FEAR and DOUBT Could Improve Your Relationship with God
Author : Tom Graneau
Throughout my Christian life, I’ve been told that fear and doubt are counterproductive for an effective relationship with God. The general sentiment is that any individual who expresses theses emotions while in contact with him should not expect to receive anything good from him. This is further echoed in the book of James in the following fashion: “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7). Seemingly, God only responds to faith that is void of doubt and other negative human emotions.
But is this really true? If it was, none of us would be saved. Furthermore, God would have a hard time finding doubt-free individuals to bless. For instance, who among us can honestly say that he or she haven’t experienced fear and doubt during moments of uncertainty? When these emotions surface, should we pretend that they don’t exist? Should we hide them from God, the one who knows the innermost parts of the heart? Should we suppress them, and pretend to have faith and nothing else? Among other things, these behaviors would be highly insincere, denying the very things that make us human beings.
My experience with fear and doubt
To say that I’ve never experienced fear and doubt during the course of my walk with God would be less than truthful. On the contrary, I’ve dealt with issues that were far out of my ability to control and felt the intimidating realities of both emotions throughout the developmental phases of the events.
One of these happenings had to do with the process of becoming an American citizen. At the age of seventeen, this country appeared to have had everything I needed for a better life, but the struggle of maintaining legal status and eventually becoming a citizen was a challenge. For months, I got by on temporary visas that seemed to expire very quickly. At first, they had to be renewed every six months, and then every three months. In some cases, that meant leaving the United States for a week or two and returning for an updated visa.
To say the least, the process was both exhausting and intimidating. Each time I returned for a new visa, I faced the possibility of being denied one. Furthermore, the thought of overstaying my visit was just as dreadful because it would evoke grounds for deportation back to the Caribbean, which is my original homeland.
Meanwhile, I kept building my foundation in the US, trusting that God would work out everything in my favor. He eventually did despite my fears and doubts about everything.
A brief view of David and Esther’s perspective
The Old Testament is rich with valuable information for Christians. In addition to the actual account of creation and other major events such as the development of God’s people, the deliverance from Egypt to Canaan, and so forth, it tells a great deal about God’s personality. Also, we can probe into the hearts of ancient kings and prophets and discover their humanity: Their motives, vulnerabilities, passion, and much more.
As a reader, you can also discover that people’s emotions (fear, doubt, anger, jealousy, love, etc.) are not foreign to God. These emotions came with the human package and serve as vital functions within our system. When used correctly, they can get us closer to God.
For instance, Old Testament characters were quite open with their feelings. At different times, they expressed fear, doubt, hopelessness, timidity, shame, bravery, compassion, and other emotions. Among them, king David was the most expressive. The majority of the book of Psalm, which he wrote, is highly punctuated with sorrow, self-pity, fear, doubt, and regret.
Yet, David is known to have had one of the most successful relationships with God in biblical history. This was partly due to his constant, open-heart dialogue with God. The tenor of his prayers and songs said it all: “I am fearful, I have doubts, I have regrets, but I trust in you. You are my hope, my salvation, my refuge, my joy, and my deliverer.” At one point, God himself admitted that David was a man after his own heart (Acts 13:22).
Another individual that comes to mind is Esther, a young woman who had been selected to be the queen of Persia. At the time, her legitimate connection to the Jews was not yet discovered. She was told by Mordecai (her guardian) to keep the information private until the moment comes to reveal it.
In time, the most powerful man in the kingdom of Persia—Haman, who was recently promoted by king Ahasuerus—devised a plot to destroy all the Jews that live within the borders of Persia. The king approved the decree without knowing the specific people that were targeted.
Eventually, the plot was revealed to Esther, to whom the responsibility fell upon to stop the atrocity. To do so, she had to face the king and reveal the complete deadly secret targeted against her people. In those days, anyone appearing in the inner court of the king without being summoned would be put to death. It was the law, and Esther knew it.
There were days remaining before Haman massacre the Jews, so Esther had to do something, quickly. But what? It was more than 30 days since she was summoned by the king, and she doubted that it would happen anytime soon.
Distressed by the entire situation, she feared for her life. Moreover, death loomed over the horizon for her people. After days of debating the issue with Mordecai, who wanted her to approach the king on the matter, she uttered the following statement: “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4:16). There, she laid her life on the line for a cause that was much bigger than her own survival—the salvation of her people. What she didn’t know at the time was that God had placed her in that position for this very purpose.
That day, king Ahasuerus learned about Queen Esther’s heritage, spared the life of the Jewish people, and hang Haman on the gallows.
Being human with God
Like frustration, gratitude, anger, happiness, and so on, which are perfectly natural emotions, fear and doubt are no different. They are reactive responses to certain stimuli that we experience in everyday life. To deny that they exist under pretenses of Christian faith, believing that God doesn’t want us to experience them is hypocritical.
Christians need to understand that it’s okay to feel frustrated, angry, sad, surprise, fearful, hesitant, happy, jubilant, regretful and other emotion without feeling condemned. God will NEVER condemn us for these feelings.
More appropriately, we should learn to admit that they exist, especially in moments of seeking God’s help. In doing so, we are more likely to develop a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with him. Instead of appearing to have everything under control, such a confession is a form of humility, in effect admitting our human weaknesses to him—the source of all power in the universe who can assist us in the time of need.
The next time you experience fear or doubt and feel the need to approach God, consider doing the following:
- Confess your feelings to him. Though he understands all aspects of your emotions, speak them aloud to him and in your own hearing. Let him know that you’re fearful about a certain condition and have doubts about the outcome that you desire.
- If you believe it, let him know that he is your only hope and that you trust in his ability and power to bring a complete and favorable outcome for your present situation.
- Take all necessary action to aid God in your deliverance. Though the circumstances may appear intimidating, he expects you to be courageous about the matter at hand. Consider his communication with Joshua during a sizzling moment in history: “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7). It appeared that Joshua was experiencing an array of emotions with the responsibility that was being passed on to him. At the same time, though God was able and willing to perform certain miracles for Israel, he needed a brave human leader that he could depend on, as well as the cooperation of his people. Joshua was that man.
- Realize that the path to success is paved with risks, fear, and doubt, and it is no different when working with God. Yet, he expects you to elevate your courage above these feelings and move forward for victory.
- Extent praise and gratitude to him for his involvement in your life, both before and after his assistance in your well-being.
God loves it when we admit our weaknesses, humble ourselves, and allow him the opportunity to demonstrate his love and power in our lives. Place your faith in him, in spite of your fears and doubt, and make good use of his grace and mercy.
What are your thoughts on the matter?
Have you experienced fear and doubt during your walk with God? Have you attempted to deny their existence? What would you say to other Christians who are experiencing these emotions?
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