In this post I’m not attempting to provide all the answers, but am only geared at sharing with you all my most toilsome struggle…. doubtfulness. This isn’t something I’ve written about much, but being that I desire to be as transparent as possible… I feel like it’s time I should.
My conversion was only two years ago (although it feels like an eternity) and I clearly remember the immediate joy, peace and unexplainable contentment I had. But I also remember within days of my newfound love for God there was also a dark and heavy presence in my mind. The best way I know how to describe it is as doubt. My mind was being bombarded with fears and thoughts like “none of this is real” or “God doesn’t really exist”, etc; but at the same time I wanted God and I thought that I believed in Him. It was absolutely horrific. I would talk to my few Christian friends about my doubts and chaotic thoughts, but it just didn’t seem like they understood what I was saying. I don’t think that they had ever experienced anything like what I was going through, and I am thankful that they hadn’t. But I felt so alone, trapped in my mind… unable to escape the fear of my own thoughts… they plagued me constantly.
Never, in the midst of all my doubts, did I want to go back to my previous sinful lifestyle… and I thank God for His grace in keeping me from wanting to return to my sin-filled life. I never wanted to leave God or turn away from Him…. I was just scared to death that He wasn’t who He said He was. I was scared that all those soul-anchoring promises in the Bible weren’t true or didn’t apply to me. I was scared that I didn’t have Him.
Although the Lord has graciously worked in my heart and granted me increasing levels of assurance since the time of my conversion, doubt is still something that I struggle with to a large degree. Most would assume that lust would be my biggest battle, but my fight with lust is minuscule compared to my fight with doubt and unbelief. Actually, I don’t even think that I would compare the two sins side by side like that. I believe that my struggles with other sins in my life, like sexual lust, actually stem from the black hole of unbelief in my heart.
Most of the time… I literally feel crazy. Borderline schizophrenic. There’s a war taking place inside of my heart and mind constantly between light and darkness, truth and falsity, trust and fear. Because I have thoughts like, “Is Jesus really who the Bible said He was?”, I find myself really contemplating whether or not my professed faith in Christ is even genuine. That’s a scary thought, huh? The possibility that I’m doing all of these “good things” in His name without real faith in Him is absolutely terrifying. Yet, for reasons that I can’t pinpoint or explain, I do believe that I am His. I do believe that in the very core of my being, beyond my intellect, I do trust, know and believe Jesus Christ. I thank the Holy Spirit for this blessed assurance.
When I realized pretty early on that my doubts were not going to instantaneously disappear, I decided to be real with both myself and God about them. It took me a few months to really come humbly before God and say, “I doubt You”… but I did. From that moment I felt like I started making headway in this struggle rather than being stuck in the mud of my own inabilities. It’s like God was like, “Matt, I already knew that you doubted me. I know you don’t trust Me as you should. But I wanted you to come to Me with your fears, so I could walk you through them.”
I’ve always found it weird that although the thoughts in my mind often clash with the truth of who the Bible says that God is, I still come to Him with it. Broken and distraught I may be, but I come to Him. Logically, you would think that if a person was doubting the claims of Christianity and the Bible, that they would just completely reject it and start looking into other “sources” for God and for truth– or they may just forget about the whole idea of there being a god and return to a life of menial tasks and hobbies. I mean, it happens all the time all across the world, right? People have the same doubtful thoughts that I have, and flee from the God of Christianity.
But I haven’t. Why?
Because the Holy Spirit has given me a desire for God that is bigger than my doubts about God.
I would love for God to snap His fingers and make all my thoughts flow perfectly in line with His truth. I would love for Him to magically make all my doubts disappear and place my mind in joyous, continual submission to His Word with no second-guessing. Actually, my preference would be for Jesus to come down from heaven and talk to me physically face to face on a daily basis. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet. But like I say all the time, if God allows us to struggle with a certain weakness or “thorn in the flesh” for a season, it is most certainly for our good in the greater scheme of things. Although my mind may not work in the simplicity of trust that I wish it would right now, the Holy Spirit has given me insight through the Word of God into what exactly is taking place inside of me when I have all these doubts and how to effectively battle it.
It’s impossible to wrap my mind around goes on in my mind… which is why I am so thankful that God has given us truth in a visible, tangible and concrete form– the Word of God– to tell us what the heck is wrong with us. The Bible lays out for us not only the truth of mankind’s universal, sinful sickness…. but also the reality of the Christian’s double-nature. I do have a new, regenerated heart that believes God and wants to submit to God (which was birthed in me by the Holy Spirit), but I simultaneously inhabit flesh that hates God. My heart, my spirit, wants to fully trust God with all of my being without skipping a beat….. but my flesh, my sin-stained mind, thoughts and emotions… wants to do everything but that. My flesh wants to contain all knowledge and possess ultimate control. My flesh is self-reliant, self-centered and self-exalting.
My flesh wants to be God.
You can see (and have probably experienced) how the strain between these two internal realities can be overwhelming…. but the realization of what’s really going on inside one’s self brings the light of understanding to the darkness of confusion. I have these unwanted thoughts, doubts and fears when it comes to Jesus Christ because somewhere still within the depravity of my human soul my conscience still says “Matt is ultimate. Matt is all-wise. Matt is all-knowing. Matt is the decider of what is or isn’t truth.”
Pride, right? Right.
You see, what I need to really understand, deep within my soul, is that Jesus is not the One who is on trial here… I am. We all are. It’s not up to debate whether Jesus is or isn’t who He claimed to be. Jesus is who He is. We are the one’s that will be judged for what we do with His self-revealed identity.
I think I just wanted to write this to let all you other “secret doubters” out there know that you aren’t alone… and to help you to see that you are the flawed one, not Jesus. Rather than doubting Jesus so much, try doubting your doubts. The Scripture says that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds…this renewal is a marathon, not a sprint. We have to be diligent, disciplined and rigorous in our pursuit of Christ….. regardless of what kind of ungodly, carnal thoughts our flesh is throwing at us. If you’re doubting God… keep seeking Him. Your doubts don’t negate your faith. Chances are, if you didn’t really have faith in Christ, you wouldn’t care enough to have doubts either.
The Holy Spirit will strengthen and teach us. He strengthens me, comforts me and sustains me daily.
We must persevere…. in faith.