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.