Have you ever been tempted to doubt God’s goodness to you? Or wonder if he sees you?
Earlier this week I was in hospital for a sleep test where it was confirmed that I have sleep apnea. Following that, I was very sick for the few days after. Being sick gives you time to think about your life and where it is going, as well as crying out to God for help. I’ve found that times of difficulty or sickness are some of the easiest times to doubt whether God sees or cares about you.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard about dealing with doubt comes from Pastor Tim Keller, who says, ‘Doubt your doubts.’ What we usually do is doubt our faith and believe our doubts. But stop for a minute and think: why shouldn’t our doubts themselves be questioned? We actually put a lot of faith in our doubts: a lot of confidence in our reason, our insight, and our ability to know the truth about reality.
Another thing we often think is that our doubts about God and faith are somehow unique to us. We may not realise that any question we have has probably been asked—and answered—hundreds if not thousands of times before.
So Dr Keller suggests that we try something different. He urges us to doubt our doubts and believe in what God says. He asks us to apply the same critical reasoning and testing that we do to everything else to our doubts and the beliefs that underlie them. Why do we trust the voice inside our own heads?
You might say, ‘I don’t believe that God intervenes in history’—but what are your reasons for believing that? You are only personally witness to the tiny portion of history that you are present for. Can you say for certain that the parts of history you have not seen, God has never intervened? How reasonable is it for us to have such confidence in our limited understanding?
Or you might doubt the existence of God. Is your knowledge so great that you can say that you have searched everywhere exhaustively and can confidently declare that God does not exist? When a Russian astronaut went to space for the first time in the 1960s, the Russian president declared that there was no God because they’d gone into the heavens and found no God there. Author C.S. Lewis replied that this would be like the characters in a Shakespearean play looking everywhere in their world for Shakespeare and, not finding him, declare he didn’t exist. Like Shakespeare, God is the author of the story, not a player hiding within its confines.
I was reading through Isaiah after my stay in the hospital and discovered it addresses this very issue. The people of Israel are complaining that God doesn’t see their suffering and doesn’t know their plight.
My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God. Isaiah 40:27
But God responds through the prophet, saying,
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom. Isaiah 40:28
Isaiah writes about the greatness of God. No one can fully understand him and his ways, and no one can be compared with him. Israel, having found herself in trouble, felt lost and forgotten by God. But through his prophet God reassures Israel that he is still in control of all things, that he cares for his people, and that he will come and save them. And he tells the people that they cannot comprehend God’s power:
“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:25–26
The point is that we are not like God. There is no one like God. He is far greater than we can imagine and His ways are beyond us. We were not present when He created the universe or when He created us. So it makes sense that finite minds like ours cannot grasp the infinite mind of God. It takes enormous confidence in our own mental ability to believe that we could ever be in a position to judge His designs and plans or to see His every move.
In the light of such a God, it makes more sense for us to believe what He tells us rather than trying to peer over His shoulder to see what He is doing. We should rethink our own ability to judge God and stop trying to cut Him down to our size. And instead of having great confidence in our ability to know enough about reality to sit in judgment on God, we should have even greater confidence in the One who created everything, including our minds and our abilities to understand and comprehend.
One time at Bible College, one of the students asked our Vice-Principal and NT Lecturer whether he ever had moments of doubt. He answered, ‘Of course I do! I too have times of doubt, wondering whether God is there and loves us. And in those times I have to go back to the Scriptures, reminding myself once again that we know that Jesus lived, died, and rose again, that the evidence is strong and clear, and that this is God showing us he is really there, and he loves us.’
It was reassuring that our teacher, who seemed so assured, knowledgeable, and full of the wisdom and grace of God, would also have these moments of doubt and that he would go back to the Word of God to find again the foundation of his faith.
At this Easter time, we celebrate the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to save His people. The people in the Old Testament did not know the lengths to which God would go to save His people, even giving up His own Son and allowing Him to be mistreated and killed by those He came to save.
These are the truths that are worth reflecting on at this Easter time. Let us spend this Easter meditating on how God made us, loved us, called us and died for us. Let’s trust and seek God together, whether in times of prosperity or adversity.
Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6