Wednesday, May 28, 2014

When Doubt Whispers

I struggle with doubt.  Anyone else? Not just simple uncertainty or momentary hesitation but debilitating doubt.  Doubt that leaves me absolutely paralyzed.  Often the biggest obstacle hindering us from living out the life God has planned and designed for us is our own self-doubt.  Doubt about our worth, our position and our abilities.  Self-doubt is like a whisper influencing and consuming us from within.  Doubt whispers, “You are not good enough…not capable…not special…not wanted…”  If we are not preemptive these whispers become the undertone of our lives and the very thing that stops us in our tracks. 
I cannot tell you how often these phrases or similar ones circulate within my mind. They begin as small faint whispers, but before long transform into thunderous accusations that completely incapacitated me. In my sane moments, I know these words to be from the inciter, my enemy, but too often, I lose sight of logic and begin to spiral into a place of fear and doubt.  Yet I know truth and am in fact really good at speaking truth into the lives of others.  I am often in awe of their unique gifts, confident in their divine capability and well aware of their inestimable worth.  I can assure them they are uniquely and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14); however, I struggle when trying to speak this same truth into my own life.  It is as if God’s promises do not apply to me.  And of course this is nonsense.  His promises are for all!  He has proved this time and time again throughout history and also in my own life.  Yet, one of my greatest doubts revolves around His love for me, or my perceived absence of His love.  During these times, I wonder, does He really love me? 
God powerfully illustrated this for me the other night.  I was attending my final pre-mission’s trip meeting and was missing our regular bedtime routine.  I called when the meeting ended and said good night to each child.  I still had an hour’s drive home, but my daughter, Katherine, made me promise that although she was certain to be asleep, I needed to come in and get one of her “special” kisses.  I assured her I would and told her how much I would be looking forward to it.  The trip home took longer than expected and I then lingered downstairs catching up with my husband, Jon, and getting things prepared for the next day.  Eventually I headed upstairs and into Katherine’s room.  As soon as I opened the door, I was met with an anguished cry.  I headed to Katherine’s bed and found her inconsolable.   I could not understand what was going on.  I tried to gage the situation.  Was she sick?  In pain?  Had she just woken from a nightmare?  Finally through her sobs, I began to understand that she was hurt because I had not wanted one of her “special” kisses.  I tried to assure her that of course I wanted a Katherine kiss and that is why I had purposely come into her room. 
“But what took you so long?” she managed to gasp out. 
It was then that I began to piece together a clearer picture.  She had heard me come home and had expected me to come straight up to her room.  The longer I lingered downstairs, the more she began to doubt my sincerity and my love.  By the time I reached her room she had bought into the lie that I did not want a kiss or perhaps even value her kisses.  Even worse, she began to wonder if I did not love her with the intensity she had thought I had.  Truthfully, I was stunned.  How could Katherine even question my love for her or her kisses?  Hadn’t I always made my love for her clear in words and actions?  How could a few moments of waiting completely unravel years of affection? 
I climbed into bed with Katherine and held her until she was no longer sobbing and then I began to speak truth into her wounded soul. 
“Katherine, is what your feeling truth?” 
Her breathing began to accelerate and her tears began to fall once again as she recounted the incident and its mathematical conclusions.  I quickly interrupted her before her rehashing of the night’s events brought her back to a place of pain. 
“Katherine, do you know that I love you?”
Katherine: “Yes, but…”
“Do I not tell you I love you all the time?  Do I not show you that I love you every day?”
Katherine: “You do, but…”
“Just because it took me a few minutes longer to get upstairs, does that mean that I do not love you and I do not want one of your special kisses?”
Our conversation continued, we recounted instances of my love and repeated my many words of affection, and before long Katherine agreed that the thoughts she had experienced were not truth.  That in truth I loved her more than words and treasured every moment with her and every one of her kisses. 
By the time I left her room her tears had subsided and she knew that her mom adored her.  But as I closed the door, I was still stunned and surprised that she would ever doubt my affection or react in such a manner.  Hadn’t I always covered her in love?  Didn’t my daily actions express my unfailing love for her?
Suddenly, I felt God respond, “Now you understand.”
And that is when I realized I do this all the time to God.  He loves me with a love that is beyond human understanding.  He consistently lavishes me with gifts and blessings.  He demonstrates His love daily.  Yet, with one perceived moment of neglect, Satan’s whisper, “He does not care about you,” unravels all the love and promises that God has securely wrapped me in.  Since the garden this has been Satan’s greatest tactic, weaving doubt into our story.
I remember hearing about an experiment where rats were given a lever and each time they pushed it they would receive a treat.  Once the rats figured out the lever’s function, they pushed it constantly. This continued for quite some time and each time it faithfully produced a snack…until one time it didn’t.  But that’s all it took.  The scientists found that after the lever did not produce its harvest, the rats stopped pushing it.  The lever was reset to function immediately after this incident, but the rats never realized it because they had lost faith in its operation.  Had they tried one more time they would have received their prize.  The scientists applied these findings to human beings claiming we too need only one negative experience to completely undo all the positive ones.  I remember thinking, this could not be accurate, but haven’t I proven this in my life?  Doesn’t God provide us with abundant blessings upon abundant blessings, only to be rejected the moment we do not receive what we think we deserve?  Hasn’t He time and time again proven Himself faithful only to have the one time He appears absent make us doubt Him?
This is why throughout the bible you will find Israel reiterating their history.  It was important for them to recount God’s miracles and blessing in order for them to remember His consistent presence and love, especially during times they sensed Him absent (Nehemiah 9).  Just as I had to recount with Katherine instances of my love and affection, we need to replay God’s faithfulness in our lives so that we do not allow perceived absences transcend His daily presence.  And then we need to recite His promises.  Just as I had Katherine declare the truth of my love for her, we need to affirm His promises of unfailing love (Isaiah 54:10) and His unceasing presence (Deuteronomy 31:6). 
There may be times in our lives that God appears distant or even absent and perhaps like the lab rats we may doubt or even reject Him, but we need to remember that we are just one more attempt from His power and presence in our lives.  We just need to trust in Him for He is trustworthy. 

Lamentations 2: 22- 24
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 

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