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Faith in the Midst of Doubt

I can’t remember a time in my life without God. However, several years ago I walked through a season of doubt that was difficult, scary, lonely, and isolating.

What can Christians do when they are beginning to question everything they have ever believed?

I grew up in a loving Christian home and attended a healthy church that taught me to love God and his word. Some of my earliest childhood memories are singing along with Christian songs on tape in the back seat of my mom’s car and rushing off to AWANA with my dad, and for that foundation I am grateful. But through a long series of events, I began to experience doubts that sent me spiraling downward:

Does God even really exist?

Did we just make him up to help us deal with life and death?

If a higher power does exist, how can we know he resembles the God of the Bible?

Do I only believe in God because Christianity is all I’ve ever known?

I was pierced by so many questions that it felt like I was playing Jenga, pulling out all of the pieces and wondering if the whole tower would come crashing down. It was hard for me to even read my Bible because every time I opened it up, I was faced with the constant assault of nagging questions that threatened to dismantle everything I had based my life upon.

I kept this struggle private for a long time, not feeling permission to ask these questions and worrying what other people would say about me if I actually verbalized some of these doubts. But everything seemed to change when I opened up to other people, sharing my fears and struggles. I still had all the same questions, but the questions weren’t quite as scary anymore.

I still struggle with doubt, and I probably always will. Going through those struggles changed and shaped me in profound ways that I’m still trying to understand. The questions still remain, but I have to remind myself that questions are not a bad thing. I want a real, robust, and genuine faith that is based on the truth, not just on something someone else told me. I still don’t like to face the doubts, but I know that the faith I have on the other side of the struggle is deeper, stronger, richer, and more historically rooted than I ever had before.

This short article can’t possibly cover all the various reasons, motivations, and struggles that can accompany someone who is walking through a season of doubt. But I’d like to offer a few pieces of advice for anyone who might see a bit of themselves in my story:

Talk to Someone
You don’t have to fight this battle alone.

Give yourself permission for sincere doubt.

The church is the best place to bring your questions; find someone who you trust and open up about your struggles.

Keep Asking Questions
Doubt is not a sin.

It is part of being human and can be a healthy part of our spiritual growth.

Stay curious!

Keep a Soft Heart
It is possible to think critically with your mind while still maintaining a gentle spirit.

Our quest for truth should not leave us in a place where we are cynical, resentful, angry, or stubborn.

Wrestling through the toughest questions in life is not always easy, simple, convenient, or pretty, but it doesn’t have to be lonely, scary, or painful. We can find joy in the journey.  The hard work of faith is worth it to know God and look more like him.

 I believe; help my unbelief!

Mark 9:24b

3 Things You Must Know to Have a Thoughtful Life

When asked what the greatest commandment (i.e. the most important commandment) in the Old Testament law was, Jesus said to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.

All the laws of the Old Testament essentially boil down to these two things: love God and love others.  

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

— Matthew 22:36-39

We are called to love God with everything, including our mind.

But how can we love God like that?

How do we live a thoughtful life?  

Here are 3 things you must know and a few resources to help you learn more.

1. Know Who You Believe In
You have to first know God as he has revealed himself in the Bible. One of the charges against many Christians today is that they simply don’t know what the Bible says. They might know a few passages because they appear on social media posts with pretty backgrounds or coffee mugs, or because those are the verses they memorized as children. But, it seems, the Christian tradition of reading and knowing the Bible is not as strong as it once was.

We believe the Bible is God’s word and that it was written by human authors, under the supernatural guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Christians have always affirmed that it is the supreme source of truth for their beliefs and living.

But the only way to discover and understand the truths God reveals in the Bible is to read it for yourself.

And if you want some added help understanding things, get an ESV Study Bible or take our How to Study the Bible class in the fall.

Better yet, don’t do it alone. Join a small group to read, discuss, and apply God’s word in community.  

To love God with your mind, you have to know God as he’s revealed himself in Scripture.

2. Know What You Believe In
You have to know what you believe and the core beliefs that Christians throughout history have stacked hands on. Studying theology can help you do that.

We’ve also posted the essential beliefs of our church on our website. Frankly, they are pretty generic essential beliefs similar to what you’d find on many church websites.

But know that those genericsounding beliefs you see on church websites have been carefully crafted, formed by Scripture, and debated at different points throughout the history of the church. 

