This is a really long post, but it is worth it for you to take the time to read through all of it. – Especially if you are working through doubting God.
I’ve mentioned this before, but somewhere back in June I began asking God to reveal the lies I had been believing, and the hope I had lost. – It was a challenge *I think* issued to our staff from our lead Pastor, but… It could have been one of our other pastors as well… I am not entirely sure the accurate genesis of this whole process for me.
While on mission and leading a team in Uganda, God began to do just that, He began to sift through my heart and show me primarily one area that I was believing total lies couched in actually accurate logic; plus, super fun: The hope I had lost was directly connected to the lies.
*shocking to no one*
Almost six months later, God and I are still working through these lies. The intensity, the clarity, confusion, processing, mulling things over, and emotions that are connected to working through these lies and hope lost varies day-to-day and week-to-week. Some days it is just overwhelming and I cannot possibly do anymore thinking or praying or processing through my heart with God. Other days there are incredible amounts of revelation and clarity, soon followed by so much thankfulness to God for His patience and graciousness to me.
Last week, while I was reading through scripture – which primarily is currently working my way through the Psalms, I found myself for no real reason flipping to James 1 (this is the NLT version) again. I have found myself bouncing back to James regularly lately, so I began to read once more… Only this time I was stuck on this one passage:
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” – James 1:5-8 (NASB version)
What kind of doubting is being talked about here? Is it all doubts that you’re praying through? Is there a Greek wording context that I’m missing?
What I knew is that I am struggling with doubting God in one particular area of my life. We have been working on this area since the summer, but the reality is I am still afraid, I still doubt, and while I know in many areas of my life that God is so gracious and full of love and tenderness… In this *one little area* I seem to believe to my core that God isn’t for me, that He will pull the rug out from underneath me, and that I will be left hurting again.
(I’m leaving the area I struggle with purposefully vague, because I want you to be able to identify your own area of struggle, not get distracted by the particular area where I struggle to trust God.)
So, as with all things that I want to know every possible expounding bit of information about, I reached out to my dad and posted on his Facebook wall, because surely someone else would benefit from this info too!
I wanted to share what my dad said because this matters, and the solution is of the utmost importance.
My actual post to his wall:
I’m reading James 1.. (Which I seem to come back to lately about once a week haha)
Ok, so question about a couple verses:
James 1:5-8 (ISV)
“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without any doubts, for the one who has doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. Such a person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he undertakes.”
I’m assuming that he isn’t talking about basic doubts, but a deeper/larger doubts here? – Because it would seem contradictory to ask in faith, to press in and pray for/through things without also working on the human side of struggling and doubting on a basic level.
I ask for wisdom CONSTANTLY in my prayers, and have my whole life… but I also know that I struggle with doubts. I don’t at all see the problem with that since in my doubting and struggling and trying to cling onto faith I am turning to God with all of this…
So, my question then is what type of doubts is he saying makes you double minded? Because this would seem to be contradictory to the working out our faith in fear and trembling idea.”
Here is the response from my Dad, along with his answer to my follow-up question about what scripture says we can do/need to do to overcome our doubts:
“OK, first, there are a lot of different types of “doubting,” some of them distinguished by different words, some by context. Unfortunately, many translations use the same word for all of these.
1) “Unbelief” (ἀπιστία – literally, “not faith”). This is being confident that it will not happen. This is actually having a very strong faith that something is not true, or will not happen. Example: Thomas.
Thomas, one of the Twelve (called the Twin), wasn’t with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he told them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger into them, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe!” A week later his disciples were again inside, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were shut, Jesus came, stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he told Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Take your hand, and put it into my side. Stop DOUBTING [literally, “Stop unbelieving”], but believe.”
2) Waiver back and forth (διστάζω – literally “duplicate, think twice”). This word is derived from the word “twice,” which is derived from the word “two.” This is when you literally waiver back and forth in the moment, trusting God, and then immediately not trusting Him. You can’t make up your mind, wavering back and forth. Example: Peter.
“Have courage!” Jesus immediately told them. “It’s me. Stop being afraid!” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come on!” So Peter got down out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came to Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he was frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, save me!” At once Jesus reached out his hand, caught him, and asked him, “You who have so little faith, why did you DOUBT [literally “waiver back and forth”]?”
3) Talk yourself out of believing (διαλογισμός – literally “through reason” or “through thinking”). We sometimes call this “over thinking” something. This is when you often start out having faith, but gradually talk yourself out of that faith, think through the reasons why God probably won’t answer, and logically conclude that it probably won’t happen. Example: Disciples
While they were all talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and told them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost. But Jesus told them, “What’s frightening you? And why are you DOUBTING [literally “talking yourself out of believing”]?
