The cry of the father of the demon possessed child echoes in my head, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Almost every day I encounter doubts and delusions that make me question who God is and how he thinks about me.
The unbelief in our lives can be a failure to trust with your mind that he has a perfect plan or that he can work things out for good, even when there’s a bedrock of belief in your heart that he is the Savior.
In only a couple months overseas I’ve lost my grandma, a friend from high school and my bag with everything in it was stolen (laptop, license, journal, keys). The weight of darkness sometimes presses in on me from every angle - my own circumstances, my friends rejection of Jesus, my rationality about his love in the midst of global suffering and homelessness I pass everyday.
Sometimes I try to shove my questions down my throat by consuming the fresh fruits of his promises to me. That he desires all people (1 Timothy 2:4), that he listens to me (1 John 5:14), that he's given up everything for me (Romans 8:32), that he loves me (Isaiah 43:3). These nuggets of truth feed my heart, but my mind still boggles in unrest. How can I believe he loves everyone if there are many who will never be able to know or accept this love?
I know that I follow a God who's ways are higher than mine and love deeper than I can fathom. It boils down to two principle questions for me. What does it mean when the bible says believe and be saved (Romans 10:9)? How can I combat any disbelief that the enemy throws at me?
It's hard to remember that we’re in a constant spiritual war. It's easy to see daily mishaps as misfortunes (sometimes they are, the enemy doesn’t deserve even all the credit), but often there is no coincidence that when God is using us in extraordinary ways there is a push back in other areas of our life.
Doubt is not inherently bad in itself.
Doubt can push believers to seek answers and strive to know God more. But doubt can also be a tool of darkness when used to question the Father’s character and whether he really promised these things. Back in Genesis, Eve doubted (Genesis 3:1) and from then on there has been an enmity between the children of God and those of the serpent. Whether we like it or not we are on one side or the other.
So can belief trump doubt? Now the way I grew up defining belief in God could not triumph over my fear of him. Yes I believed there had to be a God and I’d been taught that Jesus died for me, but that “belief” did not penetrate every area of my life. I feared that I would break the “rules” of the bible as in getting drunk or sexual immorality. I also feared that he was going to cause loss and suffering and that he did what was best for himself regardless of how it hurt me. I spent time serving, went to youth and bible studies and on the weekends I bent the rules in my favor so that others would approve of me if God did not. So did I actually believe in God or was I just believing lies about who he really is?
The dictionary talks about belief in three ways. 1. Accepting something exists without proof. This seems to be an easy one for most people. Everyone wants to believe this earth isn't all there is and that there is a god somewhere doing something. There are many social and cultural incentives to believing in God in America. 2. Something one accepts as true. Based on history we can justify that Jesus truly was real, but whether he is the Truth that brings salvation is another story. Maybe we know we are sinful and so this concept of him cleansing our sin sounds like something we want to accept as true. 3. Trust, faith or confidence in. This last definition of belief is the place where I think many people who grow up in the church, but don't seem to care much for God, may not have reached in their belief. This definition requires surrender of everything as if I put all my confidence in one thing it cannot be in anything else.
If I put this last definition into action that means that my whole life must radically change because the object of my belief now commands my complete trust. If I held my belief to be absolutely true then I must let it have absolutely all of me. For example, if I believed kale absolutely prevents cancer then I would eat it every day in everything and try to feed it to all my friends. I wouldn't just eat it once a week or casually mention it prevents it. Even if I doubted the science behind it or that it was really doing anything based on my inability to see the prevention in my life, I wouldn't stop eating it if it was proven to be true.
The proof in our faith comes from the resurrection of Christ and the belief is that he accomplished this so we may have a relationship with him for the rest of eternity.
So belief is not based upon my current feelings toward God, but a resting in what I know to be true.
Therefore, we can combat the spiritual darkness the enemy throws at us in doubt by letting the Father first know how we feel and telling him what we don’t understand in prayer. We can ask him to give us discernment of what may be lies and then confess to our siblings in Christ who will remind us of his love and truth.
Doubting is okay because your decision to believe cannot change. Once we are sealed with our salvation (Ephesians 1:13) he doesn't expect us to be perfect or have it all together, he just expects us to come to him with our brokenness and questions knowing that he can restore us and will continue mending us until we are complete in heaven.
Sometimes people throw scripture as if it’s the bandage to cover up bleeding. But for the truth that “all things are working together for good” to saturate I must begin with saturating in the truth that the Father himself is good. We must go to the root of our doubts. God doesn't always look so good when a mother loses her baby or a friend struggles with worth or the news reports another attack. Where is his goodness in these things? And thus, we must surely all grapple with some form of doubt in his goodness and compassion upon us at some time or we must not be aware of suffering.
After we present our frustrations of the evil that rules this world then we can cling to the only hope we have - that we are children of God through Christ and there will be a day when we will no longer suffer or cry even though we may not be able to visually see or imagine that in our present circumstances (Hebrews 11:1). He uses all suffering to further his purposes for our good (in becoming more Christ-like) and for his glory.
Our faith is not a blind trust alone, it is based on the rational promises of God revealed in him sending the real Jesus and proving he loved us by sending the wrath of our evil onto him instead of us and Jesus raising again in victory. Not only is this faith rational, but it’s emotional in how much joy he gives us if we believe it to be true and it will physically change our response to opposition.
Belief is a decision that when chosen changes everything.
So seeking answering in suffering, seeking comfort from friends, seeking purpose when feeling confused are all okay, but ultimately we have to cry out immediately first to the Creator. If we believe holds everything together then we need him to be our help. No matter what our heads may argue, that can't change the way he’s radically changes lives and shown his love to be true.