The Christian Doubter: An Arsenal of Songs

by Spencer Harmon
by Spencer Harmon

“By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life” Psalm 42:7

One of the difficult aspects of Christian doubt is reminding yourself of the truth in a moment of paralyzing uncertainty. You know the moment, don’t you? The one where all the Scripture you knew leaves your mind like mist in the morning sun; your trusted friend isn’t around and you’re more alone than you care to admit; you’re trying to pray, but you don’t know how to articulate the struggle in your soul. When things are black as night, what resources has God given us to illuminate the path?

In Psalm 42 David is in deep despair. He crying all the time (v. 3), he’s surrounded by those who reinforce doubt (v. 3), his experiences of God are only memories (v. 4), he’s cast down and in turmoil (v. 5), and feels like he’s drowning (v.7). These are the lowest depths in the deepest valley with no light. And it is here that he tells of a weapon against the darkness: a song.

Songs are shelters in the tempest – a lighthouse in the hurricane. Often times a fortification of hope is built around our fainting hearts by the sturdy truth of hymns, songs or poems. David seems to find great comfort in a song in his dark night of the soul. Interestingly enough, he views this song as a “prayer” Biblical songs are deep reservoirs of prayers for the speechless saint struggling for faith. Here are a few examples of prayers or encouragements found in hymns that the Holy Spirit has used to anchor my soul:

“Jesus, Jesus, how I trust You!
How I’ve proved You o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust You more!”

-Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus

“Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.”

-Rock of Ages Cleft for Me

“When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see You there
Who made an end of all my sin”

-Before The Throne of God Above

“AH, my dear angry Lord,
Since Thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.

I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve:
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament, and love.”

-Bitter-Sweet, George Herbert

“How long wilt Thou conceal Thy face?

My God, how long delay?

When shall I feel those heav’nly rays

That chase my fears away?

How long shall my poor laboring soul

Wrestle and toil in vain?

Thy word can all my foes control

And ease my raging pain.”

-How Long Wilt Thou Conceal Thy Face?

These small snippets are ammunition in the trenches as we wait for God; they are an arsenal of words for your stammering tongue. They are a song to keep you through the night. When Israel faced their opponents, often times they faced the bewilderment of their plight with songs of God’s steadfast love (see 2 Chronicles 20:20-30). Let it be so for you. Learn some songs, and sing them with mustard seed faith through the dark.

The Christian Doubter: God’s Electing Balm

by Spencer Harmon
by Spencer Harmon

The undercutting of your assurance can steal the breath from your lungs.  Terrible thoughts can plague your mind like a migraine that won’t go away.  The guilt mounts; the pressure builds; Satan is whispering lies and telling you that you have never truly believed in Jesus; your faith feels like a twig in a hurricane.  During these dark times a tempting thought to think is, “Why would God save a weak person like me?” Even though God knows everything, your weak faith must be a surprise to him. It may feel that you are giving God more than he bargained for at salvation.  You think that there is nothing in you that would attract God’s salvation.

Here’s the thing:  you’re right.

The church is made up of unimpressive vessels who are conduits of foreign power.  Your twig like faith is not very impressive, but if your twig like faith is rooted in the rock of ages, you will endure the storm.  But why?  Why would God sustain a person who seeks to believe in Him, but yet constantly doubts?

The reason God sustains and saves unimpressive Christian doubters is because He has been planning to do so before the world began.  God has elected you.  He has chosen to save you.  And the most glorious thing about God’s election of weak people like you is that it was not based on your strong faith, your stellar religious resume, or your ability to think positively when things go awry.  Election is based on God’s happy delight in saving people, not on your checklist of strong spiritual moments.  God has already told you this in Ephesians 1:4-5 when he says, “…in love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will...”  When considering who to save, God did not consider your unbelieving bouts, but rather his sovereign, smiling purpose to show his grace to an undeserving sinner.

So, the next time the tide swells and you’re barely treading water, know that  you will not sink.  God has been planning to set his love on you for ten billion years and more – he will sustain you.    When the wounds of your doubts cut deep, let his divine election is be a healing balm.  Meditate on the truth of God’s unconditional choice of you.  When you are faithless, he remains faithful.  He cannot deny Himself.  Neither death, nor life, nor doubt, or anything in creation can separate you from the love of Christ.