4) Separate your faith from yourself (διακρίνω – literally “to make a judgment” or “to distinguish between yourself”). This is the most common word for doubt, and is used two ways: of general doubts about the faith, and of specific doubts about a specific situation. The implication here is that you actually have faith, and are not being true to yourself and what you KNOW that you believe.
Everyone has general doubts from time to time. What we are supposed to overcome are the specific doubts.
A) General doubts.
Example: New Believers
But you, dear friends, must continue to build your most holy faith for your own benefit. Furthermore, continue to pray in the Holy Spirit. Remain in God’s love as you look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, which brings eternal life. Show mercy to those who have DOUBTS.
B) Specific doubts.
Example: Praying believers
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without any DOUBTS, for the one who has DOUBTS is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
The idea on this last one is that we are actually insulting God, or treating Him like he is not trustworthy or faithful. This is when we pray for something, but deep down inside, we don’t really believe He’s going to answer this specific prayer. He might answer other prayers, but not this one.
This is akin to telling someone that they can call you at any time, and you will help them. And when they do call you, it is clear from their attitude and tone that they do NOT actually believe you are going to follow through.
THAT is what James is talking about. When we KNOW God is faithful, and will answer this particular prayer, but we doubt Him ANYWAY!”
Solutions found in scripture:
“OK, the solutions to the problems of doubting.
It does not appear that the various kinds of doubting have different solutions. From the strong doubts that are actually negative faith, being certain it won’t happen (unbelief) to the common general doubts, there are the same recommendations. In other words, the principles for building faith are pretty much the same no matter what kind of doubts you have.
1) Fasting and prayer. We are encouraged to fast and pray in areas where we might have doubts, so that our doubts can be overcome, and our faith gradually take over.
As they approached the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, knelt down in front of him, and said, “Sir, have mercy on my son, because he is an epileptic and suffers terribly. Often he falls into fire and often into water. I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.” Jesus replied, “You unbelieving and perverted generation! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me!” Then Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of him, and the boy was healed that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He told them, “Because of your LACK OF FAITH [1) unbelief]. I tell you with certainty, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.”
2) Listen to and be encouraged by the testimony of those who have experienced God’s faithfulness. We are encouraged to use the testimony of God’s faithfulness in other people to build our own faith, and silence our doubts.
After Jesus had risen early on the first day of that week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Jesus and who now were grieving and crying. When they heard that he was alive and that he had been seen by her, they REFUSED TO BELIEVE Mary [1) unbelief]. After this, Jesus appeared in a different form to two disciples as they were walking into the country. They went back and told the others, who didn’t believe them, either. Finally he appeared to his eleven disciples while they were eating. He rebuked them for their UNBELIEF [1) unbelief] and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who had seen him after he had risen.
3) ACT on what we know to be true, in areas where we do have faith. If we act on the faith that we do have, it will silence the doubts in other areas, and build our overall faith.
Now the apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that the gentiles had also accepted the word of God. But when Peter went up to Jerusalem, those who emphasized circumcision disagreed with him. They said, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” Then Peter began to explain to them point by point what had happened. He said, “I was in the town of Joppa praying when in a trance I saw a vision: Something like a large linen sheet descended down from heaven, lowered by its four corners, and it came right down to me. When I examined it closely, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter! Kill something and eat it.’ But I replied, ‘Absolutely not, Lord, for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ Then the voice from heaven answered a second time, ‘You must stop calling common what God has made clean!’ This happened three times. Then everything was pulled back up to heaven. “At that very moment three men arrived at the house where we were staying. They had been sent to me from Caesarea. The Spirit told me to go with them WITHOUT HESITATING [4) Separate your faith from yourself]. These six brothers went with me, too, and we entered the house of the man from Caesarea.
Warning on number 3: This is specifically about acting on those areas where we have faith, so that our faith can be built up. That is NOT the same as acting on areas where we have serious struggles with doubt. We are actually warned NOT to act if we have unbelief. The scripture does NOT teach that if we do not believe, we just need to jump out there and do it, and pretend that we believe, and eventually we will believe. It actually teaches the opposite: if we have serious doubts, or unbelief about something, then it won’t happen, no matter what we DO.
We are told to act in areas where we have faith, and that will build our trust in God in areas where we have doubt.
In other words, scripture does not teach us to take blind “leaps of faith” when we are struggling with unbelief. If there is an area where we have serious doubts, scripture teaches us to first build our faith, and once our faith has been built up, then STEP OUT IN FAITH in areas where we USED to have doubts.
