There are two types of doubts that have come at me recently. One is an old friend while the other is a more theoretical doubt, one I am less passionate about but still floats around my head sometimes.
Regarding the first doubt: low self-esteem is a constant problem for me. I can do most things more or less competently but certain recurring failures, or an occasional, spectacular cockup, will bring me crashing.
Now while self-criticism is a very important part of growing up and bettering oneself, harsh mental self-harm is definitely not a part of that. That vile, abusive voice in one’s head, whispering (or sometimes yelling) how much you suck, how useless you are and how the hell you could’ve done something so stupid, that’s not helpful. To some extent it might even be satanic.
So whenever that voice came at me I wouldn’t know what to do. I’d curl up mentally and just take it. So just the other day when I’d made some stupid mistake again the voice came at me flying, hurling everything it had at me.
But suddenly I had a moment of clarity at what all this was about: it wasn’t me talking to myself, or me building myself up so I could do better next time. This was the voice of someone who hated me with every fibre of his being, and wanted me to know it. It was the enemy! What do you say to the enemy who has already been defeated by King Jesus?
“I feel sorry for you. You hate me and you tell me how useless I am. But I have something you will never have. I have Jesus. I have hope, I have freedom, I have unconditional love, I have all the riches of the King. And you will never, ever have those, no matter how hard you try to get them.”
And that was the end of that. The enemy knows where to hit you the hardest, but remember where you stand and he will fail. (And yes of course do your best to not make stupid mistakes that give the enemy a foothold to begin with!)
Now the second doubt is one that affects me less personally. The following is more a reflection on doubts that I’ve heard many times.
People often ask such questions as “how could a loving God allow this?” or “How long, O Lord?” To which a stock reply is “You just need to believe, need to have more faith.”
Now I realise what I’m about to say may sound trite, and I fully realise how unqualified I am to answer the above questions, given my extremely cushy and fortunate life so far.
But it may not be helpful to ask people to believe harder, trust harder, have more faith. Where can all this belief, trust and faith come from when these questions burn so harshly? And a response of believing and trusting harder seems too man-centric in any case. We cannot make our doubts go away just by gritting our teeth and moving on. Those doubts stay and gnaw away.
So a better answer to the above questions would be this: “I don’t know. I don’t know the ways of God. But if you look to the cross and all the things that led up to it, you can see what kind of a God we’re dealing with.” If we can’t bring ourselves to see what God will do in the future, we can at least look back to what he has done, what he has finished, and trust his heart based on that.
That’s how I would answer the above questions and doubts. Again, some may see that as just as unhelpful as the stock answers, or unbearably preachy, but as with most things it is best to look to Jesus first.