The Christian Doubter: Too Deep For Words

by Spencer Harmon

Christian doubt makes you feel the waves and breakers of weakness.  If you ever thought you were strong, these seasons of life make you feel like you are on the ocean being tossed back and forth on choppy waters.  What is worse is that on many occasions it becomes hard to articulate exactly what is happening on the ocean.  You need a trained sailor who has navigated the waters, not just someone who has memorized the map.

Yet, like most other troubles in life, even the person who has been most experienced and can empathize most with your situation can fail at understanding the nuances of your doubt.  Someone could listen to you try to articulate your feelings of lostness, darkness, and despair for hours, but you could still walk away with nothing more than sentiments of an empathizer.  No doubt, we need community in our struggle with doubt, but there must be sturdier soil on which to stand.

In these dark days, God intends to use your inarticulate prayers.  In Romans 8:26-27 Paul has words for the weak saint.  He writes,

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Have you ever felt these words in your struggle with doubt?  The darkness rolls over your day like a storm from hell, and you get alone to pray – but what do you pray?  How do you pray in accordance with God’s will when you feel in the depths of your soul that this is the worst providence you could experience?  What do you pray for when you know that you don’t know what to pray for?

Dear brothers and sisters, God knows your soul, for he dwells in you through his Holy Spirit.  There is great help in your weakness because your unspeakable groaning is translated into perfect, articulate requests by the Spirit of God.  No, you do not know the will of God in these doubting times.  But the Spirit is interceding for you according to the will of God.  Tom Schreiner writes, “God searches the hearts of believers and finds unutterable longings to conform their lives to the will of God.  The Holy Spirit takes these groanings and presents them to God in articulate form” (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 446).

And the best news is that in your unutterable prayers of deep weakness, the Spirit prays for you with prayers that will always get a “yes”.  Why?  Because these prayers that the Spirit prays for you is on the same page with the Father.  He never prays imperfect prayers – and all this Spirit wrought power is working in your in your weakest moment.

So, keep praying.  Pray even when you don’t know how.  These bleak moments will be remembered as your most intimate with our father.  When you fail, when your friends fail, and even when your very heart fails – there is an answer for you with God.  In his Word, and through his Spirit.

The Christian Doubter: Your Perfect Faith

by Spencer Harmon

     What happens when zeal runs dry?  What happens when the faith you have known all of your life becomes your greatest suspicion?  The Scriptures are conspicuous and your heart is no longer drawn to the Lord in prayer.  Your assurance is shaking like a twig in a hurricane of doubt.  All the truth that was so clear, apparent, and true has become clouded with black fog that you’re questioning if you are even a Christian.

And here’s the kicker:  you love Jesus.  The reason why this desert is so ruthless is because you really are thirsty; nevertheless, you doubt. The feedback loop goes like this: You doubt, feel guilty for doubting, and then despair because you wonder if Christians can really doubt in the way you have.  Stop-rewind-repeat.  All of a sudden you seem to be caught in the sinking sand of second guessing and nobody is throwing a rope to help out.

When these dark clouds rise in our hearts, we do ourselves no good to find refuge in ourselves.  Finding your confidence in your ability to believe is like drinking sand when dying from thirst.  Why drink sand when water is bubbling up from the ground?  The only way to fight doubt is on the firm foundation of the faultless faith of Jesus.  Your greatest, most fearsome doubt can be destroyed at the cross of Christ.

So then, what am I to do when I am doubting and straying from the Savior I love?  I run to him and not away from him.  The secret to fighting doubt is not trying to make yourself feel better, but rather placing your trust in Jesus’ perfect faith in your place.  Jesus never doubted God’s existence – for you.  He always rejoiced in the truth of God’s word – for you.  On your darkest day you are smothered with Christ’s blood and the greatest Power in the universe is for you and not against you.  This is not because you have strong faith.  This is because Jesus’ faithfulness obliterates your faithlessness.

When the doubts come – and they surely do come – the way we fight is not through pulling up our spiritual boot straps, but by crying out to Jesus with empty hands; not by pretending to have strong faith, but by taking strength in Christ’s perfect faith that has been credited to you.  We must stop trying to calm the sea and let our Savior speak to the storm.

“When Satan tempts me to despair,
and tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see him there,
Who made an end to all my sin”