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Oh God, Please Help Me with my Doubt
By Leighann McCoy
WORTHY PUBLISHINGCopyright © 2012 Leighann McCoy
All rights reserved.
Does God Talk?
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
If you are reading a book that addresses doubt (related to prayer), then most likely you are suffering the silence of God. You're not alone. If we'd all be honest, every one of us has suffered God's silence. We're in good company.
David wrote the verse printed above. These are the exact same words that Jesus cried out on the cross. Later in the same prayer David also wrote, "Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help" (Psalm 22:11).
Know this: God's silence is not a result of your doubt. Sometimes He is silent. In those times it is quite OK to cry out and beg Him to speak. A bit later we are going to carefully examine another of David's prayers where he did just that. But in the first few chapters of this book, we are going to discuss the language of God. Perhaps you've never really "heard" God's voice, and you wonder whether He speaks at all.
I'll never forget the night my daughter Kaleigh, six years old at the time, put me through the inquisition: "Mommy, if God speaks to you when you pray, what does He say? How do you hear Him? I pray, and I ask Him to talk to me, but He never does. He never says a thing!"
After I recovered from the good shock of seeing my very young daughter struggling with a very big spiritual concept, I then tried to give her my good church answer: "Well, Kaleigh, honey—here's how it works. I talk to God, and then I wait to hear from Him. I hear from Him mostly when I read the Bible. Some people call the Bible 'God's Word.' "
"So, He doesn't really talk to you?"
"No, not the way you and I are talking to one another right now. When God talks, He talks to my heart."
Well, that didn't make sense at all to my six-year-old, and she couldn't leave it alone: "Mommy, why did God make our ears if He didn't mean to use them when He talks to us?"
I tried to pull all my vacation Bible school memories out of storage in my head and could not, for the life of me, remember ever having heard anyone even try to answer that. So, I decided I was certainly not going to be the first one and responded, "Kaleigh, I don't know."
Wouldn't it be great if every time we bowed to pray God just opened the windows of heaven, sent Jesus crawling through, and let Him sit with us in bodily form for just a while?! Of all the pray-ers (people who prayed) whose experiences are recorded in God's Word, the only one who got to speak to God face to face was Moses.2 Scripture doesn't tell us that Jesus had this kind of audience with God. But, just like David, Jesus did say that He heard God's "voice" (see John 8:26). Jesus also assured His listeners that those who belong to God will hear God too (see John 8:47).
Oh God, Please ...
This is a great book to read with a group of friends. Questions at the end of each chapter can guide your discussion. In a journal record your thoughts and your answers to these questions. Jot your prayers. By the time you finish reading Oh God, Please Help Me with My Doubt, you will have a solid record of the way God answered your prayer. Here are some questions to ponder and discuss with others.
1. How would you describe God's voice?
2. How does God speak to you?
3. How can you be sure the voice you are hearing is God's?
For those who do not know Him, He might seem like a silent God. I couldn't tell Kaleigh when she was six, but she and I both believe that we hear God's voice today. While our God does not normally speak with a voice that our human ears can hear, He is definitely not silent.
Pray:Oh God, I feel like the psalmist when he cried out for assurance that you were listening to his prayer. I call out to you but don't sense your presence. I long to hear your voice. Jesus said that I would hear; please, Lord, speak to me in a way that I can understand.CHAPTER 2
God Speaks through His Word
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
Just as I told Kaleigh, most often God speaks to me through His Word. The other day my heart was struggling with a situation that seems desperate. By desperate, I mean that the plans being considered now—the ones that are set in motion—seem to be moving some people I love in the opposite direction of God's best for their lives. I was talking to God about my fears, and I was sharing with Him the hurt my heart feels when I try to imagine what all might be about to transpire. (We'll talk more about this later, but for now I'll say that anytime we use the words imagine or imagination in our vocabulary in relationship to fear, anxiety, or dread, we need to be sure to reel those vain imaginations in.)
Before I share more of the particular instance of God speaking to me, first let me tell you this: your Bible wants you to write in it! Bible verses are made to be highlighted and underlined; your Bible is made to be jotted in and marked in many other ways. I would not have heard God's voice so clearly last week had the passage of Scripture that God used not been underlined. On the day that I was struggling, I was leafing through the pages of my Bible looking for a verse to use during the message I deliver on Wednesday nights at church. In the middle of my search, I found a passage of Scripture that was written specifically for me—not for Wednesday night's message but in response to Tuesday morning's prayer.
