the defensive weapon we can use to thwart the enemy’s attack. But how do we do this?
Much has been written so far about the who, what, why and where of this particular matter:
Who: the enemy
What: spiritual warfare
Why: to lead us astray from Christ
Where: our minds
While these questions are important to address and answer, they do not provide much solace or comfort, do they? They did not for me. But, I had to travel down that road of seeking the answers to those questions before I landed on the “How” of the matter. How do we fight this spiritual war and how do we do it with confidence?
My first instinct was to go to the scripture, and I continually landed on one verse that has successfully directed me through quite a few hurdles throughout my life.
Romans 8:39 says, “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can ever separate us from the love that is Jesus Christ our Lord.”
That is a powerful message. And while it did bring me to a place where I could stop my mind from spinning constantly in a whirlpool of questions like “Where is God?” “Who is God?” “Is God even there?” and the like, it did not lead me to peace immediately. I needed to keep seeking in order to successfully ward off the enemy in this particular battle.
At this point I looked to spiritual leaders for guidance – people who are known to have strong walks with God whom I could look to for wisdom. So, I listened to sermons from Francis Chan, Breakaway Ministries and Brooklyn Tabernacle. I read about the life of C.S. Lewis and listened to excerpts from his classic book, Mere Christianity. Hearing from leaders in the faith can give us confidence and help us understand more about who God is by weaving together concepts that are difficult to work out on our own.
Another practice that helped immensely during my search for answers and peace was searching for some evidence that other believers have gone through the same difficulty. It surprised me to find out that highly revered Christians such as Mother Teresa, Charles Spurgeon and even C.S. Lewis himself have had their own struggles with doubt. However, the quote that resonated the heaviest with me was one from Anne Lamott (who I admit I had never heard of until I came across this article from Relevant Magazine. Her quote read, “I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me—that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.”
This helped me come to the very important conclusion that faith is something bigger than us. Faith is a practice that no mortal is completely capable of handling on our own. It involves an incredible amount of mental fortitude, and we need Christ’s help to continue building our faith every single day. This reminds me of a verse in 1 Corinthians that says, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” To me, this verse is a reminder that no person is below any sin, and we must remember that we need Jesus’ redemption to carry on in God’s will.
So, to sum up my experience – my bout with doubt – in just a few words, I found myself in a dark place. I chose to continue trusting in God to lead me out of it, even though I was not sure if I could hear His voice or feel His presence. With persistent seeking, praying and trusting in God’s promises, I found my way back into His peace. I felt that peace that surpasses all understanding He promises in Philippians 4:7. He calmed my racing mind, settled my weary heart and made my soul new once again.
If you ever have your own issues with doubting God, or if you find yourself in a difficult place, I hope this recollection of my personal experience helps you in some way. God is good all the time, and He will always lead you back to Him as long as you continue to seek Him, even in the darkness.