5 tips to help restore faith during times of doubt.
I’m not one of those fortunate people who hears God speaking clearly to me, but the gift I have been blessed with is unshakable faith. As unshakable as human faith can possibly be. Maybe 99%.
Most of us have doubts at one time or another. My 1% doubt sometimes surfaces even though I’ve been looking forward to the afterlife since I was a teenager. Yet when I recently awaited test results that might tell me I had terminal cancer (I didn’t), I felt a dread that maybe I wasn’t ready for the afterlife after all.
Doubt is human nature.
So how can we rebound when our faith and hope are shaken?
1. Look at God’s amazing creation.
Getting out in nature is the best way I know to find the presence of God. His handiwork is unfathomable. When I think about the intricacies of human beings and the entire world and galaxies around us, I simply cannot accept that it was all created by happenstance. Everything created seems to have a purpose of one sort or another – except sunrise and sunset. To me, the only ‘purpose’ of those is their beauty, a gift from God to His people. When in doubt, get out into nature. Really see and feel Him. He’s there.
2. Consider the cycle of life.
I think it’s impossible to hold a baby and not marvel at the idea of procreation. That matter from two different beings can create a cell that transforms into a human, or an octopus, or a giraffe. The incredible intelligence that designed and created such a process is beyond my comprehension. How can this be anything but divine?
3. Go back to the Bible.
So, what about the Bible itself? Some of the things included in the Old Testament might seem a little far-fetched. Can it possibly be true? I, for one, cannot vouch for the validity of the Bible, but I know there are many intelligent and determined historians who’ve tried to disprove it for centuries. What remains in the Bible has been deemed valid by numerous historians and religious scholars. If we trust the Bible as being God’s Word, then open it up and find Him there.
4. You need facts? Look at history.
Jesus was a real person. It’s undisputed by historians. Even most religions acknowledge the presence of Jesus and his divine connections. Most non-Christians consider Him a prophet – connected to God. If you want to get to know Jesus and hear His Word, read the Gospels in the Bible. The message that He gave to His people over 2,000 years ago still applies to us today. He tells us in the Gospels that He died for our sins, so that we may be forgiven. The story of His crucifixion and resurrection is for each one of us. He was different than a martyr who dies for God. He was our Savior, dying for us.
Go to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John and meet Jesus there.
5. Read a book!
One of my favorite ways to get a faith mini-makeover is to read inspirational books. My favorites are stories of doubters who’ve set out to disprove Christianity and end up concluding that there is no other answer than Christianity. The people who say that Christians are weak and grasping at shadows find that Christianity is anything but that! I find those fascinating.
There are many different types of books you can use. From devotions, memoirs, and historical nonfiction to textbooks and how-to’s. Grab one that suits you and let it rejuvenate your faith.
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I’ve grown up believing in the Holy T
I had a good understanding of the Father – the name is self-explanatory. Being the Head Honcho of the Trinity and of all creation was an easy role to grasp.
The Son was my Go-To Spirit. Jesus was more relatable, as a man. He was my friend, my brother, and my companion. He was the one I consulted most often. The one I talked to and prayed to. Jesus was my main man.
The Holy Spirit was always the mystery to me. Who was He and how did He work in my life? How could I use Him to help grow my faith, to become closer to God?
It wasn’t until a recent “Walk to Emmaus” religious retreat, where I was once again reminded that I was missing out by not knowing or recognizing the Holy Spirit working in my life.
As our Table of Ruth members brainstormed the song we were creating to represent the presentation we had just heard, quiet Juris suddenly chuckled joyfully. “The Holy Spirit is really working here,” she said.
“You recognize the Holy Spirit?” I asked her. “Oh Yes!” she said. “All the time. All these ideas we have… The Holy Spirit is working here,” she said. The Holy Spirit made Juris glow.
Juris inspired me to ‘figure out’ the Holy Spirit – at least in human terms I could understand.
I turned to Daily Verses. These ten spoke to me:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13 NIV
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.John 14:26 NIV
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.Romans 5:5 NIV
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.Acts 1:8 NIV
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?1 Corinthians 3:16 NIV
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.Act 4:31 NIV
Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.Mark 13:11 NIV
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,Isaiah 61:1 NIV
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners.
Teach me to do your will,Psalm 143:10
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.
