What follows is a story from my experience, followed by some scriptural advice on how to deal with doubts, especially in your Christian experience.
Most people can easily imagine their average day, but when nothing novel and exciting is going on, it’s quite hard for me to tell the difference between today’s lunch, yesterday’s lunch, and what’s that they call the day before that? Yeah, that lunch. The one rushed to, rushed through, and forgotten. The lunch that you devoured sometime during the week after you decided that you needed to slow down, chew your food, and take the time to cheer your friends instead of chewing till the eating ends. Let me tell you, this particular Sunday was nothing like that lunch. It was lit.
Or at least that’s what my imagination told me the day would be like. When many of the guys asked me whether I was going, I told them I was. I couldn’t wait to get to Dr. Celestine’s house and spend time hanging out in a new place. I couldn’t wait to get to know some of my friends in strange and unfamiliar circumstances. You never know how someone will respond to cold water until you push them in. My mind was filled with expectations and visions of the great time to be had and of plans for what to do when I got there.
Getting there was the hard part. Rumor said that the party was starting somewhere around 9:30am, and I wanted to be the first to get there. Running hither and yon like a headless chicken, I stopped each moving vehicle that seemed to be headed in the right direction and asked if I could hop in. As I settled into the first car that seemed to contain the right demographic and buckled myself in, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps I should ask where the van was headed. As we rounded the corner outside Weimar’s front gate, I poked my head around to the driver and asked,
“Hey, where are you guys going?”
He replied, “We’re headed down to play Frisbee!”
Seems I had made a bit of a mistake. Quickly asking the driver to stop, I slid out of the van and stumbled back to find more vehicles to accost. Though I was a bit embarrassed, my purpose hadn’t wavered—I was going to the party, and I was going to get there first at all costs. When I saw Jonathan’s SUV, confidence and joy bloomed inside my heart. This was the right vehicle, and it was going to take me where I longed to go.
Unfortunately, Jonathan, or whoever was driving, apparently didn’t share my enthusiasm for the party. The vehicle and all its occupants were dead set on going shopping, and in the end, I simply had to get out and find another vehicle.
Nobody seemed to be rolling around much, so I rushed into Hilton to find my people. Caleb A. Whiting was quickly tying his shoes, and by the look in his eyes, I knew that I had found my man and found my ride. He was also on a mission, and when he replied that I could join him, life suddenly became good. We dashed down to the Hillside parking lot and hopped into JJ’s old beater van. Ironically, when we swerved out onto I-80 heading west, I was too engrossed in getting Caleb’s GPS working to ask where we were going.
It was just about when we passed the Ophir Rd. exit that I began to realize that something was not quite right. That’s when the first shades of doubt began to cloud my enthusiasm. I had never been to Dr. Celestine’s place before, but I had the sudden and distinct impression that he did not live past Auburn. Quickly checking the address on my phone, I realized that I had made the ultimate mistake. Dr. Celestine does not live in the Roseville-Rocklin area, and JJ’s old van was faithfully bearing my tormented soul with its faded pool flip-flops past Loomis and steadily closer and closer to the Ultimate Frisbee game that I had tried to avoid earlier.
In the end, I gave up. As I ran back and forth as the newbie in the game, I consoled myself with the thought that remembering how to throw a Frisbee was a worthy challenge and that I did need some aerobic exercise after all. When I next met Dr. Celestine, we concluded that my Sunday-that-was-going-to-be-lit was entirely due to fate. Something about not exercising regularly enough must somehow have made it almost impossible to avoid. Strange thing: I still haven’t been able to visit Dr. Celestine and hear him tell his stories in the environment he’s accustomed to telling them in.
You’d be forgiven for concluding that the character in this story suffered from an almost pathological lack of doubt. In his haste to get to the party, he didn’t take the time to doubt whether he was using enough patience, directional skills, and effective communication to get him there without mishap. It may seem counterintuitive, but I believe that doubts are essential to real faith. To avoid temptation, healthy doubts are important, especially doubts concerning our motives and the reasoning behind our actions. It is even important to consider replacing our reasons for studying the Bible, for right actions don’t fix misdirected attitudes. When men study the Bible, there is often “a certain pride . . . mingled with the consideration of Bible truth, so that men feel impatient and defeated if they cannot explain every portion of scripture to their satisfaction. It is too humiliating for them to acknowledge that they cannot understand the inspired words. They are unwilling to wait patiently until God shall see fit to reveal the truth to them” (Steps to Christ, p. 108).
This trap has my name written all over it, because I like to think highly of my own intelligence. This spirit of self-sufficiency can have no association with finding truth. It turns out that God is the only one who can give us understanding. On the next page Ellen White says, “We (that’s me, John Hartman) are to beware of deifying reason, which is subject to the weakness and infirmity of humanity. If we would not have the Scriptures clouded to our understanding, so that the plainest truths shall not be comprehended, we must have the simplicity and faith of a little child, ready to learn, and beseeching the aid of the Holy Spirit” (Ibid, p. 109). If you are experiencing doubt about God, his love for you, and the truths in His Word, it is important to not only recognize the true nature of the problem, but also the true nature of the remedy. Instead of doubting God and your Christian experience when confronted by something that is too big for you, use it as an opportunity to grow. Here’s how.
When was the last time you beseeched anybody for anything? Even in my haste to get to the party, I didn’t think to beseech my friends to change their plans and take me to the party. That would be next-level asking right there. Perhaps now is the time to start doing more of this kind of asking. Make haste to do this: as you study God’s Word, ask Him to grow your mind to understand it, and know that He will do it. Keep the following texts in mind, and know that when doubts arise, the way to victory is to doubt yourself enough to seriously ask God for answers, and to expect that He will give them in His time.
“My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee.
Keep my commandments, and live; and the law as the apple of thine eye.
Bind them upon thy fingers, write them on the table of thine heart” (Pro 7:1-3 KJV).
Lest you think you have some writing to do, God uses the same language from Proverbs to promise something:
“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31:33).
Paul the Apostle takes both of these texts a bit further, saying in Second Corinthians,
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor 7:1).
The promises Paul refers to are found in the previous chapter. He quotes Jeremiah,
“For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor 6:16).
God promises, so ask Him to deliver. He delivered me.