Help With Doubt and Fear


(Elizabeth Hall) #1

Hello! My question is: what should I do when I’m doubting God’s exsistance?

Just a little backstory if that’s okay. I have anxiety disorder but one thing I get most anxious about is God’s exsistance. But see, I’m not like someone who doesn’t WANT God to exist because I want to sin or go against Him…I’m kind of a strange case because I desperately want there to be a God and I want to serve Him but I get so anxious about whether He is real or not, especially with our skeptical culture today and people trying to explain everything with science.

Does anyone have some advice on what I could do to ease these anxious moments worrying about God being real or not? The panic attacks mostly happen at night and I can sometimes be awake all night panicking and praying desperately to God to help me with my unbelief.


(Matt Western) #2

I’m sorry to hear about your anxiety disorder. I’ve struggled with anxiety, as a result of recovering from clinical depression about 12 years ago, but not a diagnosed anxiety disorder. I will pray for you - I remember it well and it is not nice at all.

One of my favourite books is from John Macauthur: Anxious for Nothing. It has helped me as I’ve read it several times over the last 10 years. Just be aware that John MacArthur does say that anxiety is a sin. When he says this he is referring to just our normal lack of trust in God for everyday things, and he is not referring to a diagnosed anxiety disorder by a health professional. You could class this book as on Christian counselling, which should be used alongside Christian psychologists and Christian psychiatrists as needed. The reason I say Christian is simply because one needs to establish trust with a therapist, and so having the same worldview is a good starting point.

A couple of my favourite Bible passages to combat anxiety (and yes it’s normal for anxiety to be heightened at nighttime), are below, and covered in depth in the book, but just as a starting point here are some below to start to consider.

Philippians 4:4-7

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Note the way to combat anxiety: the action to take is by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
and then the promise: and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. This peace is not something that is from earth, but is actually a gift of God.

When we have anxious thoughts, these are feelings and fears. We can use Scripture to combat these feelings with facts. I feel afraid: but the fact is that God is in control of everything and I can rest on the promise that God will use all things for good to those that love him. Romans 8:28

And then reading on in the same passage Philippians 4:8-9, the same format is there: what to do, and then the promise if we do it… We are to think on things that are good, pure, noble etc. this time it’s a more powerful promise. The God of peace Himself will be with you.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Two more favourite passages that I hope will encourage you:
In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus speaks a lot on how to deal with anxiety we have. I like verse 34 and it helps me to live in ‘day tight compartments’ and let tomorrows problems take care of themselves.

34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Romans 8:31-39 talks about God’s everlasting love, and verse 38-39 are very powerful. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that can separate us from God’s love through Christ Jesus our Lord.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God speaks to us through his Scriptures, and we then speak back to him in prayer. Psalm 23 is another brilliant one to meditate on.

Here are some things which might be of interest for further reading?

also theBibleProject.com has a video word study on the Biblical word Peace (Shalom in Hebrew) which might be of interest as well.
https://thebibleproject.com/videos/shalom-peace/

If you are anxious about God’s existence, or more particular that you know personally that He exists, and has revealed himself through his Son Jesus Christ: you can rest on the promise in James 4:8

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Also another topic which I hope will encourage you is here: as Sean has some great insights which he shared as well so I hope that is helpful.

I hope this is encouraging for you. :slight_smile: I’ll pray for you tonight. May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding guard your heart and mind. :slight_smile:


(SeanO) #3

@Zenshii Praying that the Lord might give you peace. It is perfectly normal to have doubts - they are just part of the journey. Check out Greg Boyd’s video linked below - I think he makes a great distinction between faith and psychological certainty. Faith is not the absence of doubt, but the choice to seek God in the midst of uncertainty. Tim Mackie also has a good video on praying through doubt that is based on the Psalms. A few thoughts:

  • faith in the Bible is not about the absence of doubt, but about persistently seeking God in spite of our doubts / struggles
  • faith is a journey and doubts are part of that journey
  • rather than trying harder to believe, perhaps try just trusting God with your doubts and continuing to walk with Him / honor Him on the journey
  • sometimes even when we know the answers we may still experience psychological doubt - our emotions are prone to many influences - hunger, illness, weariness - and our emotions impact our mental state. So faith is not about always feeling we have faith or psychological assent - but about trusting God in the midst of our weakness.
  • like Biblical characters (David, Habakkuk, Job) we take our doubts to God - we pray through our doubts - not seeking psychological certainty, but leaning into God as our rock in the midst of doubt

Faith Seeking Understanding - Doubts are Part of the Journey

I think one helpful way is to frame our doubts and questions as faith seeking understanding. We know Christ - we have encountered the living God - and now we are on a journey to know Him more. If we approach our doubts with this narrative, then they do not shake our faith. Instead, they are part of our faith journey and ultimately lead to a deeper knowledge of God.

Fides Quaerens Intellectum - Faith Seeking Understanding

“I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but rather, I believe in order that I may understand” - Anselm of Canterbury

Greg Boyd - Faith is Not About Certainty But About Covenant

faith is not intellectual assent (a psychological concept); it is not psychological certainty

people tend to think your faith is as strong as your mind is certain, in which case doubt is the antithesis of faith, but this view is incorrect

Biblical faith isn’t about trying to attain certainty; it’s about committing to a course of action in the face of uncertainty

For many, faith is about attaining as much certainty as possible in order to be a true follower of Christ. But the Bible tells us faith is about committing to a course of action in the face of uncertainty. God is not seeking all the right answers from his people in order to let them into heaven; no, he is our loving Bridegroom who seeks to be in a covenantal relationship with us in the midst of our uncertainties.

