I think I need a lock screen on my phone with the words “You, bleary-eyed one, do not touch this! Danger!”—on a red background, in bold.
Have you ever regretted your early morning, nonchalant scroll through social media? I certainly have. Just this past week, I spent three days removing the shrapnel of allowing the many feet of Instagram and Facebook trample on the landmines inside me. You know, those parts of yourself that are weak, sensitive to comparison and criticism, your perennial Achilles heel. That simple, foolish, not-thought-through action loosed a storm of doubt within. As my coffee perked, I struggled to gain ground and fight back.
The first warning rumble had been the sinking sense of failure I felt as I read of a dear woman halfway around the world who is doing what I hope to do. She is younger, written the book, had the kids, already heavily involved in ministry, and gracious to all to boot. I’m struggling to write two blog posts a month, cope with my kids’ needs, stepped out of ministry for a season, and dealing with clogged sinks.
The next quake was the disparaging thoughts against another dear woman nearby posting links to activities she is a part of to further the cause of immigrants in America, while she leads conferences in other countries, and celebrates her daughters’ successes. All I could see in her good works was that I am doing little for immigrants, which shames me because I used to, hope to lead conferences someday, and at the moment am trying to figure out how to pay the counselor’s bill.
The explosion came when I couldn’t stomach the glad tidings of other writers’ successes, and I clicked my phone off. In the shallow morning light, I glowered in despair. Who needs coffee after that? I’ll just go back to bed, thank you very much, the world doesn’t need me!
Finally, almost grudgingly, I open my Bible app, recognizing I am in a bad spot. (Lashing myself all the while with “You know better, you should have started with this…”) And what do I read?
“Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back. But when you place your confidence in the Lord, you will be seated in the high place.” Prov. 29:25 (TPT)
And another look at it:
“The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.” (MSG)
Basically, God’s sweet reminder that sounds like this: “Wake up, sweet one, you are in a trap! I have come to enable you to live the life I have given you! Just as I am enabling these other women, I have laid your boundary lines and given you your portion in which to thrive and grow and minister and be with me. What works for them is not for you. Do not doubt me in this, I know what’s best for you, and I tailor it to suit you.”
Over the next three days, I realized that these doubts I had about self, ability, energy, and success were not just about me, but really rooted in doubt about God. I have set out towards these goals under God’s express invitation and provision. I said yes before, I said I’m all in, I accepted the invitation and dove into the action. I knew the days would come when the energy of excitement that sparked the beginning and gave the courage to step out in faith would dwindle. The path would look far too long, the moments far too difficult, and doubts regarding the rightness and authenticity and, most especially, my ability would glare at me. But this is part of what Eugene Peterson calls, “a long obedience in the same direction,” a day in the equipping and shaping for what is to come, a necessary hiddenness and difficulty.
Even as I felt the lingering impact of the internal explosion in the days following, I repeatedly took the fear and frustration to Jesus in prayer. I wanted him to take it and make me whole instantly, but that was not his way. I continuously had to face them honestly, and tell them “I do not fear you, for I know who has called me. I know what he has called me to, and I know he will bring me to it.” I certainly did not scroll haphazardly! Yet, I still struggled to get out from under it.
One thing you need to know about me is that I am not one to pick up the phone to talk through my problems. I figure the other person already has enough to worry about, but over the last few years of developing some friendships because God has repeatedly pointed out to me that this is vital and good, I have started to call on them when problems arise. So I texted, asking for prayers because of my overwhelm and doubts. A few hours later, the oppressive internal cloud was completely gone! I could see from God’s perspective again.
I was lifted to confidence in God, and out of the trap, through my friends. It required me to humble myself to not go it alone. I couldn’t release the trap of doubt any more than I could take shrapnel out of my own body. And now my faith is reinforced with gratitude and relief and friendship.
So, if you are struggling under a cloud of doubt, what scriptural truths do you need to tell yourself, and is there a friend you can call who will pray?