Several years ago, during another crisis, God had showed Kaleigh a passage of Scripture in Jeremiah that seemed to be God's word to me, so she shared it with me. How do I know? In the margin beside the underlined verses, I had written, "Kaleigh pointed me here on [date]." Here I was almost two years later flipping through the pages of Jeremiah, and the verses I'd underlined then were unbelievably specific to the cry of my heart that I lifted that morning. God spoke to me through His Word.
A Love Story
In order for God to speak to you through His Word, you must read it. You've got to read God's Word on a daily basis. His Word speaks best when you read it consistently. God's Word speaks best the more familiar you are with it. I encourage you to read God's Word from beginning to end. Read all of it. Sure there are parts that are not as inspirational as others, but as you grow more familiar with the Word of God, you will learn His language. It is a language of love, and it is woven throughout all of Scripture. (Don't be afraid to use tools to help you make sense of the Bible. Commentaries, Bible studies, books—all of these are great resources to help you understand God's Word. Just be careful not to let the tools take the place of the Book itself.)
When you are struggling to hear God's voice, camp out in the Psalms. I'm especially fond of Psalm 143. We're going to discuss this psalm in detail later, but for now, know that the Psalms are full of reassurance that you are not alone if you are crying out and you sense that God is not giving you His full attention. You can transform many great Psalms into prayers of your own. I do this often in my quiet time. I take the psalmist's prayer and make it my own. Here's what I did with David's Psalm 23 just a few weeks ago:
You are my shepherd—I will never be lacking. This IS fact. Any lack you sense is there because Satan wants you to live in the shadow of doubt—doubting God's provision for you.
A good shepherd puts you in the best places. Sometimes you'd rather be somewhere else. But He is keeping you here.
Oh God, thank You for restoring my soul! I have no fear of evil because You are with me. Your rod and staff (tools of discipline) they comfort me. I rest because I know that You will keep my Enemy away and You will keep me from going astray.
Right in front of my Enemy You invite me to a feast where I am provided for—and blessed. And You pour Your love over me. Thank You, Lord. Thank You for Your goodness and Your mercy.
God speaks through His Word. This is the primary way that He communicates with us.
Oh God, Please ...
1. When is the last time that God spoke to you through His Word? Which Scripture did He use? How did those verses apply to your life?
2. Just for fun, read Psalm 54 and make it into a prayer.
3. Share three verses from the Bible that speak most often to you. My three are: Jeremiah 29:11, Isaiah 40:28–31, and Philippians 4:19.
Pray: Read God's Word, but before you read, say this prayer: Lord, I believe Your Word is true. Speak to me through it today. I want to hear from You. I will respond to whatever You tell me today with a solid "yes" and "amen" [this translated means, "so be it."].CHAPTER 3
God Speaks through Other People
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.
During the days when the Old Testament was being written, God often spoke through other people. Unbeknownst to them, as they shared the message God gave them to speak, they were writing those messages to us. We call those men (and women) prophets (and prophetesses). Many might believe that God no longer speaks through prophets, and perhaps He doesn't use this method of communication as much as He used to because we have the written Word of God. Still, He speaks through other people today.
Here's how He does this.
God puts a Bible verse or a thought into the mind of one of His followers during his or her quiet time. Immediately that person knows the message is for another. So, in obedience to the sense of urgency that person gets from God, they share what was received. It might be through a phone call, e-mail, or in person.
Someone did this to me today. I received an e-mail with a two-sentence message and a Scripture reference. When I receive messages like this, I either know that they are in direct response to one of my a prayers or questions, and I immediately know how to apply what they are telling me. If I'm not sure how their message relates to what I'm going through, I "put it on the back burner" (this is what one of my messengers tells me to do with his messages) and wait for what might be coming into my life in the near future. Most often I eventually understand what God has said to me through that other person.
Face to Face
Another way God speaks through other people is during conversation. I have several very good friends who I like to call my "kindred spirits." They "get" me. They're the ones who I let my guard down with, the ones I can truly be myself with. They don't judge me harshly because I'm a pastor's wife, and they don't necessarily hold me to a higher standard because I write books and speak at retreats (although they'd be justified to do so because God holds teachers to a higher standard). When I am going through a period of confusion, these are the friends who I share with.
