I think I would be right in suggesting that all of us have experienced times of doubt in our lives. We doubt ourselves, our own abilities, our wisdom in certain situations. We even doubt our loved ones at times and sadly we regularly doubt the promises of politicians. Sometimes, obviously, these doubts are justified, based on our past experiences or history. Doubting is normal and at times even healthy. But what about when our doubts concern God? What about when what we are experiencing doesn’t seem to line up with what we thought we understood about God, or what we have read in the Bible?
Well, this was the experience of Asaph, the psalmist who wrote Psalm 73 (see previous post # 49). A man full of doubt, extremely anxious and envious about “the prosperity of the wicked” and for him, this had created a crisis of faith. Just maybe you are able to identify with his problem.
Craig Boyles, in his commentary on the Psalms says:
“Psalm 73 represents an intriguing approach to reality. The whole problem underlying the psalm arises from a realistic and frank appraisal of a claim made for God (i.e. that “God is good”, verse 1). But this claim is made in the light of human experience that [seems to contradict that truth]. But the psalm does not limit reality to human experience and human rationality; it opens us to an ultimate and divine reality that goes beyond the immediate reality around us. It represents a bold faith: a willingness to test, and thus possibly relinquish, our understanding, only to receive a deeper insight and thus grasp things more tightly.” (see references # 4)
But this was not only the experience of the psalmist who wrote Psalm 73 but also many other Bible heroes including Job, Habakkuk, Peter and Paul. It has also been my own experience. Maybe it has been your experience as well?
So, let me introduce to this psalmist who struggled with reconciling what he believed with what he experienced all around him in daily life. His name was Asaph and he lived a long time ago, around 1000BC. He was King David’s musical director and probably wrote much of the music for David’s psalms. He also wrote 12 psalms of his own and one of them is Psalm 73.
Michael Wilcock, in his book ‘The Message of the Psalms’ suggests that
“Psalm 73 is ‘the book of Job in a nutshell.”
Asaph’s situation was in some ways similar to the dilemma we face living in Australia.
Maybe, you believe that “God is good” and have believed it all your life, it’s a part of the spiritual solid ground you stand upon, particularly helpful in the difficult times in your life. But sometimes you doubt, like Asaph, and you ask yourself why those who have little or no belief in God seem to have such good lives, are popular, wealthy and seemingly carefree.
If that is you, then just maybe Asaph’s story, as he works his way through this dilemma, will be helpful to you. He confesses what we are sometimes afraid to admit. He helps us to be honest with God about life’s inconsistencies, life’s temptations and our lack of strength to stand firm in the trials that come our way.
It has been said that doubt is something only a believer can experience, for you can only doubt what you believe. Doubt is to unbelief what temptation is to sin. A test, but not a surrender.
I remember reading comforting words like these in my first year as a student nurse training in a hospital in WA in the 1970s. I had only been a Christian for about 6 years and had seen very little physical suffering or death in my life. But that first year in the hospital was a bit of a shock to me. Remember, I had worked in a “sterile” drafting office prior to nursing. Then, all of a sudden, I was faced with the overwhelming dilemma of suffering and death and began to doubt all that I believed. I remember in particular one night on night duty sitting with a desperately fearful dying man, who kept asking me to stay with him, which I did as much as possible, considering my other duties. By morning I felt shattered and full of doubt about all I believed! Did I really believe in heaven and hell. Can the Bible be believed? What about all the suffering around me? Is God really good? Like the psalmist I was confused by the truth I believed and the reality of my everyday experiences which somehow seemed to contradict all that I believed. What helped me through my struggle were the words in the introduction of a book simply called ‘Doubt – Faith in Two Minds’ by Oz Guiness.
He explains: “If ours is an examined faith, we should be unafraid to doubt…There is no believing without some doubting, and believing is all the stronger for understanding and resolving doubt.”
May God use your doubts to make you even stronger in your faith, eternally confident that “God is good”!