On Faith and Doubt

I’ve shared a couple of times in recent weeks that God has asked me to have faith for some things that seem highly improbable. In a number of verses in the Bible (James 1:6-7, for example), it says to ask in faith, without doubt, and you will have what you ask for. I have been doing my best to live up to those instructions.

However, it seems no matter how hard I try, little questions often sneak into my mind. “Did God really promise…? What if you got it wrong? Do you seriously believe God can/will do THAT? For YOU?” Each time these thoughts come, they bring guilt and condemnation with them. The one thing God has asked me to do is to believe without doubting, and I can’t even get that right!

This past Sunday at church, we had a guest speaker. There were a lot of great points in the sermon, but one thing has been stuck in my mind for the past three days. He made the comment that faith is not the absence of doubts, but confidence in the face of them. He went on to say that uncertainty of the outcome of a given situation is what makes faith possible. If we were completely certain that what we hope for would happen, there would be no need for faith.

What a freeing thought! I am not a failure because questions come to mind on occasion. I only fail to have faith if I entertain those questions and dwell on them. If I give them more room in my mind than I give to the confidence that God “will accomplish what concerns me,” then I give in to doubt.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Confidence and assurance in the face of uncertainty. We don’t see the fulfillment of God’s promises yet, and it is normal that questions will arise. Every person mentioned in Hebrews 11 – the “Hall of Faith” – asked God questions on numerous occasions. Questions don’t equal sin or disqualify us from receiving the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Some teachers might tell you that if you only had enough faith, life would be easy and God would have answered your prayers by now. That is a load of rubbish. God never promised an easy life to anyone who chose to follow Him. In fact, in many cases, it was the opposite. What He did promise was that He would be with us, that He would never stop loving us, and that His words are true no matter what! (There are many other promises in His Word, so go read the Bible to find more.)

Whatever it is you’re hoping and praying for today, have faith. Don’t choose to live with the doubts that try to fill your mind. Acknowledge them, remind them of the awesome power of the God Who loves you, and send them on their way.

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Take the Step

Even as I wrote the post last week, clouds were building and getting darker in my own mind and heart. By the end of the night and into the following days, I was wondering if maybe my strength of positivity had abandoned me because I was struggling to believe the sun was still shining behind the clouds.

There wasn’t one thing that brought the storm. A number of factors converged and blocked out my view of the sun for a time. Some of the clouds aren’t worth mentioning, but there were three in particular that hit within hours of each other, and all of them brought doubts about the things God has told me about making this place my home.

I have mentioned before that I felt God was saying it was time to settle here and begin to put down more roots. One of those roots involves getting my Irish driving license, and the first step of that process was scheduled for today. I put off studying for the theory test until the end of last week, because without realizing it, I had begun to think it was futile to work toward getting my license here when I wasn’t sure I’d be here long enough to make it worth the small fortune it will cost.

So, what were the storm clouds? First, I just renewed my visa, and one year from today marks the end of the time I will be allowed to stay in Ireland unless I can convince the justice department that I need to be here longer. I have known for two years that three years was the maximum length I could stay without special permission, but that seemed such a long time away when I first arrived. Being given the information on what documents I will need to provide next year brought it to the forefront of my mind that I could easily be told to leave in a year.

The second of the clouds had to do with finances. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was told there was a remote possibility that a significant amount of my monthly support might be stopped. Recently, money has been tight already because of the visa and insurance renewals, and losing any support (let alone the amount I could lose) would mean I could no longer afford to be here. I don’t anticipate this decrease happening, but on top of the visa concerns (and knowing the costs of getting a license), it was stressful news to hear.

Finally, before I moved to Ireland, I felt like God had said that He had things here He wanted to give me. For a number of months, I have been praying into something I thought He had promised. Around the same time as these other concerns arose, I began to doubt that He had really spoken about this opportunity. It looks doubtful, or at the very least far away.

All of these factors converged, along with some other seemingly insignificant ones, to create a perfect storm of wondering if it is worth putting in the work to put down deep roots. This feels like “home” more than any place I’ve ever been, but is it worth the effort and emotions if I’m going to be uprooted?

Last weekend, I put all these thoughts on “pause.” The driver theory test was scheduled, and I needed to study so I didn’t waste the money I’d already paid when I booked the test. I’m happy to say I passed the test, and I should receive my learner’s permit in the post within a couple of weeks. I’m also happy to say that even though I don’t know the outcome of all of these situations, I have hope again. I know God can give me favor for the visa renewal, and He can provide all I need, and He is faithful to His promises even if they don’t look the way I expect.

Today, I took a step of faith. I don’t know exactly where the road leads, but I know He has asked me to pursue deeper roots here. I don’t know how He’ll provide the money to continue the process or how He’ll work out any other detail, but even without seeing the sun behind the clouds, I could see enough to take one more step forward. I trust it will be worth it.

What step might you need to take today despite the darkness surrounding you?

Blessed Is She.

The verse God gave me for this year was Luke 1:45, and it is in reference to Mary: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Because that verse is found in the middle of the Christmas story, I have been reminded of it a number of times in recent weeks…. And each time it has been a much needed reminder!

As I reread the passage again recently, focusing specifically on this verse, I noticed a note in my Bible – a reference to verse 20 of the same chapter. Near the beginning of the chapter, we find Zacharias serving the Lord in the temple when Gabriel shows up and gives him the news that he’ll be a father. There are extraordinary words spoken about the son that Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth will have. I will admit that it would be a lot to process, but Zacharias obviously doesn’t respond in the way the angel hoped he would…

In verse 18, Zacharias asks, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” Gabriel’s response, found in verses 19-20, is pretty pointed. “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

Wow. Don’t mess with Gabriel when he tells you a promise from God.

As I looked back at the passage where Gabriel was giving Mary her own extraordinary news, I noticed that she also asked a question of how it could be true based on her circumstances… The difference is that Mary only asked how her news could be true, not how she could be sure it was true…

Mary didn’t ask for proof. Even in the midst of wondering how God might actually pull off this ‘impossible’ thing, she simply believed. And she was blessed for her faith.

The other thing I find interesting about this chapter is that both Zacharias and Mary received the promises. They each had the son that Gabriel told them about, and they both had their words of praise to God recorded in the chapter. The difference is that Zacharias had to wait more than nine months to be able to praise God aloud.

As I look at the promises God has spoken to me, the reasons that Luke 1:45 is my verse for the year, I wonder which of these responses mine most resembles… Unfortunately, I’m afraid that far too often it looks like Zacharias’. And while my physical voice hasn’t been affected, my ability to praise God in the hearing of others certainly has been!

The consequences of Zacharias’ doubt has painted a powerful picture in my mind. As one who feels like the ministry God has given me has much to do with my ability to communicate through teaching, writing, and even singing, the loss of that ability would be a significant hindrance to fulfilling God’s purposes for me. And yet every time I doubt the promises of God, I am hindering my ability to proclaim His goodness and truth.

So, once again, I choose to trust. I may not understand how His promises can come to pass in my life. In the natural they seem nearly impossible – or at least still very distant – but as Gabriel told Mary, “…nothing will be impossible with God.”

Whatever dreams you’re holding onto, or even struggling to get a grip on, I encourage you to join me in declaring Mary’s response to the great news Gabriel spoke to her: “…may it be done to me according to your word.”