Imagine being with the disciples after the death and burial of Jesus.
They had spent three years coming to know and love this Man. He had taught them, laughed with them, cried with them–he had done life with them. Not only this, but they had given up everything for him. They had left behind their trades, families, and the lifestyles they’d known to follow the One they believed to be the long-awaited Messiah.
But then he died.
Understandably, after the death of Jesus, the disciples began to doubt the Man they had once believed so fiercely.
We know the disciples’ story has a happy ending–perhaps not to the world’s standards; after all, almost all of them were martyred.
However, that which mattered most to them, that which caused them to break out in singing and thanksgiving even after being persecuted on many occasions, was that Jesus rose again. He did not stay in the grave–he defeated death once and for all, securing eternal life for all who believe in him and confirming that his disciples had not misplaced their hope or misunderstood their situation after all.
But maybe as you read this today, you stopped being able to relate to the disciples once Jesus rose again. You’re still caught in the doubt and questions. Maybe you were once so sure, so passionate, so ready to live and die for Christ, but you’re now wondering if you really ever loved him at all. If it was the real thing.
I can’t answer that for you. I don’t know your heart. I can’t speak into your specific situation and tell you if you genuinely know God or if you ever did. However, here are three things I do know.
1. It’s Okay to Be Honest (ESPECIALLY With God)
Perhaps this seems too obvious. Most people today have no fear sharing with the world exactly what they think.
And yet, many come before God with a false front, not wanting him to see our doubts or know how we’re struggling. But in reality, we can never hide from God–he is the one who knows when we sit, when we rise up, who knows our thoughts from afar (Psalm 139:2). He even knows the very words we speak before we speak them (Psalm 139:4).
To try to hide our doubts and questions from God is pointless. And yet, we still do, fearing that to share such things with God is blasphemy–that we might be struck down where we stand or cast out from his presence.
But I am going to make a bold statement–not only is it okay to go to God with your struggles; it is one of the best possible responses to your troubles! Allow me to explain.
The Bible is a great gift to mankind. Through it, we are given the wisdom that leads to salvation (2 Timothy 3:15), we are given many promises from God (Isaiah 40:31), and we are strengthened and purified (John 17:17). It is very Word of God, given through human servants. One of those servants was a man named David.
David was a king, but he was also known as a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). David would often write “psalms,” or “sacred songs,” some of which were later recognized to be Scripture. Some psalms speak of God’s enduring love or abundant mercy. Some speak of his protection. But a large portion of them may surprise you–in many of the psalms, David is crying out to the Lord, not in joy or thanksgiving, but in peril, loneliness, and despair.
Again and again, David cries out to the Lord, many times even asking where he is. What does this tell us?
This tells us that he felt abandoned by God. Not only this, but he wasn’t afraid to be honest with God. I would encourage you to do the same. Go to God in prayer, honestly telling him what you think and feel. Tell him why. Be honest with God—he promises to draw near to all those who draw near to him (James 4:8).
2. Examine Your Life
Here is where things can get a little tricky, so please read on carefully.
Perhaps I should start by explaining what I’m not saying. I am not saying our salvation depends upon ourselves or anything we do. Salvation is of the Lord, through and through. He is the author and perfector of our faith–we aren’t. So when I say we must examine ourselves, I don’t mean that we make sure all our actions line up with a certain set of rules or works that God said we must achieve for salvation. Salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone.
So what do I mean, then? I’m glad you asked.
When we meet someone that we’re attracted to, it causes us to act in a certain way toward them. We may want to compliment them more or give them presents or spend more time with them. This happens naturally–we don’t have to force it. Just meeting this person has caused us to behave differently.
If such is the experience in coming to know mere man, how much more so will this be the case with God? Being saved is not merely an eternal insurance policy–it is entering into intimate relationship with the God and King of the universe. When God saves us, he doesn’t merely pull us out of a precarious situation–he raises us spiritually from the dead (see Ephesians 2:1-2). We are not merely a “better version of ourselves.” We’re a new person.
Interestingly enough, in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes that we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God “prepared beforehand” (Ephesians 2:10). Therefore, as a new man or woman, we are going to behave in new ways–ways that are pleasing to our God and Savior. We begin to love his Word, we begin to care more deeply for our brothers and sisters in Christ and for the lost, we begin to hate our sin and desire to be holy, as God is holy.
Now, this doesn’t mean we don’t face times where we get lazy or sin–perhaps even on a grand scale. Look at Peter, who was used mightily by the Lord to build his church. He abandoned Jesus in the hardest time of his life, and yet we see that Jesus was faithful in restoring him, and had even been praying for him all along (Luke 22:31-32).
The comfort we take in all this is that our salvation is not in our own hands–it is God who is faithful to complete the work that he has begun in us (Philippians 1:6). Therefore, when I tell you to examine your life, I’m not telling you to look for how well you have done in growing by your own efforts. I’m telling you to look for the fruit of salvation in your life brought about by God, trusting that even if you don’t see anything happening in your life now, if God began the work, he is going to complete it.
3. Surround Yourself with Godly People
In times when you are struggling in your faith, it’s important to surround yourself with people who love God and will encourage you in your time of struggle.
Find people in your life you trust and can be honest with, and who can be there to hear your questions, pray for and with you, and encourage you with Scripture. Find wise older Christians who have been where you are and can speak into the situation with experience.
If you don’t have any such people around, I would strongly advise that you find a Bible-teaching church in your area and get connected. Also, if you’re struggling right now, please know that I’m always willing to listen and talk with you–I mean it. Let me know in the comment section below, and I would love to pray for you and talk to you about life and God.
Don’t Give Up
Maybe you’re having trouble with these things. Maybe you’re not even sure if you believe in God anymore.
Here’s the bottom line; if God does indeed exist, and he is indeed good and holy, then it’s of eternal significance that you come to know him and know how to be right with him.
I encourage and challenge you not to be discouraged and give up, but instead to press on, ask the hard questions, and be diligent in your journey to the truth.