Have you ever been struck by a lingering feeling of doubt? Not in terms of doubting the gospel in its entirety, but a doubt in which you feel that God isn't listening or isn't responding in the way he has in the Bible? Maybe he didn't answer a prayer in the way you expected, or maybe you thought he was leading you in one direction, and now you don't know whether you were hearing him or not? At some point, you may have experienced doubt that makes you question what God is really doing in your life. These thoughts and feelings are not only normal but in fact, are a part of the growing process that all Christians go through. When we struggle with doubt, it becomes an opportunity for God to strengthen our faith.
Now let's take this a step further...
What if I asked you if you've ever had days when you heard a sermon or listened to a worship song, and felt distant from the power of the gospel? In other words, you see God moving in the hearts and minds of those around you, but not in yourself, and it seems that the gospel only works for them, not yourself. If you call yourself a Christ Follower, this is probably not something you'd be willing to share with many people. After all, if you're like me and you grew up in church, went to Sunday School, and can easily recite John 3:16 better than your own phone number, then you may feel guilty for feeling like the gospel doesn't always apply to you. I may be the only one, but this is something that I really struggled with as I got older, and especially last year when I became diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
Now, as you can see, I am describing two different types of doubt here. These two types of doubt are best expressed in Mark 9:14-29, where Jesus commands an unclean spirit to come out of a boy. To set the scene, Jesus's disciples were able to cast out demons in Jesus' name and people were astonished and coming to faith. When it came to this specific boy though, the father of the boy came to Jesus and told him that his disciples were not able to cast out the unclean spirit from his son. This father, like many others, had probably heard a lot about Jesus and his disciples and wanted to believe, but he still had some lingering doubt. His words were, "But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." Jesus' immediate response to this is, "'If you can'! All things are possible for one who believes." Jesus' words here are so important because they reveal the nature of how we find access to God's power. The first important point he makes here is that our ability to access God's power is only through prayer. Second, our ability to access God's power is not contingent on whether or not he is willing, but on whether we truly believe he will do it. See, the father of the boy is not asking Jesus if he is willing, he asks if he can do it. The differentiation here is critical. According to his words here, the man must have known enough about Jesus to have no doubt of whether he would be willing to help them. Although, he still struggled to believe Jesus had the power.
Jumping now to my own life, I grew up knowing everything there was to know about God's grace, mercy, and sacrificial and never-ending love. I know that God is for us, and not against us. I believe that he will never forsake us. I even believe that Jesus died to forgive the sins of the world, past, present, and future! Unfortunately, last year I became so low that I drifted away from God because shame had built up a wall in me. I didn't want to read my Bible, or listen to worship songs, or pray for God to heal me because I felt so unworthy of his grace and mercy. This was not a doubt of what Jesus did, but of why he did it. The moment I decided that I didn't deserve God's forgiveness, was the moment I hid from God in Sin.
The difference between my doubt and the father's doubt in Mark 9, is in that one little word we looked at earlier in verse 22, "If you can...". If a person knows and believes in the heart of God, and in his willingness to seek out the one and leave the 99, then even in his wavering view of what's possible he knows that God's willingness is of no question. Although, when I decided, in my shame, that I didn't deserve God's grace, it meant that I was basically denying what Jesus did for me on that cross. This is a grievous sin that I hate to admit, but the good thing about God is that through his mercy and love, he doesn't let go of us! The critical thing about God that I let slip my mind, was the fact that his grace, mercy, and love are not contingent on who I am, or what I've done, but solely on who he is! That is the reality of Grace!
So how do we respond to doubt? The same way in which the father in Mark 9 did when he cried, "I believe; help my unbelief!" Here the man acknowledges his doubt and asks Jesus to help him where doubt leads him astray. This word doubt is often translated in some bibles to being double-minded which the Bible clearly states is not a good mindset (James 1:6-8). To be double-minded is to have a mind which is divided. To combat this we have to respond in the way the father of the possessed boy did and remember that grace is only contingent on God's love demonstrated through Christ's death on the cross.
Have you ever felt distant or closed off to God's grace? Why? What verses in the Bible could help remind you of who God is, and the promises he keeps? Write it down, memorize it, write it on your mirror and recite it every morning. Then, pray and ask God to make the scriptures come alive for you again. Ask for him to remind and rekindle your heart to accept his love again. It's important to always be honest with God, so don't hide in that doubt! Tell God about it, ask for his help with that unbelief, and watch God grow and mature your faith!