*** Please know before reading this, this post is an account of what I am learning. I am a sojourner and a processor and a child of God that is constantly learning and hopefully constantly growing. I would never want anyone to stumble. Please never take someone at face value without checking them against the God’s Word and if questions arise please go to someone much more knowledgeable than me. This is for those who have ever been tormented by doubts, overanalyzing, or questions. I am learning and processing — I never have it all figured out. ***
“Have you given your life to Christ?”
“Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior?”
“Have you been saved?”
“Be not afraid, only believe.”
Many months ago, I asked God to show me how to love Him more than anyone has love Him before. Things got scary. I was living in a lot of fear that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I thought I was freed from walking in that kind of fearfulness. I was prayed over in our church growth group. My fears finally lifted. Less than a week later, my cousin died.
In a new way, the reality of my own mortality and the fragility of life hit like never before. In a way that I felt like I had not purposely welcomed, I began to question and doubt. The fears of not being a Christian and doubting tormented me daily. Even when God gave me an answer, reassurance through His word, or peace … even if I talked it out with someone and felt content. The thoughts came back every day.
Does God torment us? No. Does God seek to confuse us? No. In fact, God commands us to, “Fear not” … “Be strong and courageous.” Can God use what Satan meant to keep me feeling distant and separated from God in a lesson in maturing my faith, what a genuine relationship with Him looks like, and what salvation looks like over a lifetime? Yes! He’s God and He loves me more than I can imagine. (You too, by the way.)
Lesson one for me – stop thinking about what “you did,” “can do,” or “didn’t do good enough.” Ask yourself, “What did He do?” In most instances, I find, it hasn’t been often that I’ve doubted eternity, God’s realness, or Jesus (I fear that I do or that I will at times but that’s my head and not my spirit. It’s easy for me to worry that I’m going to worry or fear that I’m going to fear.) Most of my doubts are directed at me, “Did I pray a prayer just right?” “Do I believe enough?” “What if I question too much?” “People who know Christ seem to glow and be psyched a lot more than I am in this season of my life … Do I have a real relationship with Christ?”
Okay, let’s admit a few things. If you, as a human being, are being tormented by something or get incredibly worried about something until it barely leaves your head, obviously it’s important to you. If you are tormented, that you “might not,” obviously you love … As humans, it seems we don’t spend a lot of time fearing, worrying, or turning ourselves in and out over something that we don’t love, value, or isn’t important to us. If I am freaked out that I will be separated from Jesus when I die … doesn’t that express some kind of love for Him. A relationship? Are worry and fear always the healthiest reactions? No. Probably not. Can they draw us nearer to God? If we allow ourselves to let go. We doubt ourselves, don’t we? A lot of times, it isn’t that we doubt God, but our own abilities. Is it pride? Is it control? (I’ll come back to this.) Is it that we don’t grasp the concept of free? So I propose, instead of asking, “did I,” maybe in times of fear, doubt, or even spiritual attack we choose to ask different questions.
What did He do? Jesus died for my sins and reconciled me to God, so that I could have a relationship with God and NO SEPARATION from Him. Not ever! He defeated death so I could be unshackled from it! He bled so I didn’t have to! He rose again! He asked God to grant us oneness with Him just as He had oneness with the Father! He broke the veil! He blessed His disciples as He ascended into heave and greeted them by saying, “Peace be with you.” He promised that if He left He would prepare a place for me and that He would come back for me … He would! He came as God and man so that He could experience what I would go through and know how to best intercede for me to the Father. He did! He did this freely! No strings attached. Jesus didn’t force us to come to Him and He was born and died knowing not everyone would. He was tormented and tortured. He was also in a desert once, feeling alone, and Satan came after Him. Jesus was anxious over the details of a decision He made for us. Might He understand fear we have over a decision we made for Him? Questions we have when we focus on our own abilities. Jesus was abandoned by God when we just FEEL like we are sometimes.
