By: Jenni Walker
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5-6)
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
There are many things that can so quickly, and almost unwittingly, deplete the strength and joy of serving the Lord. This month, we are looking at three attitudes of the heart to watch out for that can subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) take root deep down in our hearts. But God’s Word provides us with clear wisdom about each of them. Remember that we do not have to do this in our own strength. As we “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,” we can look “unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2) who is graciously and faithfully with us every step of the way as we follow Him.
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Sally closed her bedroom door and pulled the curtains shut. She had just attended another friend’s wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony, and Sally had enjoyed a wonderful time. But now she was alone in her apartment with her thoughts. That old feeling of doubt was subtle but palpable inside of her as she once again questioned if God really cared enough about her desire to be married. She had great friends, a great job, a supportive extended family, but there were times of intense longing to be married to a strong, godly man. But she was now beginning to doubt if that was really God’s plan for her. Did He even noticed her lonely heart…?
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Emma sat on the carpeted floor in the middle of the toy-strewn living room folding yet another pile of laundry. She had just put her infant and two-year-old down for their afternoon naps, and she was exhausted after another morning of diapers, potty-training, mashed bananas, macaroni and cheese, playing with the same toys, and reading the same books. Emma loved being a mom, but she was especially tired these days as her toddler was becoming more testy than usual, and her infant had been unexplainably fussy in the mornings. She had been irritable this morning and taken some of her frustration out on her husband before he went to work for leaving the trash can overflowing again. Emma’s husband seemed a little withdrawn from her lately, and their sudden and more frequent spats were not helping the situation. He was a supportive and loving husband and a fabulous and attentive father to their children. So why did she feel so easily stressed and quick to argue with him of late? Was she really the mom and the wife that her family needed her to be and that God had called her to be? Her struggle with feelings of inadequacy were becoming more and more frequent these days…
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Kim sighed as she set her phone down on the kitchen counter and rinsed her empty coffee cup in the sink. The house was quiet, and that is the way it had been for a while. Her husband had returned home from a business trip the night before, and he was leading his weekly men’s Bible study at the church that evening. Her adult children stayed in contact with her regularly over the phone, but only one still lived in the state, so in-person visits were not as frequent. Kim herself stayed involved at church as co-leader of a mom’s group and in her community at a monthly nursing home outreach.
Her faith in God wasn’t wavering, exactly, but her heart felt a little dry. She had poured herself into the life of her family, and being home alone now during the day was hard. One of her adult children was not actively serving the Lord, although she had assured Kim that she still believed in Jesus as her Savior but was just trying to “figure things out.” Kim deeply valued her husband’s commitment to their marriage and to men’s discipleship in his church group. But she had always wanted the two of them to be involved in some type of ministry outlet together, and she wondered if that was ever going to happen. She wished God would speak to her heart. She was beginning to question if maybe she had missed hearing His voice…?
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Life is full of beauty, but circumstances, relationships, and even we ourselves can change. How do we navigate times of uncertainty, disappointment, or lingering doubts? Life’s many demands, responsibilities, and even disappointments can lead to doubt in our minds and hearts. Doubt saps us of strength and can even lead us to question God’s love, truth, and calling in our lives. Like the women just described, feelings of disappointment, inadequacy, or uncertainty of God’s plans can easily lead to doubts deep down in our hearts. Doubt is a part of life. It is not something to avoid but to grapple with. It is the untended doubt that begins to sap us of our strength, that can lead to discouragement, and that becomes dangerous if it takes root deep down in the heart. What should we do when we encounter doubts? The following are several practical and biblical ways to tend to the heart when doubts arise.
1) Ask God for wisdom.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:5-6). When faced with lingering doubt, seek God’s wisdom as never before. Ask Him to reveal the root of the doubts you are struggling with. Are you doubting yourself? A relationship? An aspect of God’s character? If God can really be at work in a specific situation you are in? More often than not, the doubts that pop up have much more to do with our understanding of God than with us. We need His wisdom and His perspective!
2) Grapple with it.