We don’t take them for granted and neither should you.

To learn more, here are two great resources to get you started:

 

3. Know Why you Believe In It
You have to know why you believe what you believe, and, at least to some degree, be able to explain and defend what you believe. There’s actually a name for the defense of the Christian faith: apologetics.

That doesn’t mean you have to be one of those debaters who like to argue and discuss and push back. Some people are wired that way and some people aren’t. But like Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 

Know what you believe—the hope that is in you. And know why you believe it so that you can explain it to someone else who asks why you have that hope, and why you believe what you believe.

Be prepared to address objections or concerns people might have. People have questions. You’ve probably asked some of them, even if you’re settled in your belief: 

  • How could a good God allow suffering?  
  • How can a loving God send people to hell?  
  • Hasn’t science disproven Christianity?  
  • How can you say there’s only one true faith? 
  • Doesn’t Christianity denigrate women? And condone slavery? 

Fortunately, there are good answers to these questions. Christians have applied their minds to the study of Scripture for hundreds of years to come up with satisfying, God-honoring answers to these questions. So do the work to know what those answers are. 

Here are two great resources to get you started on studying apologetics:

 

 

While Christianity is very much tied to our hearts, it requires us to use our wits, our reason, and the entirety of our minds to truly follow Christ.

Let me encourage you, don’t check your brain at the door.

Dive in, learn, and use your knowledge and reason together with your feelings and faith. And as you do, may you, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 

Forgiving Myself

As I lie awake in my bed after everyone else in my house has gone to sleep, my mind replays my failings like a horrifying highlight reel.

How I lost my temper with my children again.

The impatience threaded through a conversation with a friend.

The devastation on my husband’s face when my sharp words cut him down.

My grief over what I’ve done blossoms into shame, convincing me that change is impossible. The shame is amplified by bitterness, and before I know it, I have welcomed dangerous lies and doubted the gospel. My head may nod enthusiastically over Jesus’s words to forgive my offender seventy times seven, but what about when the offender is me?

I don’t think I’m alone. Longtime followers of Christ are intimately familiar with the command to forgive. But when the struggle is internal, maybe you, like me, consider it almost virtuous to punish yourself harshly and deny yourself any eligibility for grace.

Why is it so hard to forgive ourselves?

In my years-long internal battle with self-resentment, I’ve identified three major obstacles along the way:

1. Pride

As a natural people-pleaser, I appreciate high standards and the accolades thrown my way when I’ve reached them. It feels good to pretend I can be righteous and good — until it doesn’t work. Pride can make me delusional about my own propensity to sin. Pride strives to patch over mistakes, pretending they never happened. Pride tells me I should’ve done better — tried harder. But Scripture says that I can’t work hard enough, that I can’t achieve perfection on my own. God isn’t surprised or shaken at my unholiness. He knows all his children need discipline and training. Instead of burying my sin deep enough to maintain my image, humbly admitting my sin before the Lord is the first step toward forgiving myself.

2. Doubt

In the Garden of Eden, we see the serpent’s first tactic as he sweet-talked Eve and Adam, weaving threads of doubt into their view of God. The Enemy is always the first to remind me of my moral failures and the first to suggest that God might not be who I’ve believed him to be. He whispers lies that tell me God didn’t really make me righteous, I can’t really be loved enough, God doesn’t really keep his promise to forgive. But we can learn to discern his hissing amidst our thoughts. Just as Jesus used Scripture to combat all of Satan’s lies in the desert, our only defense is to plant ourselves in the Bible and stand firm on God’s promises.

3. Shame

If I allow pride and doubt to fester in me, they will swing wide the door for shame. When fear of exposure controls me and God’s love seems distant, I begin to believe that there is no escape from my sin. Shame wraps its victim in the label of their wrongs. It distracts me from God’s presence, disrupts my relationships, and discourages my efforts toward spiritual maturity. But the truth of my identity in Christ can overcome the trap of shame. I love the lyrics to the song “You Are More” by Tenth Avenue North:

You are more than the choices that you made,

you are more than the sum of your past mistakes,

you are more than the problems you create,

you’ve been remade.

Because Christ has made us new creations, we are not defined by our sins. I have victory over shame because I am a child of God, a recipient of his great mercy without earning any of it, and my sin was nailed to the cross.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:13-14

I don’t have to keep looking back on my past sins. I don’t have to be anxious about future struggles. Freedom from shame’s snare allows me to be honest about my failures before the Lord. I don’t have to hide or justify my sin, instead humbly approaching him for forgiveness. And when we ask God to forgive us, we can be sure that he does and that his forgiveness is final.

