In Acts 16, the apostle Paul and Silas come to a city called Philippi. On the Sabbath, they went to the outskirts of town and met a group of women who had gathered. As was his custom, Paul shared the gospel and one lady in particular, Lydia, came to know Christ.
God was doing amazing things in this prominent city as Paul and Silas talked among the people and shared the gospel. But when God is up to something big, Satan always shows up. For several days a demon-possessed girl, who made tons of money for her owners by fortune telling, followed these two evangelists and began shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved” (Acts 16:17).
Though what they said was true, she was speaking in mockery. Of course, this annoyed Paul when she wouldn’t let up. So in desperation, he cast the demon out of her. Having lost their source of money, her owners became enraged. Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten with whips, thrown into a jail cell, and shackled by the ankles.
Can you picture the scene now? Two of God’s most devoted ministers, open sores, excruciating pain, and a damp jail cell. The subjects in our story could have reacted in several different ways, especially doubt. Perhaps the most obvious thing would have been to blame God, question His goodness and faithfulness, and vow to quit ministry all together.
This story reminds me that it’s easy to believe in God’s good character and cling to His love when things are going well. It’s easy to talk about Jesus and embrace the full life He offers when everything is falling into place.
But what about when trials come? When we’re facing an unforeseen obstacle? When we’re hit with a health crisis, a business venture gone wrong, a lost job, a prodigal child, a shattered dream, a huge disappointment, or the loss of a loved one?
These are the things that can make us doubt. We may ask questions like: Why me God? How could you do this when I’ve given everything to you? Where were you, Lord, when this happened?
Have you doubted? Are you doubting now? Well, I’ve been there too. But if we’re not careful, that doubt can lead us further away from God. And you probably know that the one place we DO NOT want to be is far from God. Nothing good happens in that place.
Let me offer three things that can help us when doubt arises.
At the first sign of doubt….
Turn to God!
Without sounding trite, this one may seem too obvious. But isn’t it true that in our struggle, we often turn away from God instead of toward Him?
Turning to God will probably be the hardest thing we do, but it will also be the best thing we do. In that jail cell, Paul and Silas looked up, not out. They sang hymns and praised God, even though their skin writhed with every agonizing movement.
No wonder God converged on that place that night when He swung open the doors to the cells.
He is honored when we trust, instead of doubt.
Cry out to God!
One of the most heart-wrenching scenes of unbelief-turned-to-belief is in Mark 9:14-27. A helpless father brought his demon-possessed boy to Jesus to be healed.
I love this desperate father’s plea to Jesus: “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
Dear Ones, this may be all we have to muster up. Jesus certainly understands the weakness of the human soul, so it’s perfectly okay to just cry out like this father did.
I’ve done it. You can, too.
If your doubts are bigger than your belief right now, I challenge you to cry out, “I do believe, Lord, but help me overcome my unbelief.”
God blesses those who are not afraid to cry to Him for stronger belief.
Go back and read!
We are blessed to have the completed Scriptures at our disposal. And the Bible is FILLED with stories and passages about God coming to the rescue of His beloved ones.
Acts 16 is one of those. In the midst of the storm and the reactions of God’s faithful servants, we learn a ton about God. He shows us His faithfulness, His love, His compassion, and His grace. We see that He never left them alone, and that He can bring good out of bad (the jailer and his family were baptized that very night). I’m pretty sure that most of the inmates found God as well.
So when doubts arise, go back and read what’s been written down for us. We’ve been given a completed manuscript so it’s in our best interest to utilize it. ALL of it.
Remember that our God is the “same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). That means that He still works in mysterious and glorious ways.
When we choose to reflect upon the Bible in the midst of our doubts, God is sure to strengthen our faith and stretch out His hand in marvelous ways.
No matter what you’re going through right now, I challenge you to turn your doubts into magnificent belief.
Oh how this must make God smile.