Tag Archives: faith

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Over the years since I began conversing with God, I have had many doubts.  Are these conversations real?  Is God really talking with me?  Am I crazy?  One thought which could not take hold was that I was talking with evil spirits.  The voice I was hearing was a voice of love, and my heart responded to that love.  My love language is communication.  A God who both listens and talks with me won my heart.

This past summer, I stopped hearing God.  I do not say God stopped speaking, but I stopped hearing.  It was devastating.  Just as a tree grows in response to light, I had grown amazingly in response to God's love and His giving of Himself to me in communication.  Though I wasn't hearing His voice, I had the understanding that God was allowing my fears to grow so I could see them for the lies they were and reject them.  I knew I had been holding onto both faith and doubt.  I had to make a decision.  The picture I had was of a garden with small weeds continuing to steal nutrition from the true vegetables.  With God's help, I was plucking up the weeds before they could grow big, but they always snapped off and left the roots behind.  God wanted to remove the roots.

A few years back, God asked me what doubt is.  I didn't know.  Was doubt the same as unbelief?  With the help of my husband and BibleWorks software, I hunted for the answer.  I learned something interesting.  The Greek word for doubt basically means to sit in judgment listening to the evidence on both sides of an argument.  It means you haven't decided yet which is true.  You're considering.  The writer George MacDonald considered doubt an important part of our Spiritual development.  Without the process of doubt, we could never reach the truth.  Jesus brought doubt with Him.  Can the law really save you?  You say you keep the law, but if you break it in your heart, you are breaking the law.  If you break just one bit of the law you are breaking the whole of the law.  Can the law really save you?  If no one had doubted and considered Jesus' questions, no one could have come to faith in Him.

Doubt is important to our Spiritual development, but the purpose of doubt must be accomplished.  We must make a decision.  What do we believe?  We cannot keep endlessly listening to arguments.  We must make a decision, a firm decision.  God told me, we have to shut the door behind us and begin to walk down the path we've chosen.  He assured me, even if I made the wrong decision, He could lead me to a turn around place.  I thought about how often when driving we have to go the wrong direction for a time in order to get to the right place.  God told me to start walking, and He would go with me.  So I decided to walk down the path with God and talk with Him.  While we walked, He invited me to ask Him any questions and tell Him why I continued to doubt.

We walked and talked together for two years.  God more than answered every objection I had for Him.  Then He rested His case.  It was time for me to make a decision.  I had to choose whether I would believe what He said or what I had always understood in the past.  I knew what I wanted to chose.  God's words and His presence are beautiful.  What I couldn't figure out was what to do with the doubt I still had.  I tried to wrestle with it and make it go away.  It wouldn't go.  I agonized.  I waited.  I accused God of not helping me.

Finally I asked God one more question.  What do I do with the doubt?  Instantly, I was standing in front of my Grandfather's barn.  A vision like this was a new experience for me, but I knew it was God.  Um, why am I here?  "Climb up into the hayloft."  I climbed into the hayloft.  It was filled with golden light and hay and haydust.  I waited a minute; then um, what do I do here?  "Lay down and rest."  I lay down.  I waited a minute; then um, why am I in the hayloft?  I don't get it.  Instantly, I was in front of the barn again.  I saw the barn -- hayloft above, barn floor below.  The hayloft was dusty, but clean.  The barn floor was nasty.  You really want galoshes/gum boots to walk there.  As I looked, I heard, "You stay in the hayloft.  I will deal with the barn floor."  I realized that I had been mucking about on the barn floor of my doubts.  I was trying to rid myself of the filth of my doubts and was only getting more mired.  My place is to dwell on my faith and to nurture it by resting in God's light, in His life-giving presence.  The only decision I need to make is to continue to listen to and to respond to His voice, to continue to walk in His presence, to focus on what is true rather than on all the doubts the world would throw at me.