In his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered the entirety of sin. When we are forgiven, our sin no longer hangs over us. Our souls don’t wallow in a place of guilt, for he has defeated pride, doubt, and shame. What a gift! What love! Why would we continue to carry the burden of blame when God has removed all blame from us?

When I rehearse the truth that I am a child of God, his beloved treasure for whom he died, then my heart can confess my failures to my Father, trust his promises, and rest in his grace.

How to Grieve Through Forgiveness

My dad needed my help recently. He was preparing to undergo a medical procedure for his heart, so I took it upon myself to help him sort through some things he needed to do. It was fairly standard stuff. I helped him fill out a legal document and talk with his doctor about the procedure and his options. We discussed his wishes in case things went wrong during the procedure and I was left to make hard choices on his behalf. 

While I took care of these typical family duties, I chuckled to myself. Less than three years ago, I would never have imagined being in a place where I’d handle these types of things for this man. 

But there I was, discussing end-of-life scenarios with a father who had neglected, abandoned, and disappointed me more times than is fair to mention against him. 

I wasn’t able to do it because I love him so much or because he’s turned a corner or because I am such a great Christian. 

I was able to do it because I wanted something normal between us. And normal is not a thing I take for granted in the relationship I have with my father. 

It felt something like a normal relationship between a father and daughter.

Normal is something I thought I’d had to give up a long time ago — a loss I had to learn to forgive. 

And it was also something I had to grieve. 

I believe it’s true of us all that when we begin to engage in the hard task of forgiveness, we also have to face grief. But grief isn’t something we normally associate with forgiveness. Or, at least, it wasn’t for me. 

We know forgiveness doesn’t mean we “erase” the hard or evil thing that happened to us. We know we can’t forget it.

But what do we do when we arrive at the point in our journeys of forgiveness where we have to deal with the overwhelming pile of emotions at the root of our unforgiveness? 

Here’s how the process of forgiveness worked in my life. 

I felt the Lord calling me to forgive my dad, but when I would butt up against the really challenging feelings of anger or sadness, I wouldn’t quite know where to put them or how to deal with them. I was prepared to act on the task of forgiveness, but I wasn’t prepared to deal with the grief associated with admitting what I had lost.

Over time, God showed me how he intended to use my grief as one of many tools to grow my heart for forgiveness. Tapping into the sorrow over what I had lost (or never really had) helped me take all those emotions to God. 

And when I took my grieving heart to God, he was faithful to heal it. 

I began to see how grief was just part of the journey of forgiveness. An absolutely necessary part. 

We’re told in the Psalms that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted” and that “he heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 34:18 and 147:3). 

If we want the kind of forgiveness the Lord offers for our broken relationships, then we must address our broken hearts. 

We must confront our grief and allow God to come near to us and heal us. That’s when he can “bind up [our] wounds” and fashion our hearts into ones that seek forgiveness. 

I love my dad, and I gladly take the normal times when they come. Forgiving him was hard. Confronting my grief over the loss of a “normal” relationship was harder. 

But God was merciful to show me that his way was better, and he gave me a new heart capable of holding both love and loss. 

He can do the same for you.


 

Come To Him

As we embark on our 28 Days of Prayer, I hope you’re joining in. Prayer plays a crucial role in our relationship with God, but it can be intimidating.

Many of us feel some trepidation, uncertainty, or confusion when we think about prayer.

We may feel convicted of a lack of desire to pray. We may feel ashamed about failure to consistently pray in the past. Or maybe we just don’t really know how to begin.

As we enter into this challenge together, let’s remember that prayer is simply an invitation into the presence of God. We are called to come to him.

Here are three ways in which we can accept his invitation.

COME IN CHILD-LIKE FAITH
You can come just as you are to God, messy and broken with peanut butter on your face and a rip in your jeans.

Jesus invited the weary, the broken, the bruised, the thirsty – he’s invited all those in need and all those at the end of their ropes. Your Father desires you to bring your burdens to him. The heart of the gospel is that through Jesus we come to God, not with the assumption we are good enough, but with the knowledge that we are not.

