Growing up we had a set of well-used, blue, slightly tattered Bible stories for children. I remember many times curling up in an armchair with these books and soaking up the fascinating tales. I pored over the brightly coloured illustrations that will forever be associated with these stories in my mind. Never did I question that any of it was anything less than the truth.
I don’t remember when the first thoughts of doubt crept into my mind. It was as an adult, when I started realizing that some (lots) of what I’d learnt just didn’t make sense. It wasn’t believable at all. It defied logic, reason, and common sense.
Seeds of doubt are planted
Questions about the credibility of some of the rather fantastic stories of the Old Testament. Questions about who actually wrote these things. Questions about if the translations we read today are even anywhere close to what was written all those many years ago. Questions about the gospel of the New Testament.
“Seriously, the animals just came in sets of two and marched onto the ark of their own accord?”
“What if Jesus wasn’t actually who He said he was?”
“There is no proof that Jesus never sinned, no one can know what went on inside of Him.”
“Paul wrote all of these letters and I’m just supposed to believe that everything he says is exactly how God wants me to live my life?”
“Does life actually have a point? I wonder if this life is maybe all we get?”
And so on.
A burden of guilt
I felt awful. These questions made me feel guilty and discouraged. I had always heard of and believed in a life of victory over sin. That there was a way out of things like laziness, envy, selfishness – things in my nature that made me be someone that I didn’t want to be. But now with all these questions, I wasn’t sure if it was true anymore. And if it was true, was I even worthy of being a disciple of Jesus, if I was thinking thoughts like that?
My thoughts would go around in circles. But I knew that if I were just to give up my life as a Christian, as someone who believed that Jesus overcame all sin and made it possible for me to do the same, I didn’t know what I would live for anymore. What is life without a goal, without something to live for?
I seesawed between rejecting what I’d been taught and dealing with a bad conscience in case it was true after all.
I felt like I was in a never-ending struggle. I’d always learnt that the source of doubt was Satan – that he would go to all lengths to plant seeds of doubt that could grow up and strangle my faith. But they felt like they were my own thoughts and the guilt of my unbelief made me feel heavy and weighed down. At the back of my mind there was still always something telling me that God was watching.
Making a choice
But gradually I came to understand something. Having faith in God and believing in Him, His Son, His Word was a choice that I had to make. By God’s grace I made that decision. I chose to believe that the thoughts of doubt were not mine. They were from Satan, who used my human reasoning and the guise of “common sense,” and I would not agree with him.
“What if Satan doesn’t actually exist, what if it’s all made up? You need to think for yourself as a rational human being. Don’t just believe everything because it’s what you’ve always been taught.” The decision didn’t stop the thoughts.
“I choose to believe that all of it is true.” That was my standpoint.
“Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24. That was the verse that I clung to. It was, and is, the cry of my heart.
I choose to believe in the truth of every word written in the Bible. That it is the inspired Word of God. (2 Timothy 3:16)
I choose to believe in God, His promises, His power, His love, because without that hope life becomes unstable, dark, heavy, suspicious, pointless. But when I believe that God is the creator of everything, created me, has a plan for me, is powerful enough to do all that I ask and more, and can lead me to a transformed life in Christ, then I have a hope. My life has a purpose.
It was just a matter of me being willing to be obedient. “Be anxious for nothing.” Philippians 4:6. It’s written in His Word. So then I started with faith that I can get victory over anxiety. I asked God to give me the power to fight against these temptations and to bring my life into alignment with His word. He supplied the power, but I also knew that I needed to take the initiative – I needed to take action.
Faith meant that I had to obey, and I fought the temptation to be anxious, even when I didn’t see results right away. When I kept fighting anyway, believing that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it,” then eventually I began see the fruits of my faith. (Philippians 1:6) What I believe in, and continued in, but didn’t see, started to become a reality. Anxiety is being replaced by rest and peace.
That was proof that faith is real. My faith becomes rooted and grounded as I see it working. I can go from area to area in my life. Although now I see how lazy I am, I believe that I can overcome that too. Faith has to be tested to be strengthened, so that it is proven to be genuine. (1 Peter 1:7) And as it becomes more and more genuine, then I find peace and rest and the doubt and unbelief are overcome. It’s a work that takes time; it doesn’t happen in a few days, or weeks, or months even. But the testing of faith produces patience. (James 1:3)
A God of miracles
Satan is going to try to break me; that’s what he does. But my decision has already been made. I stand according to my faith. I pray for strength and help to the God that I believe is powerful and able to do all I ask of Him. (Ephesians 3:20)
Of course thoughts of doubt still come sometimes. But now I can more or less laugh them off. Not because I’m being thoughtless, but because I have thought about it. I know where these thoughts are coming from, and I’ve already decided that they are not going to have a say in my life. I know what I believe in. I’ve already made that decision.
Yes, some of the stories in the Old Testament are rather fantastic, but that’s because we have a God who is rather fantastic. He is almighty, and for Him, miracles are no problem. That is evident by the miracle that He is doing in me.