Over the years as I have conversed with God, I have many times had others say they longed for that kind of communication with God.  I have said that God loves to communicate with His children including them.  Several times, I have been asked, But what if you don't believe He communicates with you?  I haven't known what to answer.  These are people whom I love.  I want them to have what I have.  I'm a woman.  I love community gab sessions.  My conversations tend to be heavily spiked with God talk rather than gossip, but that's because gossip is boring and old hand.  It may be a new person, but the news is old.  The things I'm hearing are NEWS.  I love talking them over with others.  I have longed to answer their question but haven't known how.  The answer is that the question is wrong.  Instead of looking at ourselves and at the sin and unbelief at work within us, we need to look at God, the Good Father, who is love.  Love communicates.  All we can do is think on these things.  If we long to communicate with God, then that longing is something we inherited from Him.  He promised that His sheep hear His voice.  Our longing for Him tells us we are His sheep.  Don't be afraid to listen to the voice of love that is already speaking to you.

The flood gates of God's speech opened up that day I prayed that God would show me His justice.  His response, "I am faithful and just to forgive your sins and to cleanse you of all unrighteousness," was beautiful and freeing, but how could I receive that promise?  That same day, as I went downstairs to work on supper, I began to contemplate the whole verse.  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

If we confess.  That seemed to be the way to receive the promise, but it filled my heart with ache and longing.  You see, I confessed my sins all the time.  Father, I yelled at the children.  Father, I yelled at my husband.  Father, I shouldn't have bought that.  Father, I should have been fixing dinner instead of checking email.  It sure didn't seem very effective for cleansing.  I did the same thing again another day.  So as I opened the refrigerator, I asked God plaintively, "Is that all we do, confess our sins?  That doesn't seem like enough.  Don't we have to do more?"  God's response was simply to repeat the whole verse, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all righteousness."  In other words, He said, "What did I say?"

God said it, so it must be true, but my heart still ached to see it.  As I continued to contemplate the verse over the next few months, God gave me two comforts.  One was another word in response to another query from me.  The other was another parable building on the parable about roots.

First, as I was sitting one day teaching one of my daughters to write an A, I told God, "You must be so angry with me, because I know I shouldn't get angry and yell, but I still do it."  I don't know the context.  Had I just yelled at someone?  All I know was the beautiful answer, "Do you get angry with your daughter for not getting her A perfect?  She knows what it should look like."  No, I don't.  I know that knowing what an A should look like is different from being able to form one.  I knew also that God was saying He wasn't angry with me, but that He has grace to teach me how to form righteousness.  As I thought on that message, I watched myself teaching my daughter.  I had my hand over hers, helping her form the letter.  I began to pray that God would take my heart and help me to form right responses until my heart learned the form.

Second, I continued to contemplate what it means to confess our sins.  As I said, I confessed all the time.  It seemed I was always having to confess something.  It left me feeling like a horrible person.  All I could see was the things I was doing wrong.  I began to think about what God had said about me trying to mow while He was trying to remove the roots.  I began to picture a tree.  I saw that I was trying to pluck off leaf buds (temptations) before they could unfold.  When leaves (sinful action) did open before I could get to them, I would confess and apologize.  I began to feel God asking me, "Why confess the leaves?  Let's deal with the tree."  I saw that as long as the tree was there, there were going to be times when I couldn't keep up with leaf production. Spring always comes with a burst of buds.  I could get people to help me, to hold me accountable, and I might get further than I would have on my own, but inexorably, spring arrives with a burst of leaves.

I began to wonder, "What is the tree?"  I looked at specific leaves I've dealt with repeatedly.  Yelling at the children.  I saw that when I yell at the kids, it's usually from fear of what injury might happen or what people will think of their behavior.  Yelling at my husband.  That's often a preemptive strike because I think I'm wrong for having a difference of opinion from him.  Worrying.  Did I mention that I worry?  Here is where it got interesting.  I saw that I worry about money because I am afraid I won't have enough.  That was shocking, because I thought I believed God would provide; after all, Jesus said God would.

As I pondered this, I remembered God showing me both carrots and weeds in my garden.  Believing that God will provide does not necessarily preclude believing that God won't provide.  But weeds steal nourishment from the good plants.  My faith that God will provide cannot grow strong and healthy as long as my thought that God doesn't provide grows alongside it.  So I was back to the question, "What is the tree?"

Why do I believe God won't provide?  I saw two thoughts with it.  One, I am afraid that God has provided, but if I don't get everything exactly right, the enough won't be enough.  Every spending purchase becomes agony, because I feel God has an exact formula that is just short of impossible to discern and follow, and if I were good enough, I could figure it out.  Two, I am afraid that God has planned it out for me to have enough, but other people aren't cooperating.  There are lots of people connected with my money who might get in the way of what God tried to provide – bosses, co-workers and those I serve, store owners, politicians and IRS agents, doctors and insurance agents, thieves.

