So, the last little while I've been assailed by all these doubts. I don't think I need to go into them as they are only too unoriginal - but sometimes I feel like I am literally battling them, whenever I am alone. I've always been ashamed by doubt, like I can't speak about it, but as I get older they get more difficult to handle and I realise that a lot of other people are in the same boat. A little voice comes into my head - it speaks much more clearly than my normal thoughts do - suggesting that this is ridiculous and unlikely and then I get caught up in a brain storm of 'is that my own voice or the devil's?', 'do I really believe?', etc etc. Sometimes I wish I had to undergo a little persecution because it's much easier to identify evil to resist when it comes at you plainly; evil wears a subtle garment in our Western world.
I was sitting in church today thinking about how annoying I find myself. I have seen more than enough to decide for myself that God is there and that he revealed himself through Christ. But somehow it all comes to naught when doubts come into my mind. And I worry that I will spend my entire life fighting those doubts.
But then we read a few verses in the service that really encouraged me. (And that's what church is for, right?)
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1vv15-19.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Romans 8vv31-33.
The remembrance of God's love for me is a powerful thing. The remembrance that Jesus is at God's side right now, fighting for me, is something a little more than encouragement. The remembrance that if I ask it of him, God will reward me with answers and wisdom and understanding, is hope. As I sat thinking about these verses, another little voice spoke in my mind, this time a different one: You are someone who has to fight for understanding, who will not be content with blindness - and that's a good thing.
Sure, in a few hours I will probably dismiss the voice as my own or a figment of my imagination - but I want to write it down now for me to remember. God gave me my personality, he gave me the people I grew up around and the things that have influenced me. He doesn't need me to be a clone of those amazing Christians who understand everything right away and stay steadfast every moment of their lives (if, in fact, they exist). I suspect that if I fight hard enough I will be a better witness for my Father than if I had never had to struggle at all.
So, on a different note, this is what I do when I start getting worried by it all:
1) I read the Bible. My favourite bits, bits I've never read before, bits I've never understood just to get my mind active - anything.
2) I read a few authors who form my unit of Surefire Protection from Idiocy. One is C. S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letters is especially relevant when I start noticing the little voice. Mere Christianity is another good'un which I wish I could memorise and recall at opportune moments. And the Narnia Chronicles are old favourites. The other author I read is Adrian Plass. He's a British guy who writes books about Christians who are flawed, funny and REAL. Instant reality check, instant encouragement and inspiration. A favourite is The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, Aged 37 and 3/4, but just about any of his books will do.
3) I listen to, or play, music. Mendelssohn's Hear My Prayer or Handel's Messiah are my most common choices on the piano for this purpose. I like listening to Brooke Fraser or Jars of Clay a lot in these times, but my very favourite is my brother, Russell. He has made a few CDs over the year, as the muso of the family - he writes amazing Christian lyrics, plays and composes all the music, and sings too. He's really good. He gave me his most recent work when I visited him in Malaysia in November, and there is a song on that called "Every Living Thing", based on the words of Psalm 148. It is such a joyful song and every time I listen to it I can't help but be infected with the joy of the song and I want to jump around shouting - usually I don't but you get the idea. I wish I could share it with whoever reads this but I don't have Russell's permission. His other music too - maybe it's that we're in the same family but he writes about things that come up so often in my head that almost all his songs are miracle cures for me. And I'm just a little bit proud of him too. :)
4) I'm an amateur historian and so I start thinking about what happened around New Testament times. I try to think of Jesus not as some faraway concept but as a real man I could have touched or seen with my eyes if I lived then. I think of the disciples and try to imagine being in their place, and I look at how they behaved. To me, the transformation of the disciples after the resurrection of Christ is the most tangible proof I could offer as to the reality of the resurrection. Eleven woebegone, scared men who doubt Jesus and deny him, suddenly become men who proclaim what has happened from the rooftops and will do anything to pass on the message. Almost all of them die for their Saviour. I'm aware that some people who aren't as thrilled by history as I am won't find that a compelling argument - but I do.
I also read books like The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel during doubtful times.
5) I start praying in the way easiest to me - by writing. I get lost very quickly if I try to pray in my head and I stray into cliche very easily if I pray out loud in front of people.
How do you combat doubts?