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.

Letter To A Young Engaged Man: The Marriage Bed

Dear Young Engaged Man,

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes sex.

I am frustrated by most churches who neglect this topic and do the body of Christ great harm. Simultaneously, I am frustrated with other churches who are explicit with sex and talk about it in very unhelpful ways; nevertheless, Jesus wants Christians to think biblically about this topic.  Many things could be said here but I want to focus on the attitude that should shape the way we view sex.

The gospel has no bounds and is not privy to categories of “public” or “private.” Jesus is the God of the living room and of the bed room. God will not let you be selfish in any area, including your most intimate endeavors. Our sex drive should be selfless. Your pleasure must be rooted in God and in bringing your spouse pleasure.

On your wedding night and then every night after, your mind should be that of Christ Jesus, who, although being in the form of God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant (Philippians 2:5-7). Before lying down in bed with your wife, you must be willing to lay your life down for her.  We need the grace of Jesus to do this.

The Christian must not do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. The marriage bed must remain undefiled by lust and selfishness.  This is why only Christians can have truly satisfying sex. Only the Christian couple can find their delight in selfless service. It is only the Christian husband or wife who can satisfy both their body and heart in the marriage bed.

Remember to love your neighbor as yourself, especially the one who will sleep next to you. Settle it in your heart now to make your marital bliss complete by being selfless. Purpose to do whatever you do, whether you eat, drink, or have sex, to do it all for the glory of God.

Until then,
Sean

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: A Wedding is a Community Event

Dear Young Engaged Man,

“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

As my wedding approached, the amount of generosity my friends and family showed my wife and I was overwhelming.  You would not believe some of the stories: A couple of my friends came over one evening to cook for me while another friend feverishly moved my fiancées possessions into our future home; other friends poured out the love of Christ by addressing wedding invitations, wrapping party favors, and compiling power points; parents shopped for us, planned for us, and provided for us all along the way. Every hole was patched and every loose end was tied by the love and affection of our neighbors. I cannot tell you of all the instances of kindness we experienced.

The climax of this relentless hospitality was during the few days before the ceremony.  Over and over again the words “what can I do next?” graciously found their way to us.  Some did not even ask because they had already thought of projects to tackle.

A wedding is truly a community event. Our brothers and sisters washed our feet with joyful smiles and reflected a deep love for Christ and His bride.

What is hospitality?  Jeff Dalrymple often summarizes hospitality as anticipating the needs of others. This is an excellent definition. Anticipating the needs of others and joyfully meeting them for the glory of Christ.  What separates secular hospitality from Christian hospitality? Genuine joy.  Our wedding party exhibited a deep fountain in Jesus which overflowed into the basins where they placed our feet. Our family had their finger on our pulses to continually check our needs and meet them.  Their example is a letter about hospitality that continues to be circulated.

May we emulate them as they emulate Christ.

Until then,
Sean

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: The Weighty Thrill

Dear Young Engaged Man,

When the time comes for you to stand before your bride and say your vows, a mix of emotions will flood your soul. The exchange of vows is a weighty thrill.  You are thrilled by your deep love for her and the weight of your promise is sobering.  The line in your vows that perhaps carries the most weight is “Till death do us part.”  Not many couples realize the significance of this short phrase.

If you say this phrase, you will be committing to never leave nor forsake your bride until the day you breathe your last. You will be committing to be a one woman man until you behold Jesus face to face.

Be warned. The promise is not “Till adultery do us part.” Nor is it “Till abandonment do us part.”

I am convinced that the Bible teaches believers should not divorce under any circumstances. We can discuss that later if you like, but even if you disagree, I plead with you to discard any “parachute cord” from your marriage. Remove from your mind all reasons for divorce and live as Christ does with his bride. Irrevocably committed.

Christ will never leave nor forsake his bride, even when we commit adultery against him.  Christ will never abandon his wife, even when we abandon our first love.  The vows are weighty and before a holy God.  Our “yes” must be “yes” and our “no” be “no”. Heath Lambert helped me realize the seriousness of the wedding vows. He has pointed out that if you are going to hold to legitimate exceptions for divorce in your marriage, then you must include them in your vows or completely leave off the phrase “Till death do us part.” You can’t have your exception and eat it too.