Think about how small children talk to their parents. The conversation never ends! There may be pauses, but children always pick back up again with whatever is on their minds. They just blurt out what they want and what they need. They interrupt. They ask without regard for what it will cost you or where it will come from. They ask because they depend completely upon you. And they keep asking with mind numbing persistence.

Come to your Father in prayer like a child. Children are supremely confident in their parents’ love and power. Instinctively, they trust. They believe their parents want to do good for them. And your Father’s care and provision is perfectly wise, strong, and loving.

You can trust him even more than kids trust their mom and dad.

COME IN COMMUNITY
Prayer is not just for a single person alone and desperate in a foxhole; it’s an outpouring to our Father by our family in Christ. We pray for each other and with each other. There might be times in our lives when we cannot get out of bed or even lift our heads because of the suffering of this world. But still, our family in Christ prays for us. We pray together for those who don’t know God, trusting that God not only hears us, but that our prayers matter, now and for eternity.

We need each other. We are created not only for relationship with God, but for relationship with one another. Prayer is a way of life together as the church. Our faith is personal, but it is not private.

COME IN SURRENDER
When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray in Matthew 6:10, the heart of his prayer was this:

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Prayer tunes our hearts to God’s will. When we come to him, we are acknowledging our need. Any posture other than humility is just self-deception. If we had it all figured out, why would we come to him at all?

Our prayers are a step of surrender.

We surrender our plans and priorities. We surrender our dreams and decisions. We surrender our very lives, praying that his kingdom would be built rather than our own. That his will would be done, not ours.

Now, God’s will is not always done on earth. Child abuse is not God’s will, racism is not God’s will, the exploitation of human beings through pornography is not God’s will, and teenagers killing themselves with drugs is not God’s will. We realize the world is broken. So, we cry out to him. We surrender ourselves to his kingdom, asking that he would make all things new.

So come to him.

Come as a child, pouring out your heart and trusting in your Father’s goodness. Come together with your brothers and sisters in the faith, lifting each other’s needs to the Savior. Come in complete surrender, seeking his kingdom and desiring his will.

Just come.

A Simple and Powerful Prayer for Your Child

I remember learning about an approach to prayer years ago when my son was a toddler, and I’m grateful for the way it shaped me as a young father. The advice was simple and practical – use Ephesians 3:14-19 as a way to pray for those you love.

My son is a teenager now and I continue to pray this way for him and my other children. Using these few verses from the Scriptures to direct my prayers has not only helped me pray clearly and consistently for my kids, it has formed the deepest hopes and dreams I hold for them in my heart. I expect to ask God for these things in my kids’ lives for the rest of my life.

Ephesians 3:14-19 says, For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Wrapped up in these five verses are three powerful things I ask God to do in each of my kids’ hearts.

Lord, please give my child faith in Christ

I strive to teach my kids about who Jesus is and what he has done, but try as I may, I cannot create faith in their hearts. I know God has to be the one to give them the grace of his presence and roots of faith, so I make verses 16 and 17 my request to God saying, “Lord, grant my son strength through your Holy Spirit so that Christ would dwell in his heart through faith.”

Father, please show my child how much you love them

I have spent a lot of time considering the richness of verses 18 and 19 in my own heart. This is the most impassioned prayer I regularly bring to God, “Father, please open my daughter’s heart and mind to the depths of your love. Help her know, without question, that she is loved by you. Give her security and identity rooted in your unquestionable love. Help me love her like you do.”

I often add in a confession of my own faults and shortcomings as a father and ask God to answer this prayer in spite of me. My kids need to know the nature of their true father and I ask God to help me be more like him.

Lord, please fill my child with your presence

This passage has God’s presence as bookends. Paul tells his reader that he bows his knees to ask that God gives them strength and power through the Holy Spirit in their inmost being, and he finishes hoping his reader is filled with all the fullness of God.

I make these words my request saying, “Lord, whatever my son faces today, be ever present to shape his experience, thoughts, and actions. Fill him with your Spirit and give him strength and wisdom to live differently — to live for you.”

I have many hopes for my kids but none more important than these. Consistently asking God to give and grow faith, to expand their knowledge of his love, and to make them aware of his presence each day has shaped the way I parent and the heart I have for each of them.

We Need Community

The last couple of years have been difficult. With rampant sickness, quarantines, and lockdowns, many of us have experienced a level of loneliness we never thought we would.

