Can you recall a time when you were uncertain, when you lacked confidence or when something in your life seemed unlikely to happen? Those are times of doubt.
Doubt is yucky. It feels dark and heavy and causes us to be downcast in our souls. It can creep into any area of our lives.
Doubt drips anxious questions into our minds and our hearts like a leaky faucet against a tin pan:
- Can I really do this?
- Does anyone care?
- Am I talented?
- How will we make ends meet?
- What if I can’t find the right path?
- Am I loved?
- What if this relationship fails?
- What if I get fired?
- Where will the money come from?
- What if I get hurt or sick?
Doubt can cast dark clouds over the uncertainty of the future and seem to block the light of the Lord. Doubt’s thunder roars fearfully and cold rains of unbelief pour down upon us. No, you can’t do this. No one cares for you. You are not talented. You can not make ends meet. You will never find the right path. You are not loved. This relationship will fail. The loss of the career is eminent. The money will not be there in time.
What a miserable place to be in. When I face storms of doubt there is also a wind of shame that violently gusts through my heart threatening to blow my faith apart and take it away for good. I feel bruised, not just in the area that I was experiencing doubt in but beaten down that I doubted at all.
Faltering is NOT Failing
“Be merciful to those who doubt.” Jude 1:22 (NIV)
When we doubt it causes us to wobble, we falter. When we falter we can become unsteady. We may hesitate. Our drive decreases and we may be less effective.
Faltering is NOT failure.
Failure is when we stop something completely, when we do not even try to get back up again.
It is so tempting to think that doubt equals failure. The storms of doubt can make us feel like our plane is going to go down in a catastrophic crash that no one could survive.
What if doubt is just turbulence along the way? It makes us uneasy and unsteady, but does not stop us. It also does not mean that we are going down in a fiery crash to our final demise.
Turbulence can be awfully scary. So what do we do when we face scary times of doubt?
Trust the Pilot
Commercial airline pilots are some very well trained and experienced individuals. The information they are receiving in the cockpit and the tools they have at their fingertips brings them insight & understanding that we do not have access to from the middle seat in row 36.
We have the best flight crew ever, we have God. God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Perfect wisdom. Perfect insight. Perfect understanding. Not to mention a whole lot more information at their fingertips. We can barely comprehend the details of our individual lives on any given day. They are beyond time and see all connections of all the details of all lives that are living now, have ever lived and will ever live.
Take in this passage from Proverbs 3:5-10 (Message) as a reminder to trust our pilot:
“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
your wine vats will brim over.”
Put Your Seat Belt On
How nice would it be if life came with a seat belt sign that would light up every time we were about to go through a time of doubt? What would it be like to have God’s audible voice calmly speak into our lives letting us know it was going to be a little bumpy for a while?
Seat Belts are the straps meant to help us keep us from harmful movements that may cause injury.
I like to think about Prayer as being my seat belt in life. When I am in an airplane I feel less anxious in times of turbulence with my seat belt on. In life I feel less anxious when I am praying.
Notice I said less anxious and not perfectly relaxed? I can be a nervous nelly about, well, pretty much anything. I am still working on walking in peace all of the time. I consider less anxious to be positive progress towards peace. But, maybe that is just me.
Prayers need not be long or fancy. Sometimes prayers we can repeat, that are only one breath long, are the ones we need the most. Lord, help me be calm. Lord, show me my next step. Lord, what do I say. Lord, give me strength. Keep it simple. Pray it often.
Here is a passage from Philippians 4:6-7 (Message) to remind us to be belted in prayer:
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
Engage with Those on the Same Flight
When you are going through times of turbulence on a plane, chatting and engaging with those around you can help you take your focus off of each individual bump.
This is especially true if you have the courage to share that the turbulence has you a bit shaken. Most flights seem to have a few of those passengers that have spent more time in their lives in the air than on the ground. There seems to be a greater deal of comfort that comes from one who has a depth and breadth of experience, than the comfort that we may desperately be trying to give ourselves from within.
This is true in life as well. Engage with those around you; family, friends, fellow church goers, co-workers, community members, maybe even random strangers. You never know what comfort they may be able to offer to you through the wisdom of their experiences.
This passage from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (Message) reminds us of the benefits of engaging with those around us:
“It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!
Two in a bed warm each other.
Alone, you shiver all night.
By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.”
Push the Button for Professional Assistance
When the flight gets to be too much, sometimes we do need to push that flight attendant button. There are times when professional assistance is needed. These are times when the assistance of those around us is just not enough for what we are facing. The turbulence and doubts may have bounced and shaken us to the point of injury. That is a good indication that external help is needed.
I want to declare very openly that there is no shame in that. Professional counselors, medical doctors, pastors and others who are highly trained are there to help us. Sometimes we need them for short seasons and other times for long periods of treatment. They are equipped with tools, knowledge and insights that even those who love us most may not have.
It can be very hard to push that button and ask for help. We can doubt that help will really come or doubt that there will be anything that anyone can do. But so many times we will not find out until we ask. It might be that the first person we interact with does not have the final solution, but instead can refer us to someone else or point us in the right direction. Even if the asking is hard, and there are steps to solving the problem, it is worth pushing that button.
If you are really struggling with asking for help and reaching out others, please know that many helpers out there have been called and equipped by God to be in that position. They delight in offering us comfort and find joy in helping us. It may feel in our minds like we are a burden, but in their hearts we are an opportunity to serve.
Here is a passage from Galatians 6:1-5 (Message) to remind us to push the buttons needed for assistance and to share our burdens with each other:
“Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”
Beloved Lord, thank You so much for being our pilot in life. Thank You for the perfect insight, wisdom, and knowledge that You lead us with. Lord, help us when the storms of doubt blow in and cause turbulence in our lives.
Help us to trust You from the bottom of our heart. Help us to pray when we are anxious and worried. Help us engage with those around us rather than trying to make it through life alone. When needed, help us to seek professional assistance. May we find those You have called into those positions so that burdens may be shared and joy may be the result.
In times of sunshine and goodness, remind us to be merciful to those who doubt. Help creatively work as You have equipped us to do by the storms You have faithfully brought us through.
In the certain and unfailing name of Jesus, amen.