when questions turn to doubt

questions turn to doubt

If you’ve been a Christian for more than five minutes, I would wager that (at least once) you’ve felt a certain back-of-the-brain creeping fear come over you. Quietly, unassumingly, a question emerges to the center stage of your heart: Am I doing what God wants me to do?

This question. This anxiety. Oh how I wish I could just recite a positive platitude -to myself, to anyone- and that would be enough! On one hand, I believe that the question starts from a place of good intentions- simply put, we want to please God. But on the other hand- the question so easily becomes a way for the Enemy of our souls to overtake us with F E A R.

I’m tempted to look at my work life and jump to the conclusion that the jobs I’ve held, the projects I’ve contributed to, the time spent at a desk or at the kitchen sink or on a video shoot…somehow it doesn’t measure up. I try to asses the growth of my marriage, my family, or my children and I’m tempted to quantify it- check this box here, mark that off the list. Even mundane decisions come under the scrutiny of my own critical judgement (what if I made the wrong choice? what if I missed God’s direction?) and end up driving me crazy.

Even as I ask the question– am I doing what God wants me to do? am I “in His will”? am I walking in obedience? (there are many versions of the same idea…) — what I am actually doing is slightly repositioning myself to a place of perceived objectivity. But can we even see ourselves correctly?

Proverbs 14:12 says that, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Isaiah warns about “those that call evil good and good evil.” Without the truly objective voice of God leading us, we will inevitably revert back to our old way of thinking and our old standard of judgement (i.e., ourselves as god.) The old way is self-reliant; the old way leads to death. But Paul charges us, those who have responded in faith to God, with this statement: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom. 12:2) So, a spiritual renewing of my mind is needed…how does that happen? (another question!) 

Although these scriptures are so familiar, there is still much of my heart that needs changing because I find myself going through this internal interrogation often. Even recently, as I was walking our dog to get the mail, I felt the questioning come back to me yet again. Am I doing what God wants me to do? Only this time, instead of getting caught in a mental web of doubt and self-criticism, I felt the Holy Spirit begin to teach me about what was happening. (The Spirit of God is interested in breaking these kinds of cycles, friend!)

I sensed in my heart, in the most tenderly assertive way, almost as if a finger was pointing to the question itself and calling it “a lie.” And once the lightbulb switched on inside me, I could see the questioning for what it really is: a mechanism that the Enemy uses to distance us from our Lord; to make us doubt our place with Him; to instigate our own will into (eventual) action and the initiation of doing whatever it takes to prove our own righteousness.

In that flash of a moment, I also sensed the Lord drawing me closer, inviting me to a deeper intimacy with Him. Instead of trying to objectively assess my “progress” or whatever with God (which we’ve already seen is impossible and a waste of time), the offer was extended to just rest in His presence. Instead of shriveling up in a ball of worry (of failing, of not measuring up, etc.), I could exhale. I could let myself be vulnerable with my Creator. I could release my deepest thoughts and feelings with Him.

Instead of fear, I could trust.

Later in the New Testament, John (the cousin of Jesus) writes a letter to the early Church and describes what real love is like. He references God’s love for us more than 10 times in the short chapter of 1 John 4- love comes from God, God is love, he loved us, God so loved us, the love God has for us, he first loved us. John cuts to the point in verse 10, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” God’s love has been, and continues to be, so incredibly pro-active that he sent his Son, Jesus, to bridge the gap between us. His love is a searching love– it is a conquering love!

~Take a minute and go read the chapter. It’s like living water washing over our minds, these words of love meant for you and me. This simple obedience, of reading and receiving, is the first step to the renewal of our minds.~

After establishing this extravagant love of God for his creation, John says this in verse 18, There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

When I allow the question of “Am I doing what God wants me to do?” to reign supreme over my heart, it wrecks havoc by introducing fear and doubt. I’m temped to take the bait of fear (of somehow being excluded from the love of God) or doubt (that what the scriptures say about him is really true.) Rather than trusting the perfect love of God as exemplified through the work of the cross, I’m reverting back to my own ideas of what is “right” or my own plan for earning love/salvation.

But the truth is that God desires intimacy with us, and the Holy Spirit’s job is to lead us there, to that secret place with Him. This is why he pointed out the lie of my doubting heart as I was walking the dog one ordinary day. It wasn’t to humiliate or shame me for a faulty line of thinking– it was to bring freedom! The Spirit of God brings light to the places that are dark within us because He loves us. Because He longs for us to draw closer to Him and not be hindered by the things that have held us back in the past. And let me say this– when the Lord brings conviction, it is like a healing balm to our broken places. His reprimand is life-giving, not soul-crushing.

It is also true that the greatest threat to the Enemy is when we, as believers, reject the anxious questioning and believe that God’s love really is enough. When we respond to that love, when we lean into His beckoning presence, when we abide there– that is where we are secure. Nothing of the Enemy’s purposes will come to fruition when we are hidden in Christ’s perfect love.

Now that the lies have been unmasked, I am ready to let go of these fearful questions. Instead of trying to mentally work out the will-of-God in my own strength (just think about how silly that sounds!), I want to simply run into my heavenly Father’s arms and rest there. The closer I am to His heart, the easier His love will flow in mine. And from this place of sweet communion, I can receive His direction and be lead onward.

What about you…are you ready to let go of the questioning? Will you let go of doubt and lean in to His call?

Published by Sara Beth Longenecker

Sara Beth Longenecker is a writer and blogger based in Nashville, TN. She helps women sort through the noise of our culture by bringing them truth, beauty, and everyday theology.

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