As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).
Sometimes I just don't get it. I have been a Christ follower for over 30 years, write Christian books and speak for women's conferences and events across the world. I am the Women's Ministry Director at the church where my husband is the lead teaching pastor and serve with Sharon Jaynes and Gwen Smith as part of a ministry to women, Girlfriends in God.
Over the years, God has brought me out of more pits than I can count, and I have been attending church since the day I was born. My faith in God should be unwavering and I should never doubt or question Him or His plan. But sometimes I do.
It has been several years, but I still remember the day I received a phone call telling me that a young mother (whom we will call Sally) in our church was admitted to the hospital to have her baby after nine months of a very normal pregnancy with no complications.
Sally and her husband should be celebrating the birth of their little girl but instead, they are planning her memorial service. The baby died in the birth process and the mother is in ICU after having lost so much blood due to a torn uterus.
Sally is an extraordinary young woman. She and her husband are life group leaders and are constantly ministering to others. She is the director of our church ministry for moms of preschoolers, MOPS, and has one of the sweetest and most gentle spirits I have ever known.
Sally and her husband are faithful followers of Jesus Christ and both are a vital part of our church leadership. I don't get it! Why would God let this happen to them?
You may be offended at my next statement, but if I am brutally honest, my faulty human mind and sin-tainted heart can almost—almost-- come to grips with such a horrific circumstance happening to someone who is evil and has turned their back on God.
Bad things should happen to bad people and good things should happen to good people. Sounds logical and fair to me. Right? You and I both know that life is not fair and that our human logic is a shallow substitute for God's sovereignty.
We are broken people living in a broken world. Bad things do happen to good people while those who mock God seem to prosper. And it's been that way for a long time.
Take Job for Example
Job was a faithful follower of God. In fact, God said of Job, "There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."
One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the LORD, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’ Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’ ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ The LORD said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger’ (Job 1:6-12).
Be sure to notice the important fact that God not only allowed Satan to test Job, but He also dictated how Satan could test him. Job went from having vast wealth to great poverty, losing everything he and his wife had, including their ten children. Job's wife urged her husband to turn away from and curse God and to forsake the very faith that had blessed her and Job for so long--but Job stood firm.
Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised’ (Job 1:20-21).
Job was an extraordinary man, husband, father and leader who served God faithfully. His faithfulness to God in prosperity was a powerful testimony, but His faithfulness to God in the face of death, pain and despair was even more powerful.
Did Job doubt and question God? Absolutely! Did Job openly and honestly grieve his loss and weep in his pain? Yes, but he remained faithful to God--even when he did not understand why God would let him endure such suffering--even when his heart and body was broken.
God monitored every step Job took and was with him. God was pleased with Job and rewarded him for his faithfulness. The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first (Job 42:11).
Sally's faith reminds me of Job and his faith. After visiting Sally and her husband in the hospital, one of her friends reported, "There is such a spiritual presence surrounding both of them, and I am confident that it is because of the many, many prayers that have been offered on their behalf."
God absolutely used this tragedy for good. I'm sure there are nurses and doctors who don't understand the strength they see in this young couple. Seekers have been impacted by the love and prayer support that Sally and her family have received from the members of our church in the months and even years ahead.
I have watched this young couple has grow stronger in the Lord and their faith become a powerful testimony of God's grace, mercy and love. We may not understand God's process, but we can trust His heart. One day, all of our question marks will be yanked into exclamation points ... and we will get it. Until then, we walk by faith and not by sight.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But how? How do we actually walk by faith?
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11).
Billy Graham once said, “Most of us do not understand nuclear fission, but we accept it. I don’t understand television, but I accept it. I don’t understand radio, but every week my voice goes out around the world, and I accept it. Why is it so easy to accept all these man-made miracles and so difficult to accept the miracles of the Bible?”
Faith is a personal issue and often demands that we give up what we can see for what we cannot see, but just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Let me share some ways to weaken your doubts and strengthen your faith:
1. Read the Bible Consistently
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17, NASB).
You may have heard the familiar Old Chinese saying, “There is a good dog and a bad dog fighting within each of us. The one that is going to win is the one we feed the most”. The same is true when it comes to faith and doubt.
We weaken our doubt by strengthening our faith in God. The Word of God feeds the new nature God gives us when we surrender our life to Him. As that new nature grows stronger, the old sinful nature becomes weaker and as that old nature becomes weaker, faith in God grows.
A steady diet of the Word produces strong faith. Read the bible each day. Memorize a verse of scripture each week.
2. Turn to God Constantly
The gospel of Mark tells of the man who brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus Christ and pleads, ‘If you can do anything, take pit on us and help us.’ Jesus responds, ‘If I can! All things are possible to him who believes.’ The dad exclaimed, ‘Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:14-29, NASB).
Sounds just like us! We believe but we also doubt. In those moments, we must be honest enough to cry out to God! Jesus didn’t punish this man for his doubt. He healed his son. God always responds to honesty!
3. Focus on God Continually
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles (Psalm 34:6).
We focus on the mountain while crying out to God for help, wondering if He really will do anything. We need to remember what God promises and what he does not promise. God does not promise to remove the mountain or that we will even understand the mountain.
However, God does promise to help us climb the mountain and He does promise to climb it with us. We must make the continual choice to fix our gaze on God and our glance on the circumstances. When doubt comes, refuse it.
4. Seek out Faith-Builders Persistently
And one standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT).
We need to look for people who will encourage us to be faithful instead of constantly looking for ways to undermine our faith.
Did you hear about the farmer that had a brilliant dog? He also had a neighbor that was negative - no matter what. If it was raining, the farmer would say to his neighbor, "Boy, look at it rain. God's washing everything clean." The neighbor said, "Yeah, but if this rain keeps up, it's going to flood."
Then the sun would come out and the neighbor would say, “If it keeps that up, it's going to burn the crops." The farmer thought, "What am I going to do with this guy?" He made a plan!
The farmer trained his dog to walk on water. He didn't tell his neighbor - just took him duck hunting. Boom! Boom! They got two ducks. The farmer said to his dog, "Go get 'em."
The dog sprinted across the water, picked up the ducks and hopped back in the boat, nothing wet, just his paws. With a confident smile, the farmer asked his doubting neighbor, "What do you think of that?" The neighbor quickly replied, "He can't swim, can he?"
Do you know people like the neighbor? Run from the doubters in your life. We struggle enough with doubt on our own and should not compound it by investing time in doubters and cynics. Look for people who walk in faith, who believe God and study His Word. They will encourage and build your faith while weakening your doubts.
Women all have the same problems, the same fears and the same doubts. Don’t let fear and doubt wreak havoc in your heart and mind. Stay in God’s Word. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to cry out to Him when you are afraid.
Keep your eyes on Him and look for other people who do the same. Will you join me in a new commitment to step out in faith? Remember, when doubt knocks on the door, just send faith to answer it - and you will find no one there!
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash
Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life, Joy for the Journey, and Life Is So Daily. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.