How to Combat Doubt

I couldn’t believe how many times in a 24-hour period I’d catch myself in statements of doubt. Every statement took me by surprise because I thought my faith in God was stronger than that. When I began to follow some basic steps for combatting doubt, my outlook became more positive.

  1. Acknowledge – I acknowledged the situation. Once confronted with a situation that could create doubt, I explained to God why it was a mountain for me.
  2. Profess – I professed my faith. I told God I truly believed He was able to remove the mountain from my path.
  3. Ask – I asked for grace. Every time doubt concerning the mountain began to rear its ugly head the slightest bit, I asked God for His grace to help my faith in Him stay strong.
  4. Thank – I expressed my thanks. Even before work on the mountain began, I thanked God for being the building contractor of my life. I thanked Him because I knew I could trust in His expertise and in the plan He designed with my best in mind.

Disclaimer: Following these steps did not ensure my problems were fixed according to my specifications, but they did give me a more positive way to approach my problems and combat doubt.

Haven of Hope

It was breathtaking to watch Haven glide over the shore. Her rescuers looked on with wonder as the seagull soared through the air more smoothly than they thought possible. It was indeed a miracle, they decided. After the accident, they feared the bird would never fly again.

The memory of that day was still fresh in the minds of those who witnessed the accident. Haven walked along the shore too near the parking lot. The impact of a car sent her bounding across the pavement. Some witnesses rushed to the seagull’s side, and some ran to the nearest lifeguard station. Two lifeguards who assisted with wildlife rescues grabbed their towels, boarded their rescue truck, and followed the witnesses to the scene of the accident. One lifeguard knelt beside Haven and threw her towel over the gull. She kept Haven’s bill closed, and picked up the bird, holding its wings close to her own warm body as they boarded the truck. The other lifeguard drove them to a nearby wildlife sanctuary.

Workers at the sanctuary determined that several bones in Haven’s left wing were badly broken. Though very uncertain that she would ever fly again, the wildlife workers cared for her through a long period of recovery to allow her wing to heal completely. A widower paid the gull a visit during her stay at the sanctuary. He was one of the people Haven had seen each day on the shore in the lonely hours before sunrise. He scratched his head under his knitted cap and tugged at his matching scarf to loosen it from his neck.

“I miss the comfort of your companionship,” he spoke to the bird. “We’ve spent many a morning together. I miss your curiosity as you watch people along the embankment with the slight tilt of your head that you have right now. You’re the only seagull I know who patiently and politely waits for a bite of fish or a cake of bread. Get well soon, huh?”

One by one, familiar people from the shore came to visit, sharing the same sentiments as the widower. The mother of grown children fighting multiple sclerosis, the laid-off factory worker with the local paper’s classifieds, and the freelance photographer carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders all spent time with Haven at the sanctuary.

Finally, the day came for the wildlife rescuers to see if Haven could fly. They took her to the top of a cliff just above the shore and set her free. A throng of people gathered with great hope that the gull would be able to fly once more. When she far exceeded everyone’s expectations, there were gasps, tears of rapture, and applause. It was a wondrous sight to behold.

As the widower, mother, factory worker, and photographer looked on that day, they somehow didn’t feel so consumed by the hopelessness of loneliness, disease, uncertainty, and anguish. If God could care for Haven in such a glorious way, they concluded, He could surely care for them and see them through.

How We Perceive Devotion to God

Misperceiving

A winding, cylindrical object with a patterned design rested motionless on the carpet, but I didn’t know for how long. I inched toward it to take a closer look, fearing the worst, yet determined to protect the grandchild in my care. With quick thinking, I grabbed a heavy candleholder from a nearby shelf, ready to crush the object if it was a snake. As I came within inches of it, I realized that this object resting beside a toy guitar was nothing more than a guitar strap!

 

True Devotion to God

Just as it is easy to misperceive what we see, it is also easy to misperceive devotion to God. Isaiah 58 paints a completely different picture of what that should look like than we might imagine. The reference explains that meeting the needs of the hungry and homeless and easing the burdens of the oppressed are ways in which we show our devotion to God.

Devotion to God Rewarded

Isaiah 58 goes on to explain that God honors this true devotion to Him by granting us healing, guidance, refreshing, strength, protection, and the assurance of His answer when we call upon Him. The Israelites wondered why, after all of their fasting, God wasn’t answering their prayers. The problem was that they were fasting while continuing to mistreat others. We can’t show true devotion to God without demonstrating His love.

A Final Word

Misperceptions are bound to happen. Sometimes they are harmless and make us laugh, but sometimes they are the reasons behind unanswered prayers.

