Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hope for doubters

Some of you are always fashioning fresh nets of doubt for your own entanglement. You invent snares for your own feet, and are greedy to lay more and more of them. You are mariners who seek the rocks, soldiers who court the point of the bayonet. It is an unprofitable business. Practically, mentally, morally, spiritually, doubting is an evil trade. You are like a smith, wearing out his arm in making chains with which to bind himself. Doubt is sterile, a desert without water. Doubt discovers difficulties which it never solves: it creates hesitancy, despondency, despair. 
- Spurgeon

The Bible says that we can come to a point of confident assurance. That doesn't mean that in certain moments we never doubt, but it does mean that the tenor of our life is based in trusting God, taking Him at His Word and believing what He has promised us in Christ.

There are some who doubt, but are genuinely interested in finding answers and reaching a place where things are settled in their minds. This is a process, to be sure, and all Christians have engaged in it to one degree or another. Humility should be the aspect of those who are engaged in this way. There are others, graphically described in the quote by Spurgeon, who appear to not really be interested in relieving their doubt. In reality, they are proud and cynical, confident in what they know or what the "experts" know. I have talked with people like this. The open Bible before them is not a place for humbly seeking the Lord, it is a place for picking away at every seeming inconsistency or contradiction. Tragically, these kinds of "doubters" often end up in heresy or even apostasy.

It is important to remember in all of this that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble

The cure for doubting has already been hinted at. Immersion in God's Word is the antidote. Approaching God's Word with humility, remembering who we are and who God is. Such a person, however troubled with doubt, God will not ignore. He knows we are weak. He is our Creator. The more you engage God's Word in this manner, the more God's Spirit will give you hope and confidence. I have experienced this and I struggled with doubt, off and on, for many years. God is very interested in having His children resting in full assurance of who they are in Christ (John 20:31). For that reason, He will strengthen you as you go along. 

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." - Romans 15:13

1 comment:

  1. Jeff,
    Doubt is a dangerous thing to be sure. But I think too often the response to doubt like Spurgeon’s quote is to “Don’t question. Just believe. Don’t go near the difficult issues that make you question your beliefs.” I think this attitude leads to shallow understanding of the difficult issues that others struggle with and maybe even a shallow faith/belief.

    I find that I relate to Spurgeon’s quote, not because I’m not interested in relieving my doubt, but doubt leads to more questions that lead to more doubt, the cycle of doubt and questioning then spirals out of control and eventually leads to unbelief. But isn’t that how ideas change? One starts to doubt a belief, investigates the belief some more. If that investigation leads to more doubts and more investigation, that could eventually lead to someone changing their beliefs. This happens in science, politics, and … religion.

    From my experience there are not that many people who openly doubt. And there are fewer still who stay in doubt for long periods of time. People try to resolve this conflict as quickly as they can. People either run back to the cross or run away to atheism. There are few who stay on the fence, suffering in doubt.

    I know it says seek and you will find. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say how long it will take. And years of unanswered prayers and searching does feel like being ignored, which makes me think that there's not much difference between the invisible and nonexistent, which continues the spiral of doubt.