By Hannah Whitall Smith
Many Christians are slaves to the persistent habit of doubting. I do not mean doubts about the existence of God or the truths of the Bible. Rather, they doubt the forgiveness of their sins, their hopes of heaven, and their own inward experience. They are in bondage to their habit of doubting as an alcoholic is in bondage to his habit of drinking. Every step of their spiritual progress is fearfully taken waiting for doubts to assail them.
These doubts make their lives miserable, their usefulness is severely limited, and their communion with God is continually broken. The soul's entrance into a life of faith does, in many cases, take it altogether out of the region where these doubts live and flourish, However, Satan will still try to cause the feet to stumble and the heart to fail, even when he cannot completely succeed in turning the believer back into the ways of a life of sin.
The word "believer" means, of course, one who "believes" yet there are many believers who have to confess that they have doubts. Doubting is such a universal habit, that the only fitting and descriptive name that could be given to many of God's children would have to be Doubter instead of Believer. In fact, most Christians resign themselves to their doubts, as to a sort of inevitable sickness from which they suffer, but which they feel is a part of the necessary discipline of this earthly life. They moan about their doubts as a man might moan about his rheumatism. They make themselves out to be "interesting cases" which require the tenderest sympathy and the utmost consideration.
This is too often true of believers who are earnestly longing for the life and walk of faith, and who are making many steps toward it. They have gotten rid of doubting the forgiveness of their sins and their salvation, but they haven't gotten rid of doubting! They simply shifted the habit to a higher platform. Perhaps they say, "Yes, I believe my sins are forgiven and I am a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ. I don't doubt this any more. But ." This "but" includes many doubts concerning most of the promises our Father has made to His children. They fight with these promises. They refuse to believe them until they can have more reliable proof of their being true rather than believing what the Bible clearly states. Then they wonder why they are walking in such darkness. They look upon themselves as martyrs, and groan under the peculiar spiritual conflicts they are enduring.
Doubting Displeases God
Spiritual conflicts! It would be better if we called them spiritual rebellions! Our fight is to be a fight of faith. The moment we give in to doubts, our fight ceases, and our rebellion begins.
I must speak out about this!
Just as I would pray with an alcoholic for deliverance from bondage, I would encourage those who are given to doubting to be delivered from the bondage of those doubts. I would tell each about the perfect deliverance which the Lord Jesus Christ has in store for them, and I would plead with all the power at my command to avail themselves of it and be free. I would not listen to their excuses for one moment, but would tell them, "You ought to be free, you must be free!"
Would you be able to tolerate the doubts of your children? Suppose one would come to you and say, "I am such a doubter that I cannot believe I am your child, or that you really love me." Yet how often we hear a child of God express doubts. In the sight of God, I verily believe doubting is in some cases as displeasing as lying. It certainly is more dishonoring to Him. It denies His truthfulness and defames His character. John says that "he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar" (1 John 5:10). It seems to me that hardly anything could be worse than to fasten on God the character of being a liar! Have you ever thought of this as the result of your doubting?
I remember once seeing the anger and sorrow of a mother's heart deeply stirred by a little doubting on the part of one of her children. She had left her two little girls with me while she did some errands. One of them played contentedly until her mother came back. The other one first wondered whether her mother would remember to come back for her. She then was afraid that her mother would indeed forget to come back for her because she had been naughty. She worked herself into quite a state. I will not easily forget the look on that mother's face, when the weeping little girl told what was the matter with her. Grief, wounded love, anger, and pity were struggling within the mother. She hardly knew whether she or the child was more at fault that such doubts could be possible.
Such doubts might be possible with an earthly mother, but never, never with God. Again and again I remember this incident which has deeply taught me and compelled me not to give in to doubts about my Heavenly Father's love and care and remembrance of me.
Doubting is a great trial. Consider when you have given in to negative thoughts against those who have, as you think, injured you. You brooded over their unkindnesses and it made you wretched. But, it was not easy to give up doing so.
