COVID, the Christian, and Doubt

Let’s be honest, we’re not enjoying the way the world is at the moment, are we? Not gathering as the church, kids not going to school and not seeing their friends, not getting together with our own adult friends, the inability to travel and see family, friends, or far-off lands. Honestly, not many people can say they are 100% happy with the world right now. This also makes us doubt, doesn’t it? Why is this happening, is this consistent with a good and loving God? How do I feel about all of this?

So is it ok to doubt? As a Christian, is it ok to doubt? Honestly, it depends.

There are different kinds of doubt, and whether it’s ok to entertain them depends on the particular type of doubt. Let’s break them down.

There are doubts of the will. Example – do I want to follow Jesus? Do I want to do this or that?

To this, the Bible has a strong response – James 1.5-8 says 

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

There are doubts of the mind. Example – can this be proven? Do I understand this?

To this, the Bible has a softer response – Isaiah 1.18 says

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.

Then, there are doubts of the emotion. Example – how do I feel about this?

In the latter stages of his short letter, Jude is writing specifically about those caught under false teaching, to those who are being taught things to make them feel differently about their faith. He writes,

have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. 

Jude 1.22-23

Jude is talking, it seems, about doubts of the emotion – how do I feel about all of this? 

Doubts of the will, doubts of the mind, and doubts of the emotions.

Doubt is human and doubt is universal, says Os Guinness. We live in a broken world and to doubt how we feel about it all is sadly just a part of life. We are going to question how we feel about things on an almost daily basis. Maybe how you feel about COVID-19 and its impact on the world changes daily. That’s ok.

Doubt, inherently, isn’t a bad thing. 

Psalm 73 also speaks of the response to doubts of the heart.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

So, is it ok to have moments of doubt? Yes, absolutely.

Your feelings will change on all manner of things, maybe daily. When we come across people who hold a different opinion to us, when we come across people who are feeling differently about things to us, when we come across people who doubt things we don’t, Jude tells us to have mercy on those who doubt

Author Charles Hummel said that a stronger faith can emerge through doubt. It’s ok to doubt how you feel about things, change how you feel about things. It doesn’t make you a bad Christian if your feelings and emotions change on a topic back-and-forth. You learn some more, you feel differently about something. You feel differently about something, so you learn some more, and so on and so forth. The key for you as a believer will be to always and forever filter everything through the lens of Jesus, Jesus who never changes (Hebrews 13.8, John 8.58). Our desire to follow an unchanging and eternal God in an ever-changing world must never be doubted.

COVID may have you doubting how you feel about certain things, it may have you doubting how much you know about certain things, but, Christian, COVID should never have you doubting if you want to follow Jesus through all things.

Spiritual Depression – Mind, Heart, and Will – Romans 6.17-18/Romans 12.1-2

17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

So far in our mini-series on spiritual depression we have looked at the causes of this all-too-common condition. If you haven’t read any of the previous pieces you can do here.

Today we see that there is a whole life response needed to the truths of Jesus to avoid spiritual depression. We know that the whole counsel of God’s Word is needed to communicate the truths of Jesus, and it stands to reason then that our whole lives must be influenced and affected by it.

Romans 6.17-18 points to the whole person, as does Romans 12.1-2, and we read of obedience, the heart, the standard of teaching, and being slaves of righteousness.

We need balance in our Christian life in order to avoid spiritual depression, and to experience all that God has for us.

If we focus on the mind only, we become brainy and insightful with no desire to serve.

If we focus on the emotion only, we become overly emotional in our faith but lack understanding.

If we focus on the will only, we become fired up to serve, but don’t really connect with those we are serving.

The whole truth of Jesus needs a whole life response – mind, emotion, and will, or head, heart, and hands.

Lloyd-Jones speaks into the balance needed to live the fruitful Christian life, and offers this in response to those to focus on only one element of their person,

These are the people who decide to take up Christianity instead of being taken up by Christianity.

He goes on to call them spiritual monstrosities, and says that if truth is not first understood and internalised then the heart and hands will never work properly, so to speak.

The order suggested is this – head, then heart, then hands.

First we must understand what it is we are responding to. Understand why Jesus shedding His blood for you was such a big deal. Understand the huge change that has taken place within you, and the power that now lives in you.

When this is understood, the heart is softened, and the hands are readied.

Lloyd-Jones writes

Truth is received through God’s greatest gift to man, the mind, the understanding.

Simply then, one big step on the road to avoiding spiritual depression is to order the way God’s truth flows into our lives, first head, then heart, then hands.

Let us commit today to understanding and knowing more about our great God, and having hearts softened and hands readied by this wonderful truth.

Spiritual Depression – Men As Trees, Walking – Mark 8

22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

D.Martin Lloyd-Jones has said multiple times so far in our mini-series that ‘it is sad and tragic that a Christian should ever be miserable‘, and he stated that some are miserable because they do not know they are justified before God purely by faith, requiring nothing but belief on their part. Today he offers up problems and remedies for two groups of people.

The first is the person who unhappy with who they are. They are unhappy with the world, themselves, themselves in the world, and often despair over the ‘hand life dealt them‘, as they may say. They have seen the problem with the world, but not the hope of believing in Jesus. They have asked no-one for help, and are not likely to.

Others see the ‘excellencies of the Christian life‘, and wholeheartedly exhort others to live the kind of life that Jesus taught on the Sermon on the Mount. They know they cannot save themselves from the consequences of sin, but have not yet fully understood justification by faith, and this tension is difficult for them. They have asked to be healed of their blindness (vv.22-23), but have not yet said that things are not all that clear right now (v.24).

Lloyd-Jones offers the remedy in simple form;

  1. Learn and understand the principles and doctrines of the matter at hand.
  2. Fully engage the heart and mind to the matter at hand.
  3. Commit your will to the matter at hand.

The teaching of the full counsel of God’s Word, properly understood, taken to heart, and allowed to influence our will, over time, will remedy both the hopeless and the tense.

Seeing ourselves for who we truly are and seeing Jesus for who He truly is, seeing what we can and can’t do and seeing what Jesus has done, and understanding the teaching of Scripture on how we are saved will take away the hopelessness from the hopeless, and will take away the tension from the tense.

If we don’t understand the teachings and the doctrines instantly, that’s ok, but find someone in your life that you trust to walk you through it all, reach out to them, and ask.

We don’t want to see a world full of trees walking around, we want to live our lives with the clarity that comes from being honest with ourselves, with the Lord, with those around us, and asking for more.

Lloyd-Jones writes this,

Do you believe that the Son of God came from heaven and lived and did all He did on earth, that He died on a cross and was buried and rose again, that He ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, in order to leave us in a state of confusion? It is impossible. He came that we might see clearly, that we might know God…

…If you are unhappy about yourself as a result [of being honest with yourself], come to Him, come to His Word, wait upon Him, plead with Him, hold on to Him, ask Him…and He will do it, and you will no longer be an uncertain Christian seeing and not seeing.