In turn, they share with me what they've learned from their own walks with God. We talk about Scripture and share how God's kept His promises in our lives. One of these friends in particular is my faith-builder-upper. My husband Tom can always tell when I've spent time with Karen. She has a way of refreshing and reviving my spirit. I believe again when I talk with Karen.
I want to be a faith-builder-upper for others. Don't you? I want to be a woman who other women can trust—one who is safe and one who has such a dynamic walk with God that just the time I've spent with Him encourages others.
Not only do we hear God's message to us through others, but God also delivers messages through us. When you communicate God's messages to others, be sure to qualify what you have to say with this, "While God might use me to communicate to you, know that I am an imperfect vessel. Be sure to verify what I'm saying with Scripture and talk to God about it yourself." You need to do the same when others speak to you.
Sometimes we are in such a difficult place that our pain penetrates the hearts of good people, and they, in their attempt to encourage us, might share with us "a message from God" that didn't come from God. I had one friend who was terribly shaken by this experience. She was infertile for years, and she suffered through her infertility much like I did—with lots of wailing, gnashing of teeth, and arguing with God. Finally, after giving quite a public testimony at our church, she discovered she was pregnant. But several months into her pregnancy, she was told that her baby had a serious issue. The prognosis was not good. Without a miracle he would most likely be born prematurely and die soon after. She and her husband (along with her family, friends, and church) prayed that God would perform that miracle. I argued with God that she was in the perfect posture to really shout out His glory! We believed, trusted, claimed Scripture, and basically did everything we could to walk with her through her trial.
But one well-meaning, generous-hearted saint did more than that. He took her aside one night after church and gave her "a word." He assured her that her baby would indeed live and that God had great plans for that child's life. She clung to his words like a lifeline. It kept her hoping and trusting and walking in faith through every doctor's visit and all the test results. But when her baby died forty-five minutes after his premature birth, she was devastated. And the highest hurdle to jump was the "word" this well-meaning prayer warrior had given her.
When she came to me asking what she was to do with that man's "word," I told her that she had to understand that he was merely dust and that his heart was certainly right while his interpretation of what he'd heard from God was unfortunately (obviously) wrong. I explained that most likely his heart got in the way of God's real word. After all, what would she have thought had he told her that her baby would die? I assured her that God did have a plan for her baby's short life and that He certainly had a plan for hers, but that she'd have to find her answers in God. I encouraged her to take hold of God for herself and not let go—and to always put other people's "words" secondary to her own understanding of what God was saying to her.
God does speak through other people, but that method of communication needs to be secondary to God's message that comes directly to you through the reading of His Word.
Oh God, Please ...
1. Have you ever received an encouraging "word" from someone? What was it, and how did it strengthen your faith?
2. Have you ever delivered a "word" to another person? How did you know it was from God? How did that person receive it?
3. Do you know someone who consistently builds your faith? What is that person like? How do you feel when you spend time with him or her?
Pray:Father, thank You for giving us the "one anothers" in our lives who encourage us and build us up. Help me to recognize Your voice when You choose to deliver a message to me through another believer. Use me as a voice of encouragement and as a speaker of truth to others as well. Oh God, speak to me, for I am eager to hear Your voice.CHAPTER 4
God Speaks through Dreams and Visions
"In the last days," God says, "I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams."
Take a minute to read Matthew 1:20–21 and imagine what might have happened to Mary and Jesus had God not sent an angel to speak to Joseph through a dream.
I've had one God-sent dream and one vision—a dream occurring when asleep and a vision occurring when awake. I know that these were from God because He used them to speak directly to me.
My dream came when I was in the eighth grade. My Sunday school teacher, who happened to be one of my father's best friends, had died in a car accident. His son was my age, and my teacher's untimely death was hard to comprehend. While I was still processing the grief of his fatal accident, I spent a week with my grandmother. During this time my cousin's two-year-old son choked to death on a hotdog. Such a terrible tragedy!
Not once but twice two people died unexpectedly and way before their time. These deaths troubled me, especially when I accompanied my grandparents to the little boy's "wake" and actually saw that precious redheaded toddler lying so still on the satin pillow. Even as a thirteen-year-old, I wrestled with God. I struggled when I prayed because I couldn't make sense of these deaths.
Excerpted from Oh God, Please Help Me with my Doubt by Leighann McCoy. Copyright © 2012 Leighann McCoy. Excerpted by permission of WORTHY PUBLISHING.
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