Doubts in their early stages can float around inside of us for a while without us identifying what contributed to it. “My kids have been fighting a lot lately. Is there something I’m not doing right?” you may ask yourself. “I miss worshiping together at church. Is God just going to let virtual church services become the new normal?” you may be wondering. “Life seems so normal right now. How can I do big things for God when most of my day is spent at home with my kids/in a cubicle at work/taking care of my elderly parents?” We all have questions like these, and the list of things that we may begin to have doubts about is seemingly endless. Even doubts about the core of our faith can arise without warning as we begin to look around us and ask, “With so much suffering in the world, how do I know if God really is who He says He is?”
When questions like these pop up, they can leave our hearts feeling a little shaky if we can’t seem to find an answer. Don’t just ignore them and move on with your day. Grapple with them! Spend time in God’s Word, and ask Him for wisdom. But did you know that we shouldn’t stop there? If there is a doubt that you are struggling with, remember that our Lord also works in our lives through people. Surround yourself with others who will provide godly encouragement, support, and insight. Seek time with godly friends, mature family members, spiritual mentors, and a church small group. Read books such as The Little Woman by Gladys Aylward and The End of Reason by Ravi Zacharias. Do not ignore doubt; do not fear the questions. With God’s help (which comes through His Word, the Holy Spirit as our Helper, AND through people!), identify doubt and grapple with it!
3) Take heart!
“Resist with the utmost abhorrence anything that causes you to doubt God’s love and His lovingkindness toward you. Allow nothing to make you question the Father’s love for His child.” (A.W. Pink) You are loved by God! You are called and equipped by Him. He is working on your behalf and will make a way. No matter what your feelings or uncertainties are at any given moment, encourage yourself in the Lord. He is the strength of your heart and your portion forever, and He is worthy of praise! If you are experiencing doubt or feeling discouraged, take heart by meditating on the truth of God’s Word and asking Him to speak to you. Psalm 25:4-5 is a great place to start: “Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.”
Doubt is a part of life. It is not something to ignore; untended doubts begin to sap us of our strength, can lead to discouragement, and become dangerous if they take root deep down in the heart. What should we do when we encounter doubtful thoughts or uncertain questions to which our hearts seek answers? Promptly ask God for wisdom, grapple with them, and take heart because we can always take our doubts to Jesus as He ministers truth, courage, and love to even the deepest parts of our hearts and minds.
World-renowned Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, recently passed away. As I reflected on the powerful way in which the Lord worked through him and his ministry, I encountered an article posted on his ministry’s website entitled Doubting God in Times of Crisis. In it, the author, Louis Phillips, explores how two different people in the New Testament responded to doubt: John the Baptist (Matthew 11:3-6) and the scornful thief hanging on the cross beside Jesus during His crucifixion (Luke 23:39). The following words ring true, and I pray that they challenge, and minister directly to, your heart:
“Do we take our doubts to Jesus like John or the thief? What are we demanding from the author of our lives? That he proves himself by doing something for us? Or that he would give us the grace to believe once more that he is who he says he is…? If someone like John the Baptist can wrestle with doubts, so can we. But we must take our doubts directly to the one who is able to take them head on, and we must also do so desiring the truth—not necessarily convenience or self-preservation. John needed reminding of the gospel, and so do you and I. A significant portion of the Christian walk consists of a fight to remember Christ’s persistent work in our lives. The beautiful thing is as this truth becomes a lived reality, we can live our lives firmly planted in his promises while being a beacon of light to those without hope.”
Doubts are not merely irritants to our minds and hearts. Untended, they can stymie the work of God in our lives. But wrestling with them can actually draw us even closer to God’s heart and provide a springboard for His work in the lives of others! Dear wholehearted woman, do not delay. Our Lord knows our every thought and the deepest parts of our hearts. Ask Him for wisdom today, grapple with any lingering or persistent doubts, and take heart – God is with you, and He is who He says He is!
Time to Reflect
1) What most resonated in your heart from today’s devotion topic?
2) Revisit the Scripture passages in this devotional. How do they affect both your approach and response to times of questioning or doubt in your mind and heart? What is God teaching you about doubt and about Himself?
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(This devotion contains excerpts from The Wholehearted Woman: Who She is and Why She Matters by Beth Doohan and Jenni Walker.)