Jesus said to believe. Believing is how you accept. FREE gift. Free. When I ask all the “I” questions I’m asking did I do something good enough to get the free gift or did I do it too badly to have the relationship. BELIEVE. Jesus sustains our salvation. He sustains our belief. This is how much He loves me, us. It cannot be about me. Do I follow Him? Yes. Do I seek Him? Yes, to the best of my ability and sometimes in spite of my ability to multi-task and multi-focus. Do I need Him? More than anything. He asked me to believe. Be not afraid only believe. Many days I can’t do the first part. I need Christ.
I say all this in such complexity to let you know that what I am learning is the simplicity of what God is asking of me. To enter into covenant with Him, I must believe. “God so loved the world, that He sent His only son, that whomsoever, shall believe in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Over and over in His word, God asks us to believe. It comes down to something simple (not necessarily easy) and we have complicated it. I know I have at least.
I don’t know if preachers sometimes realize the plight of natural worriers or even those of us made with an obsessive brain that struggle not to ruminate on things most people can easily discern as irrational and let it casually slip in and out of the mind. I came into a relationship with Jesus as a little girl. I was close to 6. So, the question of can you remember every detail down to the date and time and did you just walk an aisle and fill out a card tormented me for a long time. I cried every time we went to church at home I cried and asked my Mom to re-pray the sinners’ prayer with me many a Sunday. I sobbed in the floor of my bedroom in middle school. I listened to people when I got older say they walked an aisle as a child because their friends were or because they thought that’s what you were supposed to do. Those statements scared me so much. I was in the balcony during a revival service at the church where I also went to kindergarten. I told my mom that I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart. She says that I prissed down the aisle way in front of her and told our pastor that I wanted Jesus to come into my heart. I did go into the hallway and pray with my kindergarten teacher. I felt something special inside of me. I believe it was the spirit of God but I never would have understood that as a little girl. I just remember being so excited to tell my dad when I got home and later asking my mom if she thought my grandpa would know if heaven. As the feeling, began to fade I became fearful and my mom took me to speak to my pastor. He asked me to tell the Mickey Mouse statue on his desk how you accept Jesus as your Savior. This was done to see if I understood what I had believed in and what it meant.
I grew up in the Bible Belt. Actually, in an amazing Southern Baptist church. However, to be honest prayers have been a stumbling block for me. Intelligence and too much “head thinking” have tormented me. It really wasn’t until I was going through a hard time in college and a mentor asked me if I really knew if I had a relationship with Christ that I said that I believed I did but I had always doubted and feared because of the questions associated with pastors and THE prayer. So, she said to me, pray with your own words. That day at the table I prayed a prayer to God with my own words. I told Him that I wasn’t good at life and that I wanted Him to take control. That I never wanted to be in control again. Then, at Sunday School I bore witness to recommitting my life to Christ. Three years ago, I was baptized again because I’d never been baptized since I began to understand my true worth in Christ. By that time, I had learned to not just believe in God but that He could and would do what He said, and was walking in freedom because of who He said I was through Christ. In all my clothes, I was baptized in a step of faith that I didn’t overthink. I haven’t doubted until sobbing since the day at the kitchen table. Well not until being faced with unexpected death and constant pain in a my head that is marked by an unidentified light objected presented to me in the form of an MRI.
I have felt empty. I have felt lost. I have felt fruitless. I have felt scared. I have questioned things. I have been told it’s normal. I have learned that salvation is a lifelong journey. I am learning. I will learn. Hopefully, I will always choose to grow, stretch, and strain into all God wants me to know about my relationship with Him. In this season, here is what I am learning –
I have had to let go of the prayer. If this is the thing that has caused me to doubt and stumble, I have to let go and trust God. In the Bible, (and please I have not searched out every word and I am not a seminary graduate, I’m just being open to what God speaks to me) over and over Jesus says to believe. He doesn’t say, Believe and say this Sinner’s prayer exactly down to the letter that I say and repeat after me. When I was a little girl, did my relationship with Jesus start because of a prayer or the moment I believed. Believe in your heart and proclaim with your voice Jesus is Lord. Believe.
I have had to be open to learning what it means to truly accept something. I can believe but sometimes it’s hard for me to accept love without walls. I hope during this season of my life my walls are crumbling and as I listen even in the silence I am learning what it means to accept this gift He’s given me.
