David, at Red Letter Believers blog -- redletterbelievers.blogspot.com --, has a post on the ways he and other Christians doubt God at times, by giving in to selfishness or ignoring the call to obedience. He laments that he “cannot escape this shadow that dogs my every step.”
However, he concludes with a familiar plea, “I believe, but help my unbelief.”
I wonder if David had just read David Wilkerson’s most recent post, which speaks of how deeply Christ is wounded when we don’t believe he has the power to act, when we don’t believe his word? Wilkerson’s post made me feel “small”, I admit.
Paul E. Bilheimer, in “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows,” concludes that suffering is a natural part of our human life – a preparation for our union with Christ for all eternity. “[W]hen sorrow and suffering come… it is easy to fall into a spirit of resentment and self-pity which produces frustration and depression. When this occurs one is defeated in his spiritual life… He has wasted his sorrow. What God permitted in order to wean him from self-love and self-worship, and therefore for his spiritual growth, has resulted in loss. …
Character (agape love) is the coin, the legal tender of heaven.”
These statements would seem to side with Wilkerson’s thoughts. (However, be it known that Wilkerson also has a tender heart before God and frequently offers great comfort to those who are afraid they’re letting God down).
Bilheimer goes on to add, “In order to grow in character it is necessary to understand that nothing that God permits can come to his child, whether ‘good’ or ‘ill’ is accidental or without design. Everything is designed to drive him out of himself into God… All is for the purpose of character training…
“God cannot train one without mystifying him, baffling him. Evidently God has objectives in us which cannot be achieved apart from frustration and bewildering pain… “
God’s purpose is to deliver us from “self” into agape love.
Perhaps it would be better to praise God for allowing us the privilege of doubt him sufficiently enough to make us aware of our own weakness, until we can only rest in his strength, not in anything our minds can conjure up. Some people advocate “positive thinking”, as if we can successfully overcome all doubts and fears by making strong affirmations about God’s strength and power. I have personally found this to be a wrestling match I can’t hope to win. The more aware I become of my own sin of unbelief, the more I dislike myself for not being able to “overmaster” it. But I’m not supposed to be in charge of mastery. The very thing God wants to teach me, is that he alone is sufficient.
T. Austin-Sparks wrote that Christ will always be “other” than we are. The sooner we allow the Holy Spirit to show us that, the better. And that we might as well have one last despair and get it over with, instead of despairing every few weeks (over our sinful selves). I haven’t been able to grasp that business of having one despair and getting it over with. But his words do comfort me when I remember, at last, that I’m not supposed to be strong and able, but rather to submit and let God have his perfect way.
Corrie Ten Boom says, “Nestle, don’t wrestle!”
How grateful I am that “We have an advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ…” “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins.” (And so my doubting, that I despair of changing into secure trust in him, is blotted out.) Oh, halleluliah!
Thank God, oh thank God, when Christians are aware of our tendency toward unbelief. That we cry out for deliverance from our selfish selves, that we cry for God’s mercy! Such is surely the working of the Holy Spirit to “conform us” to Christ. There are those who don’t seem to fear they are weak. Who don’t bewail their tendency toward unbelief or other sins. Unfortunately, smugness and heedlessness can be great traps to stifle our spiritual growth!
So I say with David of Red Letter Believers, and with those in the Bible who cried for the Lord’s help, “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief!”