Community is a gift and a blessing. As we’ve become markedly more aware since March 2020, we were not meant to exist as sole individuals.

Even the most anti-social movements tend to create communities to support each other.

My generation saw the emo kids gather, the 80s had the punks, and 60s and 70s saw people flock to the hippie movement in droves.

Humanity longs for community — to know others and to be known. Humans need a place in which to grow, learn, work, serve, and worship alongside other people.

How gracious the Lord is to know what his creation needs!

Mankind was created to function together.

In the Genesis creation account, we see God pairing the man, Adam, with his wife, Eve. In creating this union, the Creator himself stated, “It is not good for man to be alone,” (Gen. 2:18).

From the outset of creation, God envisioned his image bearers existing in community, beginning with the family.

Family is the first community we are given — the first place to know others and be known. But our familial situation changes throughout our lives. We move, marry, and experience loss.

Thankfully, God has created an eternal family.

The story of Scripture is that God shows how wonderful and glorious he is by redeeming rebels and not only showing them mercy and grace, but actually bringing them into his family.

Just look at the familial language throughout the Bible like God being called “the Father” and Jesus “the Son,” believers being called co-heirs with Christ, the Church being referred to as Jesus’ bride, and Christians being adopted by God.

The Church is a new family. There we can experience community to a degree not seen elsewhere. As the Body of Christ, believers are called to take up each others burdens, provide for each other, hold each other accountable, and encourage each other. Joining a church means joining a community of people who recognize God as Father and long to serve one another.

In this community, believers know others and are known themselves.

Personally speaking, my family would have crumbled long ago had Christ not blessed us with a loving and faithful community of believers.

When we experienced a chronic health issue that resulted in pain, these faithful followers of Jesus were there to lift us up in prayer.

When I struggled with addiction, they were there to hold me accountable.

When my wife and I feared for our physical safety, they offered protection.

When my family was in need, they were there to provide support.

To this day, when I experience difficulties or doubts, I can remember the times in which the Lord has provided for me through other believers — his hands and feet. 

If you have never experienced authentic gospel-centered community, I would encourage you to do the work to connect with other believers in the local church.

Fewer gifts or blessings have proven so sweet.

Genesis to Revelation: The Tree of Life

As people who can stop at HEB for any food we desire, regardless of the season, a garden holds little appeal for most of us in today’s world.

We prefer flowers or shade trees in our yards instead of plants we can eat.

But to a herding, agrarian culture like the ancient Israelites, food growing freely from a tree wasn’t too far from miraculous. It’s no wonder that when God placed Adam and Eve within the Garden of Eden, he surrounded them with fruit trees.

In the garden, their every need was met. They were protected from every danger. Everything chaotic had been brought under the perfect control of their powerful Creator and ordered for their good.

And in the midst of it all, there were two trees.

When we read the story of temptation in Genesis 3, our attention is drawn to the forbidden tree, by whose fruit humanity fell. But after their sin, the focus shifts:

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Genesis 3:22-24

Because of their sin, the man and woman were removed from both the presence of God and the provision of the garden.

The curse of the ground meant that never again would all of their needs be met without struggle, and the way to life eternal was permanently barred.

The uncertain and dangerous wilderness stretched before them as their only home.

But Adam and Eve were not left hopeless.

They had been given a purpose: to fill the earth and bring order to the chaos of the world beyond Eden.

They had been given a promise: Eve would bear children, and one of her offspring would deliver them from the serpent’s path of death.

Despite their removal from the direct presence of God, he had not abandoned them.

Humanity slowly cultivated the earth building families and farms, cities and civilizations.

Every effort and achievement was inevitably marred by sin, but the image of the creator still shone throughout.

With each step toward order, each moment of beauty, each development of culture and technology and polity and art, God built a world in which his people could flourish.

A good creation, stained by sin, but bringing glory to him as humans ever sought for the paradise that was lost, collectively crying out for its return.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,

    and their spears into pruning hooks…

but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,

    and no one shall make them afraid.

Micah 4:3-4

But the desire for Eden went unmet, until a man came to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, proclaiming the kingdom of God. His words were filled with life and hope. His compassion was generous and contagious. His signs were inexplicable and undeniable.

He was like a green olive tree in the house of God, trusting in his steadfast love forever (Psalm 52:8).