For me, it can’t be based on a question that has any “you” in it. If it’s about a prayer … that’s something I’ve done. I even questioned that with the believing, but I realized that if I can doubt (even if that’s normal at times), I need Jesus to sustain my belief. It is a completely free gift that came at a high cost covered in blood and love I can’t even fully grasp.
I believe that I have had a hard time with this a lot of my life because my natural response to fear or uncertainty or change is to control. As a human that has had to fight that natural instinct, it is easy to think safety and comfort come in that control. The truth is the freedom comes in letting go and God never promised comfort. Am I scared of something I have no control over? You bet. I must trust. I’m not perfect at trusting.
If Satan can get me to doubt my salvation there is nothing protecting my mind. In the Bible we learn that God has given us armor and that our helmet is the helmet of salvation. I have learned that if the enemy can keep me from putting on that helmet, there is nothing protecting my mind from attack.
Perfectionism will not work where being a believer is concerned because I could n ever be perfect enough to have a genuine relationship with God. I always think, “I want to get it right,” but He is the one that got it right. His grace is enough for me forever. Just as I am at this moment, God will be pleased with me because I am covered in Christ. This is true even if I never get anything, “just right.”
Trust that belief in the answer to all the questions that scare. Did you pray the prayer right? I heard a pastor recently say that even the enemy can let us continue to believe we’re saved so we die and are separated from God. What? As if there wasn’t enough to worry about. Now I must question whether God is giving my peace or if Satan is deceiving me into going to Hell? I heard a pastor I also think rocks ask, “Did you just have an emotional experience?” “Did you just make a decision?” It’s enough to drive you nutso. Jesus died for me. I will let go of the heavy. It’s always been unconditional love. We’ve complicated the gift he paid for and gave us for free. What do I know? I know I am called to believe. Also, when seeking to obey I can trust this simplicity (not easy just not as complicated as we make it) Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
For me, peace and freedom will be in that simplicity. Because it is a miraculous simplicity that saved, forgave, and sustains. He engraved my name on the palms of His hands. Nothing can separate. Nothing can tear me from His hands. He is faithful when I am not. Salvation is a lifelong journey. I’m a student floating in his love, overcoming the fear of no control to experience the free in freedom.
I must not rely on anything that has to do with self. May always take the me out of the questions. It is so much not about me, that I cannot even sustain my own belief. However, I will always be thankful for the questions. Because even in the silence, I can learn by being available to listen.
Don’t trust your feelings. Trust what God says about you in His word. His truth. Feelings always change. May I mature as I learn to trust even in the silence. May I know He is near when I feel empty or lost or confused.
* * * * *
Doubts have hurt my heart because although I wouldn’t be ashamed to say after all this time God has showed me that I was being disingenuous and needed to know Him in a real way, I wouldn’t be scared to do that publicly. My sadness always comes because doubting makes me feel that to say I am not His, means that all those beautiful, hard, important things He and I have experienced. That He didn’t bring me into His family as a little girl because He knew how much and how early I would need Him. The times I’ve felt Him hug me when I felt alone, the nights I held my hand in the position of half of a handhold so that He could hold my hand as I lay in my own blood all those nights scared to be alone, the victories, the falling where He’s picked me up, the humbling, the love, the worship that no one say but He and I … that it would mean saying those things aren’t mine to keep, that I have to say all that wasn’t real, when I know that it was. He has been so special to me … I can’t even stop the tears when thinking I might not be marked as His.
* * * * *
Listen. Listen. Listen.
I circled it over and over in the passage of the bible I was reading. I have been learning to listen for months now. I have been meaning to listen more. I have heard some. I am listening at times to silence and what feels empty. I am listening.
“I will follow you until my lasts breath. Then, I will see Your face.” – sticky note I wrote and stuck to my “green room” window.
*** Please note, I am not knocking prayer as it pertains to salvation. I am simply speaking to what I am learning at this time and what has caused me to personally stumble. I do believe prayer is a way to express belief. Once again, never listen to someone and believe them completely without checking it for yourself against God’s word. ***