In August of 1995 I went through a trial unlike I had ever gone through before. I share it now only to encourage any others in the family that find themselves in a similar experience. I know many of us have found ourselves in similar situations, because I have counseled many through them. Often believers are afraid to talk of such things with their Pastor or church friends, but because I am usually living thousands of miles away, they opened up to me. I also believe we really underestimate our Adversary. The scripture does not speak directly about much of what I will discuss in the retelling of this trial....
There is no definitive teaching about what Satan is able to do against the child of God. However, what is clear in scripture is the fact that if the child of God clings onto the Lord, Satan will fail at whatever he is attempting to do. That is non-debatable. I have studied much about this, and it is not clear what influence Satan can have over a believer’s thoughts, i.e. if he knows what you are thinking, his ability to make or lead you into thinking and feeling things. Those debates do not mean too much to me now, because whatever part Satan had in this he lost because greater is He that is in me than Satan!
One day in August of 1995 I noticed myself for the first time in my existence doubting some of the things I hold most dear. I will choose to remain unspecific because the principle is what I want to speak about. You may have or are still yet go through something like this, and your specifics will be different from mine, but the principles involved will be the same. I am not talking about questioning what I believe - that is normal and healthy. God made us that way. I am not talking about lacking faith to believe God for what He says - we all struggle with that. Remember the man in Mark who said "Lord I believe, help me with my unbelief!"
Mark 9:20–24 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
No, I felt doubts concerning core things that were the foundation of who I am. It was like I had lost a part of myself. I felt dry inside, and I could not identify from where this feeling flowed. My walk with my Lord was good, and my life was great; I had a great wife and kids. I was doing things that brought a real sense of purpose to my life. Yet I could feel a clear spiral downward. The more I practiced what I have preached for years - "during moments of emotions that lead the wrong way, just practice what you know, not what you feel" - the blacker and more barren the hole I was in became. Prayer, reading, worship and counsel did not seem to help.
Then I began to wrestle with many uncomfortable questions. Do I really believe what I say I believe? If I don’t what am I going to do? Should I leave the ministry? In addition I had visions of embarrassment. What will my friends, my family, my wife think? Where did this come from? It all happened so fast!
As I continued with this struggle within, one particular scripture kept returning to my mind - "The Truth will set you free." I would rather be embarrassed than live a lie. So, while continuing to practice those things that I know are essential for a healthy walk, I began to review all the evidences for what I believed; Truth from the Word, from history and the “Jordan stones” in my life. The many things that God had done in my life for all these years.
Joshua 4 When all the people had crossed the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe. Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight...He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial...It was there at Gilgal that Joshua piled up the twelve stones taken from the Jordan River. Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.”
I asked the most difficult questions I could, knowing that I had nothing to fear from the truth. The more I meditated on the truth of what God had done the dimmer the doubts became. Then one time, during worship, I once again reaffirmed with the Lord my belief in those things that I was now struggling with and expressed my frustration over the fact that I did not understand where this doubt came from, but I refuse to let go of Him. That moment - just as quickly as it came - it left. All I had known of God, all His warmth, security, strength and holiness, all I had come to know over these years came rushing back into my mind and soul.
As I reflect upon what I consider to be the most difficult time of my adult life. There are several things I feel compelled to say. First, I will never again underestimate the power of my enemy. How active he was during this time I can not say, but it is very clear to me that he was ready at any point to do what he could to drive me deeper into that pit of despair. Second, I had reaffirmed the fact that I have nothing to fear from the truth. Some might say - Nate, I can’t believe you had doubts about that! - my response is two fold. 1) I am very human - more than most. I do not have feet of clay; I have a whole body of it! 2) Even though I would prefer to never have gone through this experience I am glad that I am not afraid to ask the hard questions. I have met many - some that even ridicule Christianity - that always steer clear of questions that concern their mortality, eternity and the responsibility they have concerning these things. As children of the King, we cannot be afraid to review our beliefs in light of scripture. We, above all others, have the obligation not to fear truth, even if it threatens our perceived foundations. Truth remains truth, so we do not need to fear rediscovery of it. There are many inside and outside the body of believers that refuse to think about uncomfortable questions. It should never be so with those who claim the scriptures as Truth. The last point is just a thanks to God who never fails to be faithful. Even when I felt myself slipping into serious doubt, He never let go of me. Let me encourage you - Don’t ever let go! No matter what you feel, no matter the circumstances, even if you are just hanging on by one single thread of His holy robe - hang on! He will not let you go. If it seems so dark that you cannot even see the tunnel, much less the light at the end of it, and you cannot see Him - remember He still sees you. If you give in to the lie and react to the emotion you will pay a heavy price - though He will never lose you. But, if in spite of the feelings or the lack of them, no matter what fears are gripping you or doubts plaguing your soul - if you meditate on the truth and refuse to quit seeking - in time - His time - all that He is and has ever been will burst forth from that dark pit and in the light He will refresh you again.
Who is like our God? No one. There is no place I can go, even a place created by my enemy to destroy me, that my God is not already there waiting to extend His loving hand of mercy and support. Yes, it may come along with lessons and opportunities for growth, but He is always there. I thank Him for His ways and His faithfulness. Take time today to consider your God - and then be amazed!