He was the righteous one who flourishes like a palm and grows like a cedar, planted in the house of the Lord (Psalm 92:12-13).

He was that man who trusts in the Lord, like a tree planted by water who has no fear when the heat comes and never ceases to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

The presence of God and the provision of the garden had once more come to his people, as Jesus embodied the tree of life perfectly among them.

And in his death on a tree, he made a way beyond the barrier to enter into eternal life. Though the serpent believed himself victorious in the death of the Son, the very one whose identity was Resurrection (John 11:25) could never have been held by the grave.

The source of all our life and hope rose to new life as the firstfruits of all our future resurrections.

In the final chapter of Revelation, John is shown a picture of the future promise, of life without fear under our own vines and fig trees:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face.

Revelation 22:1-4

The scene is not identical to the Garden but completes and transcends it. The people of God have multiplied and filled the earth with the glory of God, as we were created to do. The garden city has been established, and the tree of life provides eternal health and abundance. No enemies can enter, for the victory of the Lamb over the serpent is complete.

And, if we believe in Jesus, this is the promise: we will be in his presence once more, for the blood of Christ has washed us clean, redeeming and restoring us to the garden of grace and peace forever.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,

that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.

By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:24

Hold Nothing Back

My husband and I fell onto the couch. Our three kids were finally in bed after an unusually busy day. We still had lunches to make and dishes to clean, but we needed a moment to catch up.

“I have to tell you something,” he began. And then he said five words that cut through everything else: “I got laid off today.”

This isn’t true. It can’t be true. It can’t be.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

He was.

Initially, we both looked at the positives of the situation. He had been wanting to make a career change, and now he was free to do so.

But as the weeks turned into months of job searching, my suppressed fear of our uncertain future began to show up outwardly in anxiety attacks.

And I hated those moments because I thought I was made of stronger stuff.

I had a close relationship with God. He carried me through challenging and painful seasons at a young age. I’d even had opportunities to mentor other women through their own challenging seasons. So, when anxiety welled up in me, I wondered how strong my faith really was.

I thought I should have been able to handle the uncertainty of our situation and withstand it with inward and outward peace. But I constantly felt a low-level sense of fear, and anxiety would rip through me at unexpected times. I was a mess.

I prayed regularly. But I felt like there was a barrier, like I was holding something back.

That’s silly, I thought. Why am I not telling God stuff that he already knows?

It felt like a struggle to be completely honest.

When I finally opened up about my deepest fears, God put a spotlight on that part of me that was ashamed of feeling fearful and anxious. It was as if he was saying, That shame is not from me. I don’t expect you to carry all of this.

God wanted me so close that I was willing to give all my fears to him, trusting fully in his great love for me; holding nothing back from him.

The apostle Peter says as much when he exhorts believers in Christ to “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you,” (1 Peter 5:7).

I had inadvertently taken on a responsibility that I was never meant to carry. Instead of opening my hands to God and releasing my fears and worries to him, I had actually closed my hands around my anxiety. I was relying upon myself to muster peace instead of relying on God to give me peace.

No wonder anxiety would well up in uncontrollable ways! I was storing it up rather than giving it away.

It’s fitting, then, that right before Peter encourages us to cast all our anxiety on the Lord, he tells us to “humble [our]selves… under God’s mighty hand,” (1 Peter 5:6). Trusting God with our anxieties takes humility. It takes viewing ourselves as less powerful than we think we are and viewing God as more capable than we imagine he is.

When I hold anxiety back from God, I only prove my stubborn self-reliance. I close my hands, and I say, “I’ve got this, God.”

But when I cast my anxieties on him, I open my hands freely and say, “I need You, Lord.”

I still have bouts of anxiety. But now I don’t feel this weird guilt-laden burden to manage it. I know I can give it to God.

God longs for us to run to him with all of our fears and failures because he loves us.

As we begin this new year, let’s go to him eagerly in prayer as we learn all the more to trust him with our fears, anxieties, and all our cares.

He is more than capable of handling it all.

Is it Okay to Doubt God?

If you look around the world today, amidst the days of COVID variants, political tension, and a myriad of other stressors and struggles, it’s easy to feel some sense of doubt about God and his presence in the world. It’s easy to wonder why he isn’t doing something about it. Or if he’s even really there at all.

The truth is, even though our worries and fears carry some different names in the modern day, doubt has always existed within the Christian faith.