The Holy Spirit speaks to our deepest self. The human terms I would use to describe Him
For me, the boldest indications of the Holy Spirit are when worship music seeps into my soul and chokes me up each time I sing. It’s the
The Holy Spirit provides us the strength, wisdom,
As a mostly left-brain thinker, my conceptual understanding of the Holy Spirit has deepened considerably. Now I just need to become more mindful of His work in my life, heed His nudging, and answer His call. I’m determined to get there.
How do you describe the Holy Spirit? How do you recognize Him working in your life? Let me know in the comments!
How many times do we pray the “Our Father” and really take to heart the temptations that bombard us in our daily lives?
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.Matthew 6:9-13 (RSV-2CE)
I’d personally lulled myself into a false sense of security and tended to think about temptation as the “big stuff”. I hadn’t murdered anyone, I didn’t have sex outside of my marriage, and I wasn’t a drug addict, so I was good, right?
Well, I recently had a wake-up call that knocked me right back to the reality that we’re barraged with temptations daily. Evil forces beckon us, disguised as sweet indulgences or innocent transgressions.
Upon further consideration of temptations that affect many of us, a long list of possibilities came to mind. So if we step back to the 10 Commandments, we find our roadmap for leading a life pleasing to God. It’s there that we can consider the potential temptations that can hinder us from pleasing Him. So, what temptations may be we overlooking?
And God spoke all these words:Exodus 20: 2-6 NIV
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
This one seems like a no-brainer to a Christian, right? There is one God, the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No Christian would dispute that (I hope).
But, in my Catholic denomination, we are known for our saints and love of the blessed Mother, Mary. I’d always poo-pooed that praying the Hail Mary was considering Mary a god. I knew she wasn’t, neither are any of the saints. Wouldn’t Jesus be happy that we honored his blessed mother? I thought of these people as my heavenly family, mother and brothers and sisters – not as gods. And even though I still don’t think of them as gods, I can see that time spent in prayerful dialogue with any of them is time I’m not spending with Jesus himself.
I sometimes thought that things I’d ask for on a daily basis were too trivial to “bother” Jesus with. He was busy handling the big stuff and all I needed was someone to watch over us while we travelled, for example. But after more consideration, I can understand why God would be upset that we’re not coming to Him with all our needs. He can handle it all.
The same can be said of my deceased friends and relatives. Why would I ask my deceased father to comfort my mother when that’s what Jesus does? Why not pray that the souls of my loved ones are accepted into heaven and then let them rest peacefully there? Jesus can handle all the rest of my needs.
Let all your heavenly focus be devoted to God and give Him all the glory that He’s due.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.Exodus 20:7 NIV
Certainly when my temper flares and the name of Jesus pops out in a puff of frustration or anger, that’s not a big deal, right? Jesus knows I love Him and don’t mean it as disrespectful. I ask for forgiveness. Won’t He forgive my little outbursts?
Yes, but no.
I don’t know why taking the Lord’s name in vain is a common way to blow off anger or aggression, but if we’re serious about our relationship with God, we need another way. Substituting other phrases might be a start, but how about diffusing your temper to begin with? How about working on not flying off the handle? What are your triggers and how can you catch yourself before you get to that point? Figuring that out and making the adjustment to your daily actions will not only please God because you aren’t misusing His name, but you’ll be more likely to honor Him in many more ways once you ditch all that anger and frustration.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.Exodus 20:8-11
Wow, our society has derailed on this one… Do we take any dedicated ‘holy time’ seriously? I go to church (usually), doesn’t that count? It’s one good step, assuming I’m participating with my whole heart and mind and taking the message to heart. But God is asking us to keep a Sabbath day holy, without working. How do you do that? I know I personally look forward to the weekends to get a lot of work done. But that’s not what God’s asking of me. He asked me to keep one day holy and not work.
Keeping a day holy requires an entirely new mindset for many of us. It can involve quality time with family and loved ones or prayerful consideration of our blessings and how we’re being called to serve. Maybe we volunteer for causes that help the unfortunate or get involved in religious outreach programs. Find ways that bring you closer to God and show Him the honor He deserves. Find ways to not work, as we’ve been instructed. Make it a concerted day to honor God.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.Exodus 20:12
What does honor mean? In essence: respect. As adults, it doesn’t seem as significant about honoring our parents as it did when we were children. Most of us probably do honor them, for the most part, but how does temptation lead us astray? If we don’t make a concerted effort to stay in touch, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of silence. How long has it been since we’ve been in contact with our parents? Yeah, they’re busy and we’re busy, but is that really a good excuse? Do we respect them in terms of them being the elders and granting them the courtesy of being the first one to reach out or helping during their struggles?