Ephesians chapter five calls us to love our wife as Jesus loves us. Make a fundamental commitment to never separate what God joins together. (Mark 10:9)  God calls you to be a Hosea even if you marry a Gomer.

I am praying for you as you prepare for the weighty thrill of covenanting together with your bride.  May your marriage oaths be true until either you or the heavens and earth pass away.

Until then,
Sean

Letters To a Young Engaged Man: One Day Closer

Dear Young Engaged Man,You are one day closer to marriage and you are one day closer to the return of Jesus.There is a link between these two things: Just as you long to be with your bride in an unhindered and unrestrained way, you should long to be with your Savior free from sin and unrestrained by the flesh.  Just as you have waited all these years for your wedding day and life together, I pray you have waited all of these years to behold the face of Jesus and spend eternity together.  Your bride is going to walk down the aisle to meet you – the one who loves her and has longed for her.  Jesus is going to descend from the sky to meet those who have loved him and awaited his return.

Many times at the beginning of engagement people asked me, “What day are you thinking about getting married?” I would respond “tomorrow” or “yesterday.” I assume you are like me and can hardly wait.  Towards the end of engagement people have cheerfully asked, “Are you excited?”
This question became wonderfully foolish because the answer was so obvious. I assume the same will be for you.

Brother, I do not say this to be overly spiritual or to sound puritan. The only thing more exciting than the upcoming wedding day is the return of Jesus.  I say that because Jesus has been kind to my heart and I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. His steadfast love is better than marriage.

Now you might be tempted to think, “If Jesus comes back before I am married, then will I have missed out?” Or you might be tempted to feel depressed that you did not get to experience the joy, friendship, or intimacy of marriage.  Take heart. “Nothing is lost. The music of every pleasure is transposed into an infinitely higher key.” (This Momentary Marriage, pg. 15)  Or to think of it visually, we would never trade a person for a photo.

Marriage is simply a picture of the person and work of Jesus Christ; marriage is only a mirror that reflects the relationship of Jesus and His bride; marriage is merely a good gift to glorify a satisfying God.  Enjoy marriage, but only as it submits the the supreme pleasure of knowing God.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but soon we shall see face to face.

Until then,
Sean

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: Love Her Invisible Pearls

Here is my guess:  she struggles with insecurity about her physical beauty and you struggle with dwelling too much on her physical beauty.  She doesn’t think her outward appearance is enough and you have thought about it enough.

How do you help her realize she has value and how do you balance out your thoughts to think purely?

  1. Remind her that she is beautiful because she is made in the image of God. 
    Before brushing over this, we must let this reality sink in. God does not make trash. If you scoff at his art, you insult him. This truth is not just a nice saying to make unattractive people feel better about themselves. God says he created man in his image and this reality is not to become trite in our minds. There is a real, holy, stunning level in which your fiancee is unwaveringly beautiful because she reflects God. Even if she is marred by third degree burns or ransacked by acne, this reality does not move. Every day her image pours forth speech of the handiwork of God. Christ has made a personal claim regarding the incredible crafting of his creation.
  2. Remind yourself of the hidden image of God made possible in Christ. 
    It is good to tell your fiancee that she is pretty, but do not miss out on the thrill of praising her hidden person. Physical appearance is fleeting but there is an imperishable beauty that only gets better. If she is growing in faith, fearlessness, gentleness, holy submission, and compassion, make it a point to praise these ornaments. The fruit of the Spirit has a sweetness that will never sour. Dwell on her godly character and attach your heart to it!  Ask the Lord to give you eyes to behold true beauty. Beg him to give you grace to truly appreciate the grace he has given her. Make it top priority to value, treasure, and be drawn to her godly character. Her inner heart is a gorgeous glimpse of God.

Outward beauty is wonderfully fleeting. As she gets older, every wrinkle will help accent the eternal radiance found in her heart. And the best kept secret is, the more you cultivate an attraction for her godly character, it is likely the more fruit she will produce.  Do not miss out on enjoying the realities that will never perish.

Remember, remind her that she is made in the image of God and then encourage her to continue looking more like Christ in godly character.

Look hard and love her invisible pearls. They are formed perfectly by the oyster of the gospel.

Until then,

Sean