Doubt discovers difficulties which it never solves; it creates hesitancy, despondency, despair. Its progress is the decay of comfort, the death of peace. “Believe!” is the word which speaks life into a man, but doubt nails down his coffin. –Charles Spurgeon, pastor and author
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 (NASB)
Wilderness seasons are often times of double-mindedness; we tend to question almost everything we thought we heard God speak on the mountaintop. Am I really up for the tasks before me? Perhaps, I’m sinful and broken beyond the measure of most other Christians—those have-it-all-together people I know only from a distance. After all, if I were doing things right, I’d no longer be in the wilderness. Right? Ironically, it is such double-minded questioning that unnecessarily extends an unwanted wilderness experience.
Thankfully, our wilderness struggles put us in good company. The shepherd boy David was anointed by the prophet Samuel as the future king of Israel, and yet, virtually all of his circumstances appeared to speak otherwise. David, however, understood the nature of his covenantal relationship with God. Rather than sinking into the self-defeating world of double-mindedness, he learned to deal humbly and honestly with his struggles, and then to move on—a theme continually repeated in the Psalms David penned.
I am no stranger to double-mindedness. When my wife, Debi, and I first began our relationship, we thought that something might be wrong with us as a couple. As we interacted with other Christian couples our age, we noticed that they argued—a lot. For reasons I still don’t completely understand, we got along very well; arguments between us were quite rare. Before long, we began to second-guess our relationship. Perhaps we weren’t being real, or genuine, or honest. Was it possible that we were somehow denying our true thoughts and feelings? Thankfully, over time, we came to realize that our relationship was indeed healthy.
I had similar self-doubts during my years as a campus minister—only they were much more numerous and over a far longer period of time. We tried our best to honor God and walk with integrity in how we did ministry. That was all well and good—except for the fact that the size of our fellowship never grew the way I thought that it should. Wherever I turned, it seemed that I encountered other campus ministries much larger and much more dynamic than ours. The result was that I could not stop second-guessing our ministry efforts.
Through our more than sixteen years of campus ministry, I had serious doubts about both my personal abilities and our ministry plan. If we were doing it right, I reasoned, our attendance would be much larger. And yet, our main group meeting never averaged more than about forty-five students. (If we consider the entire length of time we did college ministry, we were actually privileged to influence many more people than I once realized.)
About four years after we left college ministry to devote ourselves to the work of Search for Me Ministries, we held a reunion with a group of our former students. During our time together, I found myself deeply touched as person after person shared how his or her life had been radically impacted by our ministry. After graduating and moving on with life, they discovered that very few of their new friends had received the same depth of foundation that they had received under our care. That weekend served as a powerful reminder that we were doing a lot more right than I ever allowed myself to believe.
The Christian life always operates by faith. Even when we do fall short, we must approach our error or inability with faith, believing that God is greater than our shortcomings. If we truly know our identity in the eyes of our heavenly Father, we will feel no need to measure up to worldly standards of success. If we submit honestly to His Lordship, we will tune our hearts and ears to His still small voice. And if we genuinely understand His grace, we will embrace His corrective guidance as loving discipline, rather than as a condemning assault.
After wrestling with double-mindedness for much of my life, I have come to conclude it is a deadly curse that accomplishes nothing of value. Of course, we need personal honesty and humble, teachable spirits. If, however, we are to move forward in this journey with God, self-doubt, double-mindedness, and condemnation we can—and must—do without.
This post is drawn from Chapter Seventeen of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers.