Self-doubt afflicts me. Inevitably, this invites God-doubt to walk with it. I plod along with both, caught between these unnerving companions. I wish they’d go away, or at least be quiet. They weary me, often grinding me to a halt as we argue about the way forward. And that’s the evil one’s goal: Stop her from moving closer to God. Cut her off from her source so she cannot pour life into others. Doubt is a trap of the enemy that removes us from action; and inaction is the nemesis of faith.
So what can we do when assailed by doubt?
If inaction kills faith, then how can we exercise faith in the presence of doubt? By taking action. I think of the twenty-third Psalm that says “You have prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” Even surrounded by enemies, we go to the table prepared for us and eat. We receive nourishment, enjoy it, and trust we are protected from the threatening onlookers. How do we get here? What does that look like in the everyday?
It looks like showing up anyway to a commitment we’re not sure we can complete very well, trusting the Lord is there to help and redeem. It’s prayerfully soaking in the Lord’s love, not worry-praying which just exercises our doubt. It’s asking a friend to check in on progress towards our goals. Or meditating on a passage of Scripture, like the one above, internalizing it.
Gratitude is a great counter-offensive move. Intentionally, in full awareness and gratitude, we need to enjoy the goodness that God has placed in our lives—the friends, our pay checks, a book, sipping a favorite beverage, a sunset.
When I do this I am actively rooting myself in the goodness of God, which internalizes the truth that I am loved and provided for. He is not doubting me, I am. God is certain that I deserve his attention and care. If I focus on curing my self-doubt, trying to root it out with my own tactics, I end up mired and despairing.
A tactic that we self-doubters use to try to prop ourselves up is through others—anyone around us who will respond to us. We take responses as indicators of our worth and ability. We use others to gain faith in ourselves.
If you are in a relationship with a self-doubter, you may feel like you are in the presence of a vacuum. We suck your strength to serve our own purposes. Rather ugly, but it is a dynamic that we incur.
What is the action here for the self-doubter to take? What is the action for her friend to take? First, if you are the self-doubter, you need to recognize how you steal the good actions of those encouraging you to create certainty within yourself. Often this realization occurs when those encouragements and praises are removed, and you feel despair and pain.
In this dark place comes opportunity to move into freedom. Here you can discover that God is with you and lives within you, filling you with his love. You can discover the treasure in your jar of clay, and be filled with life that overflows. Christ dwells within you in particular ways that are unique to you. They are yours to discover! And as you do, you will naturally overflow into action and faith.
The self-doubter’s friend may feel she “has to” build her up with her words, as Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29—and in no way am I saying we shouldn’t praise or encourage—but in this particular instance, when a “recovering self-doubter” is seeking transformation then the friend’s role is to guard her words, encouraging only as the Lord leads, not to fill the awkwardness or pump up her friend. It will feel uncomfortable. It will mean sitting with your friend in a despairing place looking for God. It will mean leaning in to listen to God together and allowing him to stir within the self-doubter’s heart as he reveals himself within her. Your faithful action is patience and presence rather than encouragement and praise.
Lastly, the self-doubter can take action not by attempting to create a certainty but by participating in the mystery of God through prayer. Lament one’s weakness before him, ask him expectantly to lead you into true courage and confidence, ask for the treasure of his love to be made real in you and to you, and don’t forget to watch for his answers! As we bring ourselves with the hitchhiker of self-doubt into his presence, our self-doubt grows quieter. The certainty that I can do all things through Christ ignites our hearts and sets our lips to praising Him. No longer do we seek praise for ourselves, but live in the strength of his gracious love, pouring it out to others.
Having been a burnt-out leader in the church, Kimberley Mulder discovered her pace with grace, and now writes to sustain your soul as you serve at www.KimberleyMulder.com. She loves to tend souls with a listening ear and a reflective heart, and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Ministry at Portland Seminary with the goal of becoming a Spiritual Director. The outdoors is always calling her name, so when not tethered to a computer, you can find her exploring, gardening, and taking pictures anywhere outside of four walls (some of which make their way on to Instagram @writerkimberleymulder). Her husband and three kids journey with her, adding purpose, delight, and depth to her one and precious life.