Hope for the Doubter

In my experience, absolute confidence is mostly a mirage. The bravest, most experienced and deeply faithful sometimes, even oftentimes doubt.

Will God come through for me?
Does God actually see me?
Am I going about this the right way?
Does God really love me?

Some of life’s most relatable lyrics come from U2’s signature anthem, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.

I believe in the Kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one, bleed into one
But yes, I’m still running.
You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains
You carried the cross of my shame, of my shame
You know I believe it
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

I’ve often resonated with the desperate dad described in The Gospel of Mark’s ninth chapter. His son is sick and all looks hopeless. He wants to believe, but in a moment of absolute honesty says to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

That’s been my story too. I believe on Sundays, but occasionally on Monday, I need help with my unbelief. I believe, but at times when things really aren’t looking good, I doubt. I believe, but the constant restlessness of my disquieted soul leads me to moments of questioning. I do not think I’m alone.

So, what hope is there for the doubter? A refrain from King David’s prayer in Psalm 35 gives me hope.

Say to my soul, “I am your salvation!” – Psalm 35:3b

The first dose of hope for the doubting soul is to understand that David – the man after God’s own heart – doubted. Why would David ask God to reassure him if he, the mighty warrior, didn’t on occasion have lapses of faith? “Say to my soul,” implies that in the deepest part of his being, David occasionally doubted if God was going to come through on his behalf. Therefore, let our hearts be glad to know we are not alone in our fears and anxiety. The legitimacy of your faith isn’t determined by its strength, but by its object. The weakest faith in Jesus is better than the strongest faith in yourself.

A second source of hope for the doubting soul is the origin of faith itself. David wasn’t giving himself a pep-talk. He wasn’t trying to muster up enough self-confidence to accomplish the task at hand. He prayed for God to speak to his soul. He was looking outside of himself for divine assurance. Our Western, particularly American, tendency is to self-fix, self-treat and self-help everything. WebMD is a very popular website. Many of us want to self-diagnose and treat our own medical problems. Ironically, as a father, it is so disappointing to see my children struggle to the point of tears trying to do something on their own that they cannot do on their own. Yet, it is a delight when my children, in the anguish of realizing their limitations, cry out, “Help Please!” Even the mighty David had limitations. Our limitations are actually gifts that remind us of our need for God’s help in life.

A final word of hope for the doubter is the particular nature of God’s love. David’s request for assurance wasn’t general, but personal. David asked his Father to reassure his soul. “I am YOUR salvation!” the voice of God whispers into the heart of David. Dear struggling Christian, God is not simply a Father – He is your Father. You need not make an appointment to pray, “I believe; help my unbelief!” No, you may walk right into the throne room of the King and cry, “Daddy.”

Back to Mark Chapter 9. Moments after the dad’s honest confession of doubt, Jesus interceded and brought healing to his son. We then read these remarkable words,

“But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.”

Feeling knocked down, out of air and doubtful? Ask Jesus to speak into your soul. Let Him take you up by the hand and put your back on your feet.

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