What about when our parents have abused us, were absent, or otherwise terrible parents? Honoring them would certainly mean not dragging their names through the dirt and publicizing horrors on social media. Honoring them could mean praying for them. Honoring them would be forgiving them (not to be confused with tolerating continued abuse). Even without a relationship with our parents, we can still find it possible to honor them.
13 “You shall not murder.Exodus 20:13
I hope this one goes without saying that we shall not kill people, but temptation can lead us to abuse children and animals. We need to beware of this slippery slope, too.
For most of us, the most frequent association for this command is in regards to abortion. As Christians, our stand is pro-life, but as long as abortion is legally available, it’s a choice women are able to make. How do you take a stand against it? Temptation tells us to take the easy route and to look the other way because it doesn’t impact you. Temptation tells us not to vote against it because it’s too controversial. Temptation tells you to avoid talking to your pre-teen girls and boys about pre-marital sex, to avoid teaching your boys to respect girls and teaching your girls to respect themselves and learn to say “no.” Don’t let temptation make you complacent.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.Exodus 20:14
I don’t have sex outside my marriage so I always assumed I was good with this one. But the daily temptations of sexuality can sneak up and bite us when we’re not expecting it. Fantasizing about anyone other than your spouse can be considered adultery. Flirting outside of your marriage. Viewing pornography or even sexualizing the woman walking down the street or the hot guy at the bar are grounds for adultery. Keep sexuality in its place, or the temptations can quickly become out of control.
15 “You shall not steal.Exodus 20:15
Yeah, you don’t go into a store and steal things. Most of us have that covered. But what about the smaller temptations? What about being completely honest about your charitable donations and total income on your income taxes? What about taking the office supplies from your job home? What about adding a few extra minutes to your timecard? What about padding your disability claim? There are many acts that constitute stealing in our daily life. How are you avoiding the traps?
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.Exodus 20:16
Ah, lying. Not telling lies about your neighbor is a relatively easy one for most of us. Most of us aren’t fabricating and publicizing false stories about people. But what about gossiping? Especially since we can never know all the facts of someone else’s story. What about telling “little white lies” to get attention or to get yourself out of a sticky situation? There are plenty of daily temptations that might make us lie. When we don’t want to tell our husband about our latest shoe purchases or we don’t want to tell our wife we stopped off at the bar after work. Little white lies are lies. Lying is one temptation that is prone to spin out of control.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”Exodus 20:17
You can’t wish for things that aren’t yours… This one is brimming with temptation! How many times do we fantasize about winning the lottery and how we’d spend the money? How many times to we envy the celebrity lifestyle or even our neighbors who have a larger home or “perfect” children? What about when we can’t have children and our friend gets pregnant or when we’re laid off from our job but our co-worker wasn’t? There are almost endless temptations here.
The key to pleasing God is keeping
Life is full of temptation. Keep your focus on strengthening your relationship with God until nothing else matters except the bond between you and God. There is nothing earthly that can surpass the value of that spiritual bond.
We are familiar with God’s Righteous Judgment:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?Romans 2: 1-3 (NIV)
One major human fault is a rush to judgement. Nowhere is this vice more prevalent than in today’s wacky world of social media, where all social filters are “off” and where anything seems to go. Decorum and common courtesy seemed to fly out the window with the advent of thumb typing.
I’m appalled at the name calling and judgmental attitudes I see in religious, political, and even benign posts.
When people are passionate about a topic, they want their point of view to be understood. For me, when someone’s opinion is completely opposite mine, I assume they don’t understand the full ramifications of the stand they’ve chosen because they certainly
Well, who am I to judge? What if I’m the one not understanding the whole picture?
The fact is, none of us see the full picture and God has designed life that way.
Instead, He calls us to trust and follow Him. But most importantly, He’s asked us to Love One Another.
If we’re committed to loving one another, then by definition, we must not judge one another. We must let God be the judge. Remember the adulteress?
3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In theJohn 8: 3-7 (NIV)
LawMoses commanded us to stone such women. Nowwhat do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
If we keep our eyes focused in the mirror instead of casting stones at people all around us, we can enjoy the benefits of growing our relationship with the Lord and allowing Him to be the judge.
If we look at ourselves honestly and acknowledge our own sinfulness, we see that our time is best spent tidying up our own messes. Righting our own wrongs. Changing our own errant ways.
Let’s focus on keeping our own houses in order. Use our precious time here on earth to bring us closer to God, preparing for eternity in heaven.
God has the rest covered.