Doubting is like this. In your Christian experience all has not gone well. Perhaps you have been assailed by temptations and have given in to them. You then conclude that God has forsaken you and does not love you, and is indifferent to your welfare. You are convinced that you are too wicked for Him to care for, or too difficult for Him to manage!
You do not mean to blame Him, or accuse Him of injustice, for you feel that His indifference and rejection of you are fully deserved because of your unworthiness Under the guise of viewing your own shortcomings, you indulge in your dishonoring doubts. Although you think you are doubting yourself, you are really doubting the Lord. You are indulging in wrong thoughts of Him. He declares that He came to save, not the righteous, but sinners. Instead of being a reason why He should not love you and care for you, your sinfulness and unworthiness are really your chiefest claim upon His love and His care. Jesus says, "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick" (Luke 5:31). He also says in Luke 5:4, "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?" Any thoughts that are different from what He Himself has said are wrong. They dishonor Him. It is always sinful to indulge in doubts throughout your Christian life. Doubts and discouragements come from Satan and are always untrue. A direct and emphatic denial is the only way to meet them.
Deliverance From Doubt
This brings me to the practical part of the whole subject deliverance from this fatal habit. Deliverance from this must be by the same means as deliverance from any other sin. It is to be found in Christ and in Him only. You must hand your doubting over to Him as you have learned to hand your other temptations. You must do with doubting just what you do with your temper or your pride. You must give it up to the Lord. Pledge not to doubt as you would encourage an alcoholic to pledge not to drink, trusting in the Lord alone to keep you steadfast.
Like any other sin, the stronghold is in the will, and the will or purpose to doubt must be surrendered exactly as you surrender the will or purpose to yield to any other temptation. God always takes possession of a surrendered will. If we come to the point of saying that we will not doubt, and surrender our wills to Him, His blessed Spirit will begin at once to "worketh in (us) both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13), and we will find ourselves kept from doubting by His mighty and overcoming power.
In this matter of doubting the trouble is that the Christian does not always make a full surrender. "I do not want to doubt any more," we will say, or, "I hope I will not." But it is hard to come to the point of saying, "I will not doubt again," and no surrender is effective until one says, "I will not." We must give up doubting forever and must consent to a continuous life of trust.
Remember: we cannot give up doubting gradually. We must give it up all at once and must completely rely on the Lord for deliverance when we
are tempted The moment the assault comes, we must lift up the shield of faith against it. We must hand the very first suggestion of doubt over to the Lord and must let Him manage it. We must refuse to entertain the doubt a single moment. We must simply say, "I dare not doubt. I must trust. God is my Father and He does love me. Jesus saves me. He saves me now.'' Those three little words, repeated over and over, "Jesus saves me, Jesus saves me," will put to flight the greatest army of doubt that ever assaulted any soul. I have tried it many times and have never known it to fail.
Pa! no attention to your doubts. Treat them with the utmost contempt. Tell Jesus that you trust Him and that you intend to go on trusting Him. Hold fast to Him. You will then be able to join in the song of Moses and the children of Israel, saying, "I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation" (Exodus 15: 1,2) . When Satan tries to attack remember Isaiah 59:19 "the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him," and your doubts will be put to flight.
Therefore, be determined to never doubt again. Make it a real transaction between your soul and the Lord. Tell Him all about your weakness and your longencouraged habits of doubt. Tell Him how helpless you are before it. Commit the whole battle to Him. AS it says in Hebrews 12:2, keep your face steadfastly looking unto Jesus." Look away from yourself and away from your doubts. Encourage yourself with Hebrews 10:23: "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised)."
Rely on His faithfulness, not on your own. You have committed the keeping of your soul to Him and you must never again admit the possibility of His being unfaithful. Believe He is faithful, not because you feel it, or see it, but because He says He is. Cultivate a continuous habit of believing, and all doubt will vanish in the blaze of the glory of the absolute faithfulness of God.
"Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1 5 :57.)