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The Pen and the Sword

I’m not sure you can relate to this, dear reader, but I miss my pen.

You see, I grew up in a day when a pen was the primary device for written communication. Sure, we had typewriters, even electric typewriters, but those were used mainly for business. Personal communication in the written format was always done by pen.

In school, we had no computers. If we ever did have an assignment in junior high or high school that was to be submitted in a typed format, we had a typing lab with both the standard and electric typewriters. However, a pen was sufficient for the majority of our assignments.

There was no such thing as text messaging, social media, or email because there were no cell phones or computers in our homes. The pen wrote notes to friends, letters to loved ones, and love letters to those who captured our hearts. It notified of joyous births, it kept families close during the war, and it comforted those touched by death.

There were no electronic signatures. If you needed to place your John Hancock on a document, you did so with a pen. You were allowed to print or type your name (with typewriter) below your signature, but your signature was written in pen.

As an author, my first manuscript submissions were drafted in pen, typed on a typewriter, and submitted by snail mail. Today, most publishers prefer emailed submissions.

This is the point that brings me back to present day. I’ve grown so accustomed to using electronic devices for correspondence and publishing that I don’t spend nearly as much time as I used to with my pen.

So today, I took a moment to introduce myself to my pen, just in case it forgot who I am!

Finally, allow me to make this comparison between my pen and my sword, the Bible. I used to sit on the floor and study God’s Word with my dictionary at one knee, my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance at the other knee, and my Bible in my lap. The Internet eliminated the need for the big bulky books, but it also ushered in an infinite number of opinions on and interpretations of the Bible.

Oh, how easy it has become to accept someone else’s gleaning of the Scripture instead of studying it ourselves. What a challenge it is to really work at studying the Bible so we won’t be deceived or deceive others (2 Tim. 2:15). While our Bible apps and online study tools now facilitate this, we embrace the fact that the Bible need not be rewritten to suit our sin.

 

Stop to See What God Can Do

As he shoveled snow in the early morning hours in below-zero windchill, my son-in-law still managed to comment on the beauty of the snow. I was embarrassed. In all of my moaning, I hadn’t even bothered to notice the aesthetic pleasure the snow could bring. I turned around. Thick white blankets cascaded down rooftops. Street lights illuminated the large but silent flakes as they fell. I smiled, relieved that I hadn’t missed the wonder and serenity of the morning.

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It reminded me of one ocean sunset in particular that I watched a couple of years ago. A well-dressed man with a briefcase spoke on his earpiece cell phone as he walked near the pier. He stopped abruptly and told the other caller he’d have to call back. He found a place to stand beside me on the pier because he just had to do what everyone else was doing. We were viewing the sunset that, but for the roar of the ocean, brought a reverent silence among us.

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I don’t think it was merely a coincidence that my Scripture reading for today fit so perfectly with my morning.

He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down. Then everyone stops working so they can watch his power (Job 37:6-7 NLT).

A Crack in the Ceiling

Have you ever noticed how comforting the tiniest bit of light can be in the blackest night? Even a pinpoint laser light in a totally dark room makes me feel more at ease, as long as it’s not shining in my eyes when I’m trying to sleep!

Sometimes our failures make us feel like we’re groping through a darkness that has caved in around us. It’s a frightening feeling when we struggle to find our way out. We fear the obstacles and dangers that might be in our path. We plea for God’s mercy. Suddenly, a microscopic crack in the ceiling is all we need to give us hope. A sliver of light shines through the crack. We’d know that light anywhere. It belongs to our Father. The boards and rocks that barricaded us are pried away. His healing begins.

Though we’ve survived the ordeal, the scars remain in the consequences of our failures. We may despise our gruesome scars, but they are the very reminders we need to keep us from repeating past failures. These scars keep us humble, and humility allows our Father’s light to shine through us.

There Is Hope (Part 2)

(Sources: Cooper and Newton Museum; cyberhymnal)

In the first part of this blog post, the struggles hymnist William Cowper had with mental illness were introduced to help you understand how humbled he felt by God’s grace. In this second part, you are encouraged to not lose hope for your loved ones with mental illness.

Cowper’s Mental Illness

Several things may have contributed to William Cowper’s mental illness.