Even people who were with Jesus — who knew him personally — still struggled with knowing if it was all real.

So, it’s no surprise we sometimes find ourselves with similar feelings.

If there was anyone in all of history who would seem immune to doubt, it probably would’ve been the man traditionally known as John the Baptist.

His mom was the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus, which meant Jesus and John were kin. So that’s pretty good. Better yet, God selected and chose John to announce the way of Jesus to the people.

John was a prophet, he was a man of God, and he was a man of great faith.

He even baptized Jesus.

In Matthew 11 Jesus says:

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women, there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

– Matthew 11:11a

I mean talk about something to put on your resume, right?

Jesus called me the greatest person who’s ever lived.

When Jewish kids had posters of the rock stars of the faith on their wall, John the Baptist was right in the middle.

But, as we see earlier in Matthew 11, we observe something interesting happening.

Traditionally, the Jews thought the Messiah would come and destroy the oppressive Romans. He would be this amazing unconquerable king. He’d be a warmonger.

And not only was Jesus not like that, but things weren’t going well for John the Baptist who had just baptized Jesus and declared him the Messiah. In fact, during his ministry, John was imprisoned, and at this point in the text he’s on the docket to get executed.

So, suddenly, it seems all the questions in John’s mind about Jesus, and about his faith, and about this whole idea of Christianity began to bubble to the surface of John’s thoughts.

Here’s what he did:

Now when John heard about the deeds of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him,Are you the one who is to come? Or shall we look for another?

– Matthew 11:2-3

Stunning! Here we have the great John the Baptist struggling with doubt about Jesus.

He’s like, “Jesus, are you really the Christ? Or did I screw that whole thing up? We’ve been waiting for somebody. Are you really who you say you are?”

What I love about this, is that it tells us something very important about people who want to deal with their doubts.

If you’ve struggled with doubt or are currently struggling with it, before you do anything else, you simply must know that going through these seasons — those ones that wreck you about Jesus and God — is normal.

And not only is it normal, but it’s also necessary.

Doubts are the growing pains of the faith. It’s always been that way. They’re usually seasons of discomfort, and sometimes they bring us to tears. It’s real pain. But they’re seasons we must endure if we want to grow in our faith.

Coming to grips with the idea that doubt in your faith journey is normal and necessary — just knowing that — lowers the anxiety about it. Because doubt, though it is painful and difficult to journey through, means that at the very least you are asking big questions of a very big God.

And whatever your questions are, whatever doubts you have, the most practical first step is that you must work to find the answer.

And I specifically said “work to find it,” not just “find it,” because I can almost assure you that it’s going to take time and energy.

Go to Christian leaders that you trust. If you’re in a small group, and you’re not bringing your questions and doubts to them, you’re missing a grand opportunity to leverage good Christ-following people. Ask them! And read about the subject you’re asking about (but not just from Google).

The enemy of faith isn’t doubt, it’s apathy.

Real doubts demand real work.

There will be days you feel like you’re keeping your head above the water, and there will be days you feel like you’re drowning.

My favorite verse in all of the Bible that deals with doubt is Mark 9:24 where a guy says to Jesus, “I believe. Just help my unbelief.”

It’s one of the most honest prayers I’ve ever heard.

That’s a prayer I pray.

God, I believe. Help me in areas where I don’t believe.

And for those who struggle with doubts that’s a great prayer to pray. Run to Jesus with your doubt!

But, don’t just run to Jesus to find help from him, but run to Jesus to find help in him.

You can take all the doubts that plague you — and they can be really big — but they’re size cannot eclipse the historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead. Whatever doubts you have can be overwhelmed by the weightiness of who Jesus is and what he’s done.

In Matthew 11, Jesus responded to the disciples of John the Baptist like this:

Go and tell John what you hear and see. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up. And the poor have good news preached to them.

– Matthew 11:4b-5

In other words, here’s what he said, “You tell John that you can all have confidence in me by looking at what I’ve done.”

And we have it even better as Christians today, because John never got to see Jesus go to the cross and then, better yet, rise from the grave.

But we have.

Jesus’ answer is, “You have to trust me.”

And we must do the same.

Even when we can’t trust what’s happening around us.

Even when we can’t trust ourselves.

Doubts are the growing pains of faith. They’re part of the journey. And they’re serious.

But they aren’t insurmountable.

Ask questions.

Run to Jesus.

Trust God.