Do you find yourself judging others? Let me know in the comments.
My favorite way to pray is through song. For some reason, the combination of music and lyrics often brings me to the verge of tears as the words seem to flutter into my soul.
One such tearjerker is by Dan Schutte. ‘Here I am, Lord’ has been a favorite since childhood.
Over the past several years as I’ve been trying to discern God’s will, this song has even more significance for me.
Will we say, “Here I am, Lord”? When He calls, will we say “Yes”?
Most of us aren’t ministers, theologians, or missionaries. Most of us will serve God in ordinary and everyday ways.
Sometimes that doesn’t seem to be enough for me, I want to have a ‘bigger’ purpose, but until I understand what that might be, I will be the hands of God as best I can, in my ordinary life.
How do we fulfill God’s will by serving people in our daily life?
I wish God used a megaphone. I can barely hear Him whispering.
I want to hear His personalized message for living my life, like a heavenly life coach. I try to wait for His timing and listen to His guidance, but it never feels like enough. I want to know more. To hear more. To understand His will for me.
I finally realized that He does use a megaphone. He spoke to the prophets and through His apostles and we have His message in black and white. The bible is God speaking to us, timelessly. Loudly. With a megaphone.
Jesus boiled it all down into a message that our human minds can understand.
And now these three1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)
remain:faith, hope andlove. But the greatest of these is love.
That’s pretty straightforward, right?
So, our mission is one tiny verb of gigantic impact.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.John 13:34 (NIV)
It sounds very simple, but is it really?
Of course we love our family members and our friends. Those are generally the easy people to love, but do we truly ACT loving?
How often do we speak harshly and impatiently to those we love?
How often do we help one another without being asked?
How often do we spend quality time, really getting to know each other?
How attentive to our loved ones needs are we?
How often do we make our loved ones a priority?
How often do we judge and hold grudges?
Sometimes we fall short, even with our loved ones. I know I do. If we think that this is God’s number one plan for us, most of us could probably do better.
Have patience if you want a higher purpose and haven’t discovered it yet. God’s plan is perfect, so trust in that. You’ll know when He’s asking for more. Let Him lead you. In the meantime, serve Him by loving until He asks for more.
Before we start wondering whether we’re being called to become a missionary in Uganda, focus on serving Him by loving those around us.
My own reflection led to an opportunity for me to show more love to my loved ones. My sister’s faced with a husband falling into the abyss of Alzheimer’s. I feel terribly for her and pray for them, but is it enough? I don’t live locally so I can’t support her in a physical way, and she’s so busy between work and caring for husband, that I haven’t found a way to stay in touch and let her know I care.
But I’ve let those excuses get in the way. I’ve let the difficultly of the situation defeat me from supporting my sister. But the excuses I’ve given myself are really a cop out. Couldn’t an email or text saying I’m thinking about you and praying for you or Let me know if you need to talk be easy ways to reach out?
There are many simple ways to show more love to our loved ones. How could you do more?
Jesus made that very clear also:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV)
How are we showing kindness and compassion? How are we helping those in need?
We have endless opportunities to help people within our neighborhood and all over the world.
Help doesn’t always have to be financial. Help can be cooking a meal for a family with a sick member, or taking an elderly neighbor to her doctor appointment, bringing used funeral flower arrangements to a children’s hospital, or donating your used clothes.
Look outside yourself and you’ll see life brimming with opportunities to serve the Lord by caring for others.
If you can make a financial contribution, donate to reputable organizations and causes you know are legitimate. A guide you can use in regards to organizational donations is charitynavigator.org. The site rates sizable charitable organizations by the percentage of donations that are used for the cause rather than lining pockets of administrators. The sad reality is that not all organizations and charities are legitimate or handle finances well, so be prudent in your choices.
In all cases, pray.
Pray for discernment to hear and follow God’s plan for you.
Pray for those who are struggling and suffering.
Pray for those who need to find Jesus the most.
Pray for the souls of the departed.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13:35 (NIV)
Be an example of Jesus’ love for us by loving one another. Yes, the ones who’ve wronged us, the ones who don’t look like us, the ones with different religious beliefs, and the ones who push our love away.
Love even when it’s hard.
Remember that Jesus expressed love for his tormentors while they were crucifying H
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”Luke 23:34 (NIV)
Your way to serve the Lord is to follow the example of Jesus and LOVE. When you pray, “Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?” His answer is always, Yes. Love one another as I have loved you and you will never go wrong.
Let me know in the comments!