Wrestling with Doubt: What to Do When It's Hard to Believe (Pt.1)

If you’ve spent a good amount of time in church, you’ve probably sung some version of the hymn “At the Cross.” Are you already humming the tune? It goes like this,

At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,

And now I am happy all the day!

Oh, how I loved to sing it. I really felt I could burst with happiness at times.

Then, something changed.

Things seemed darker, laughter was infrequent, getting out of bed in a good mood took more effort, and it became just plain hard to believe God and His Word. I remembered reading about a “dark night of the soul” in college, assuming I knew what it meant.

I didn’t. But, now I think I do.

I was in constant turmoil with anxieties and doubts about the God I thought I would serve and love without ever questioning. The worst part was God seemed silent. I had no idea what was going on, and I couldn’t find anything in the Bible that looked exactly like what I was experiencing. I was afraid this could be the turning point I’d heard about in the stories of those who’d walked away from God.

Honestly, this struggle caught me by surprise. I had just finished my degree at seminary, was involved in my local church, and had godly friends and mentors. In fact, I felt like I was flourishing in my walk with Christ. Although I knew and believed the truths about God’s purpose and power in suffering, I was shocked at the outset and sure no one would understand.

Only the Lord knows all the details, but I think my struggle started with a bent toward anxiety that was heightened by spiritual warfare and surfacing health struggles. It felt like there was a constant assault going on in my mind with thoughts that tortured me:

You’re not really saved. You’re a horrible sinner and will do horrible things. You can’t trust God. Jesus isn’t even real. He won’t come through. You can’t really know what the Bible means. This is too much work. Walk away and it will be okay.

I could barely clear the fog in my brain long enough to discern the truth from a lie. I did try, but I was miserable taking up the shield of faith and using the sword of the Spirit to fight. I felt blindsided and sorry for myself. I began to justify my unbelief, resented the Lord, and became increasingly inward focused.

That’s when my soul became embittered. I finally understood what the Psalmist meant when he said,  

“I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you” (Ps. 73:22).

I was extremely embarrassed that this was in me.

But I also learned that this struggle was one of God’s greatest mercies to me. God used it to uncover so much pride and self-righteousness that it’s a wonder I can even stand up straight. But I can because of who He is and what He has done in Christ! Although verse 22 may be true of me at times, so are verses 23 and 24:

“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.”

Maybe you find yourself in a similar season and aren’t quite sure how you’re going to make it through. You’re hanging on by a faith-thread. In tomorrow’s post, I want to share with you several lessons I knew on the surface but that have now been indelibly etched on my heart through experience. These lessons have taught me that I may not always be happy, but because of the cross, I can learn to sing, “and now I am joyful all the day.”  

Until tomorrow, I’d like to hear from you. Have you wrestled with doubts in your walk with the Lord? Would you say you’re flourishing or floundering in your struggle?

About the Author

Lindsay Swartz

Lindsay Swartz

Lindsay Swartz serves at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) as the managing editor of content. She completed her Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and currently makes her home in Nashville, Tennessee, where she loves … read more …

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