As for the faith you do have, have it as your own conviction before God. How blessed is the person who has no reason to condemn himself because of what he approves! But the person who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not act in faith; and anything that is not done in faith is sin.
4) Refuse to let circumstances dictate our faith. Discipline our mind to rule our emotions.
His faith did not weaken when he thought about his own body (which was already as good as dead now that he was about a hundred years old) or about Sarah’s inability to have children, nor did he doubt [4) separate your faith from yourself] God’s promise out of a lack of faith [1) unbelief]. Instead, his faith became stronger and he gave glory to God, being absolutely convinced that God would do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now the words “it was credited to him” were written not only for him but also for us. Our faith will be regarded in the same way, if we believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was sentenced to death because of our sins and raised to life to justify us.
5) Cry out to God for help in areas where we continue to struggle with doubt. God listens to desperate cries for help.
So they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into convulsions. He fell on the ground and kept rolling around and foaming at the mouth. Then Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” He said, “Since he was a child. The spirit has often thrown him into fire and into water to destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us!” Jesus told him, “‘If you are able?’ Everything is possible for the person who believes!” With tears flowing, the child’s father at once cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that won’t let him talk or hear—I command you to come out of him and never enter him again!” The spirit screamed, shook the child violently, and came out. The boy was like a corpse, and many said that he was dead. But Jesus took his hand and helped him up, and he stood up.
6) Remain faithful to God during trials, and they will harden and strengthen your faith.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you are involved in various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But you must let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
7) Regularly feed yourself with the Word of God, then the Holy Spirit will bring it alive, this will water your faith, and help it to grow.
Then the tempter came. “Since you are the Son of God,” he said, “tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One must not live on bread alone, but on every word coming out of the mouth of God.'”
I am hands down, all the struggle of the third type of doubting.
I “logically” talk myself out of faith in God.
It. Is. Terrible.
God has been speaking to me a lot since the summer; as in a whole heck of a lot. He has answered prayers, and spoken to me in the ways I’ve asked to confirm what I’m praying for/over/through (via dreams, fasting, words from friends, scripture etc..). The problem is, it always starts out renewing my faith and trust, and then, over time I begin to fear again and doubt if what I heard was just me wishful thinking. – This is why journaling my prayers has been crucial to this whole process for me, it allows me to go back and re-read the exact day. I get to read through the prayers, what I asked, how I asked for Him to speak, and the answers I have gotten along the way.
“This is when you often start out having faith, but gradually talk yourself out of that faith, think through the reasons why God probably won’t answer, and logically conclude that it probably won’t happen.” – This is me in my struggle to work through the lies that have found themselves entrenched deeply within my heart. Or maybe, a better way to say it is, I start out hopeful, and as God speaks to me I find my hope full, yet as time goes, I find myself struggling to not grasp fully onto my fear and desire for control. I desire to protect and keep myself safe rather than fully and totally trusting God, His timing, and His plan.
I have begun to detail out and write down explicitly the fears and doubts I have. I have started telling God every bit of what I think is going to happen in my fear, with my lack of trust in Him, the areas I do not believe He is for me, and how I feel regardless of what I know to be true about Him in other areas of my life. I have also started begging Him to help me see these things, face them, and then give them over to Him totally.
- Just because God’s timing is not mine, that does not make Him untrustworthy.
- Just because I experience pain, that does not mean that God is cruel.
- Just because I pray a lot for something, that doesn’t mean that God is going to do things my way.
- Just because I ask God to release me from something, that does not mean it is what is best for me.
- Just because I don’t understand, that does not mean that God doesn’t have the whole picture clearly before Him.
- Just because I hear God speak clearly in one part of the journey does not mean He will explain every bit of it to me.
- Just because God tells me something months ago, and then hasn’t updated anything, that does not mean what He said is no longer valid.
- Just because I am afraid and doubt, that does not mean that God is not tender and patient and faithful to me and my process.
If you are doubting, if you are losing faith:
Renew your process and press into our Savior. Jesus is there with the Holy Spirit to meet you. But, be aware, letting go of doubts is not easy, nor is it a pretty process; it’s raw, and very painful. And, never forget that the enemy of your soul is plotting against you with carefully crafted tactics to prevent this process from taking place. – Because the enemy of our soul is an @$$hole.
Yet, even still, our Lord is tender, patient, gracious, merciful and so incredibly faithful and trustworthy to you and your process. He wants to be a part of you giving your doubts, fears, and struggles to Him; no part of this is meant for you to do alone without His help.
You are not without hope in your doubting.