By Jordan Seth
When we find ourselves in difficult seasons, it can be easy to focus on the “IFs” of life.
- “What if I could have done it differently instead?”
- “What if God doesn’t work in my situation right now?”
- “What if things don’t work out for my future?”
It’s easy to get caught up in regrets from the past, doubts in the present and worries about our future. When we get caught up in the IFs, then we have a greater potential to miss out on an abundant, faith-driven life. I believe God has called each of us to live a full life, even in the midst of difficult and trying seasons.
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I (Jesus) came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Jesus is trying to teach us that there is an enemy in this world that wants to strip us of our confidence in God, steal our joy, kill our faith and plant seeds of doubt and worry to destroy us. But Jesus doesn’t leave us there. He gives us hope and a path forward like he always does. He essentially says, I have made a way for you to have an abundant life through me that you can enjoy and share with others!
How many of us have ever found ourselves doubting God or our faith? I’m raising my hand 100 times over. I’ve had many instances in my faith journey where I wrestled with doubt—as if it was a dirty word that meant I completely lacked faith. But I later learned that doubt is simply an indicator. It doesn‘t mean that we have “lost the faith”. Doubt is an indicator of your faith level, and your faith level is an indicator of your focus. Let’s take these two stories for example:
Matthew 14:23-31 says, “Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Mark 9:25-29 says, “When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
- Where was Peter’s focus when he began to sink? The wind.
- Where was the disciples’ focus when they were trying to help the possessed boy but couldn’t? Themselves.
So, not only do these two stories share examples of people who were caught in doubt and lacked the correct focus—but in both of these stories, if you go back and read earlier verses, it shows what I believe is the secret to overcoming and thriving through seasons of doubt. We read that Jesus almost always enters a miraculous scene from a place of prayer. Before we see Jesus walking on the water calling Peter to step out of the boat—he prays alone on a hill. Before Jesus enters the scene with the demon possessed boy—he prays on a mountain. Before Jesus is tempted by Satan—he prays for 40 days and nights in the desert. Before Jesus goes to the cross—he prays in the garden. Look at Jesus’ response to his disciples in Mark 9:29—You didn‘t pray!
Prayer is the key for an increase of faith! When we’re facing times of doubt, I think by Jesus’ example, he would have us pray first. Prayer should be our first response, not our last resort. In seasons of doubt, it’s important that we readjust our focus. Is our focus on Jesus before we walk on the water through the wind and the waves? Or do we only call out when we’re already sinking in the midst of the storm? Is our focus on Jesus when we’re healthy, or do we only call out to Jesus when we’re already sick? Many of us need to begin to strengthen our faith lives by spending time in prayer and asking God to focus our eyes on him. Through prayer, he will help us build confidence and trust in who he is and not in the lies and doubts whispered by our enemy. When we move our focus from the IFs and put our focus on Christ, our faith will rise and our doubt diminish.