At some point or another, we all experience doubt. It can be in a situation, in a person or even in ourselves. Sure, it’s unpleasant. But could it have more impact than we think? Are we aware of the real danger of doubt and how it affects our minds, identities and faith?
Doubt is a sneaky little booger
I believe it is more than a feeling we all occasionally struggle with. And if you caught my last post on unplugging our brains, you know I loath doubt. It slithers into our thoughts and hangs out in our minds.
It tells you that you can’t.
You shouldn’t bother.
It probably won’t work anyway.
You’re going to fail.
Doubt likes to show up particularly when we get really excited about something. And if it manages to talk us out of doing that thing, then it becomes a quiet, constant drone in our thoughts. Almost like a second nature.
Oh, I know, because I’ve spent way too much time doubting myself. Doubting my strengths. Doubting my design. Even doubting my God. I’ve seen it have a direct influence on my thoughts, my actions and yes, even my identity.
It has many faces
Many, many faces. Doubt can come across as disbelief, uncertainty, fear, questioning. Sometimes it looks like a lack of conviction or lack of confidence.
But we can’t go thinking only unconfident people struggle. Even the most confident people still have doubts. Besides, it is so much more than a confidence issue.
Now, what is the difference between doubting and asking legitimate questions, i.e. being introspective? Great question. I believe appropriate introspection means asking ourselves questions so we can move forward. But like what Jeremy Dean says in his blog post, How to Fight Excessive Doubt, too much self-analysis can lead to stagnation.
The key element is forward movement. Because doubt doesn’t help us move forward. In fact, it always puts on the brakes.
Not just a fleeting feeling
In the Christian life, I believe doubt is intentional. It has a specific mission. In fact, I think it’s safe to assume its goal is to make you stand still.
Last year I saw memes floating around with a message that illustrated this point perfectly: doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.
What happens exactly when we doubt? The wind is taken out of our sails. We lose motivation and momentum. But is that it, or does it go deeper?
I know in my life, when I start doubting something, it doesn’t stop at just that one idea. Have you ever noticed doubt doesn’t have anything positive to say…ever? And one negative thought breeds another.
First, I doubt my idea.
Then I doubt my creativity.
Then I doubt my intelligence.
Then I doubt my design.
Mmm-hmm, recognize this downward spiral? I believe that is the mission of doubt.
Because there is a bigger picture than just a little doubt
See, Satan has it out for all Christians. And if he can use doubt to keep us guessing about our abilities, we’ll second guess our design. And if we’re not confident in our design, we won’t have the freedom to move forward in our purpose.
Worse, we’ll eventually doubt the one who made us. Who created our unique identities and gave us our purpose. We’ll doubt God. We’ll doubt His character.
And I believe that is the ultimate purpose of Satan’s attack – to shatter our confidence in the One who made us.
So I had to ask: how do we nip it in the bud?
For me, that answer came in a roundabout way. My pastor has a perspective that helped get me started: doubt is just an area where you don’t know God well enough. I think this is legit.
For example, the first two years my husband and I lived in New Hampshire were hard. I mean, really HARD. My husband lost his job twice, I struggled with decompressing from a high-stress job and being a new mom, we tried to buy a house that ended in court and a lot of money was lost… After all of that, you bet I doubted.
Doubted that I should have left my emergency services job.
Doubted that we should have moved to New Hampshire.
Doubted I should even be a mom.
Doubted God’s provision.
Doubted that He had good intentions toward me and my family.
I know what you’re thinking: Satan had me right where he wanted me. I wrestled with my faith and spent a lot of time angry with God.
Ironically, it wasn’t directly debunking the doubt that pulled me out of that dark place. Nor was it getting answers to all of my questions. It was taking the time to study God’s character. The more I realized who God is, the more I realized his plan and healing in my life.
One last point, then I’ll stop talking your ear off…
I believe God deals gently with doubt. Take Thomas from the gospel of John, chapter 20. Jesus met him head-on by revealing his wounds from being crucified and essentially said, “See? I beat death. You can believe me – I’ll never put you to shame.”
Doubt might be something we all struggle with for the rest of our lives – after all, or flesh is broken – but we can choose what we do with it: believe the lies, or lean into the character and love of Gd.