  1. When he was six years old, his mother died.
  2. He was sent to boarding school and bullied continuously.
  3. His seven-year courtship with his cousin, to which the girl’s father objected, ended before they could be married.
  4. A rival faction challenged his appointment to England’s House of Lords.
  5. He entered a mental institution.
  6. When he was well enough, he moved in with a minister and his wife. Two years later, the minister was killed in a riding accident. Cowper cared for the wife for several years, and was engaged to her until his mental illness plagued him and convinced him otherwise.
  7. When he moved in with the minister, he also became close friends with the Evangelical clergyman John Newton (Amazing Grace). Together they wrote many hymns. Sadly, when Cowper suffered his mental breakdown during his engagement to the minister’s widow, he convinced himself that God had rejected him. He never went to church again.

 

Of the hymns that Cowper penned, the following is my personal favorite.

God Moves In a Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea

And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines

Of never falling skill

He treasures up His bright designs

And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break

In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour;

The bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err

And scan His work in vain;

God is His own interpreter,

And He will make it plain.

 

An Encouraging Word

If you have a loved one suffering with mental illness, please don’t lose hope. For the glory of God, such souls have written profoundly beautiful words, painted breathtaking scenes, and composed melodies that shattered hearts of stone.

A Final Verse

Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have (Romans 4:18 NLT)!”

 

There Is Hope

(Sources:  Cooper and Newton Museum; cyberhymnal)

William Cowper suffered from mental illness. He was promised a job as clerk of the Journal of the House of Lords in England. However, when he found out he’d have to be interviewed publicly in the House, he agonized over it. The day before his interview, he read an article about himself in the newspaper and, in his poor mental state, interpreted it as having malicious intent.

Cowper decided suicide was the only answer. He first planned to throw himself in a deep ditch, but he changed his mind when it occurred to him that he could escape public wrath by leaving the country. He changed his mind about this, too. The idea came to him that he could end his life by jumping from the wharf into the river, but a porter was there sitting on supplies when Cowper arrived, so the jump never took place. On the way back to his room at the Temple, he attempted to end his life with a bottle of laudanum, but his coach shook so vigorously that he never could get the poison to his mouth. Once back in his room, he tried to drink the laudanum again, but a voice inside him kept trying to prevent it. When he reached for the bottle, his fingers violently cramped and shook. He gave up on the laudanum and decided to lie on his penknife with it pointed toward his heart. It broke and did not puncture him! He survived two attempts to hang himself when the garter broke both times.

When his mental state was stronger, Cowper penned one of the greatest hymns the church has ever known.

 

There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;

And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;

And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;

And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;

And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power

Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;

Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,

Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;

Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,

For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!

’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,

To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

Get Away (Part 2)

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Sometimes we need to get away. In the first part of this blog post, I briefly touched on getting away to survive, as in running for our lives. In this post, I want to focus on survival from an emotional standpoint.

Emotional Survival

The blood-curdling screams of life’s horror swell within us. They may be heard or kept forever silent, but they still exist. Our perception of the situation as unjust fosters anger. Our consideration of it as being hopeless creates the torment of fear. Our view of it as perpetual grief births severe depression. How do we get through it?

We get away.

We find a place where we can confess our anger to God until He soothes it, where we admit our fear until He calms it, and where we weep in His arms through our sorrow until He grants us rest.

Acceptance

We get away and let God know that we accept His plan. That doesn’t mean we understand how He can possibly use this horror for good, as Romans 8:28 promises He will. We aren’t required to understand. All we have to do is accept.

Hope

We get away and ask God to show us that there is something, anything, about this situation worth hoping for. He will honor our request.

When a sudden tornado was on the ground just outside our town, our family rushed down into the storm cellar under the back porch. I stayed inside a minute to take care of a pressing matter when hail began to fall. Too frightened of being whacked by the large hailstones, I remained in the house. I was afraid of a monster tornado hitting the house while I was in it, but I was also too afraid to go outside and get in the cellar. (It wasn’t a monster tornado, but we didn’t know that at the time.) I stayed in the house and prayed, then I looked out the window and checked the sky. Enormous white clouds swirled overhead, tinged with tangerine from the setting sun. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. And then, just as quickly as the storm hit, it was gone. I realized that had I not witnessed the storm, I would have missed God’s splendor.

If we will just hang on, He will give us something to cling to when we need it most. 

Healing

We get away to rest and let the healing begin. When I was grieving over the loss of a loved one, I hadn’t been able to smile for weeks. In desperation, I asked God for even one thing that could help me smile again. Suddenly, a tiny sparrow hopped across my path. I cried when I reached up to touch my face. The sparrow tilted its head to look at me. I was smiling.

A Final Thought

In our “get-away” place, we accept God’s plan, seek something worth hoping for, and welcome God’s healing. In these ways, our emotional survival can occur.