As I considered these things, I saw that I still hadn't identified the tree.  I had identified branches.  So what is the tree?  I felt as though God were asking me, "Is that really me?  Will I really say, 'I provided and protected, but you messed it up?' or 'I provided and protected, but others prevented me?'"  To be honest, I wasn't sure, but here God was asking me again, "Who do you say I am?"  When I told Him I longed for a Father who would lead me to obey Him by loving Him, not drive me to obey Him by fearing Him, He had asked, "What makes you think I'm not like that?"  Now He was asking, "Is that really me?"  As long as I think that's who God is, my thoughts are going to produce lots of leaves, but how can I stop thinking of God that way?  Isn't it true?

There are times when we are out in the middle of the sea in the midst of a storm.  There are times when we despair of life itself.  There are times when the storm is so strong that all the faith and trust we think we have grown seems to disappear entirely.  There are times when our hearts and our lives resonate the chaos of the storm rather than the peace of Christ.  During those times, we despair of righteousness itself as we watch all the worst comes out of us, just when we thought we were doing better.  During those times, we despair of love itself, "Don't you love us?"  During those times, we remember that it was Christ, himself, who put us on this boat without him, and our hearts cry out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"  During those times, as we look at our lives, resonating to the chaos rather than the peace, despair would tell us that He has forsaken us because we aren't good enough.  How thin our single strand of faith seems in the midst of that furious storm!

It was during one of these times that I asked the Father a question.  Paul tells us to continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Well, I was filled with fear and trembling as I asked God the question I couldn't restrain any longer.  "Oh, God, if I hated sin, ... I know you hate sin.  Please don't be angry with me.  I'm not arguing with you.  I just want to understand. ...  If I hated sin (and I know you do), and I knew certain situations brought out the worst in my children, I wouldn't put them in those situations!  But you do.  You are wise.  You must have a reason.  Why, Father?"

Immediately, I heard a thought, "You are trying to mow.  I want to remove the roots."  But over the next month or so, a parable grew in my mind.  In this story, a gardener had a visitor.  Of course, he did what anyone who loves gardening wants to do – he took his visitor to see the garden.  The visitor looked at the garden, and then he asked the gardener, "Why are there so many weeds?"  The gardener explained, "It's been raining for two weeks, so I haven't been able to get out and weed.  Now the sun has come out, but the ground is still too wet to weed.  The rain and sun have caused the weeds to grow."  At that point, I felt as though God leaned over and asked me a thought,  "Didn't the carrots need the rain and the sun?  The weeds did not grow because of the rain and sun.  They grew because they are planted in the ground."

I do not believe God was saying the gardener planted the weeds.  The Bible tells us that an enemy planted them.  Still, if there weren't weed seeds and weed roots in the ground, weeds would not grow.  The rain only showed us what was already in the ground.  We couldn't see it before because it was hidden underground, but it was there nonetheless, and God wants to remove those hidden roots of sin.  This still isn't a full answer.  This still leaves us asking, "What does it mean?  How do we get rid of the weeds?"  However, as I think about this story, three comforts come from it.

First, the God who sees our hearts saw our sin before it grew out of our hearts into our actions and thus became visible to us and everyone around us.  God saw it, because it was already there.  He saw it, and He loved us.  He loved us when we had this sin hiding in our hearts, and He does not forget that love when the sin grows into action.  He isn't even surprised.

Second, there were carrots in the garden, not only weeds.  Two things are at work in us.  Sin is at work, yes, but the Spirit is at work, as well.  The sin that is at work in us is not us.  It is working against us.  It is only distortion.  It is not creation.  The Spirit who is at work in us is us.  The Spirit is working on our behalf.  We are born of the Spirit.  We are a new creation.  We are being made one with God.  We are of God's kind!  Our us-ness is with God.

Third, God said, "I am trying to remove the roots."  He is at work.  He will accomplish His work.  Someday, we will stand before Him spotless, without any hidden blemish.  He has already credited righteousness to us.  That righteousness will be ours, inside and outside!  The sin which is at work will be completely removed, and what will remain is the righteousness born of the Spirit within us.