Praying Through Doubt - The Psalms

Tim Mackie, one of the creators of ‘The Bible Project’, preaches about how in the Psalms we see that the authors of the Psalms often wrestled with doubt by praying through it and remembering God’s promises.


Balancing Faith and apologetics
(C Rhodes) #4

@Zenshii. A few years back I found myself completely alone, living in a five bedroom house. My teenager had become a legal adult. And she had ‘lit’ out of there like she had long, tall wooden matches affixed to her back and on fire. The emptiness expanded and I was sure I was alone, minus GOD and people. Fear is such a pervasive thing. A malicious lie of the enemy.

I decided my entire home would begin to praise and honor GOD. So I put a radio in the basement of my home and the empty places upstairs. They ran on the same station, K-Love, in the background and 24/7. Soon my home took on cohesiveness in its environment. Praise and thanksgiving followed me throughout my home. Joy began to replace fear.

I can not remember when the anxiety left me. Nor when I turned off the non-stop praise. I can tell you that the presence of the Lord remains a reality in my home.

Doubt is a reoccurring enemy sometimes. Not because I don’t have evidence of GOD’s existence but I need to return to vigilant praise and thanksgiving. It often feels like a bane being in these bodies. Nothing is permanent. Nothing is completely reliable. But that temporal-ness is okay in our fallen world. It is what the effect of sin has given us all. When I remember to bless the name of the Lord, despite my feelings, it is my roar of victory. It is my way of standing against the lies sometimes my own mind seems to speak.

When the cloud lifts, I am always amazed that I stand surrounded by the loving hand of an ever-present GOD. I pray that helps you stubbornly return to the persistent presence of GOD that is always there for you. Feelings are shift-able, but GOD is not. GOD is everywhere. `


(Matt Western) #5

That’s such a good point, @cer7. We can lift praise and thanksgiving to God in the storm.

When I consider how Paul and Silas were locked in prison after being beaten, and they started singing praise to God, it helps to put my problems into perspective.

One of my favorite bands is Casting Crowns, and one of my favorite songs is ‘I will praise you in this storm’.

——-
I was sure by now, God you would have reached down
And wiped our tears away,
Stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
That it’s still raining
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear your whisper through the rain
I’m with you
And as your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
The God who gives and takes away

And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone how can I carry on
If I can’t find you
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear you whisper through the rain
I’m with you
And as your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
The God who gives and takes away

And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth

And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm

And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm
———

Another favorite of mine recently when I consider if I have been successful in life is ‘Only Jesus’.

(Both are on YouTube…)


(C Rhodes) #6

@Matthew.western. Oh man, that is good, good, good to the last drop! Thank you Matthew!


(Kathleen) #7

Hello again, @Zenshii. I am very sorry to hear about your anxiety/panic attacks, esp. if they keep you awake all night. To have our peace stolen from us in the time we need it the most is deeply frustrating and demoralising! But it is interesting that your distress comes from the fear that God does not exist. I don’t mean this for this question to sound trite at all, but what do you stand to lose if God doesn’t exist? What would that mean for you?

As I ask that, I also realise it’s a deeply personal question, so, as this is a public forum, please don’t feel like you have to answer it! :slight_smile: But the answer to that question can shed some light on and help you get to the root of the anxiety.

Until then, as an aside, do please know that we have nothing to fear from science. It’s an explanatory tool, but it won’t ever be able to prove that God is not behind the mechanism of life! :slight_smile:


(Fanny Ko) #8

It is perfectly understandable to doubt God’s existence. There are many references in Psalms on that so first thing is don’t blame yourself. Even the most “godly” people struggle with that. Actually, I would consider that a good sign because God wants us to love Him with our “strength” too and that is called for when we cannot “feel” His presence.

When we think with our rational mind (as science does) we only go so deep. We go deeper when we seek God with our “heart and soul”, when we let our feelings engage in our prayers and dialogues with God. Many examples of that in Psalms. CS Lewis says he does too, that the best prayers are the ones without words, have you tried that?


(Steven Morse) #9

Elizabeth, please know that you are not alone or unusual. Even Jesus was troubled as he came near the end of his earthly life. Faith is not something you can work up. It is a gift which come down from God. I know people so often say “pray” and they are meaning Ask God for…x… Know well that God loves you and pray to Him that you can come closer. Not him come closer, but you. Please read Psalm 73 and know that Asaph was a highly respected man of God who like everyone, has times when we doubt, fall away and feel like we have been deserted. Believe me, keep praying that you can do His will and you will find your path. The Spirit will come.
quote- Jude 1:20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. God bless, I pray for you.


(Ciprian-Ionatan Cotlet (Jonathan)) #10

Heeeey Zenshii! I have been going through the exact same thing. For me it started quite suddenly when I realised that all my life I have been taking the existence of God for granted. This shook me to my core, as I never profoundly doubted God, and all of a sudden all purpose and meaning were shattering before my eyes. I grew up in an evangelical community so I thought what if God is just something that everyone told me to believe? I realised that I, personally, had no proof, or did not know of enough proof for Him. So all these “What if” questions came into my head. The first week I was going through this, I had agonizing anxiety attacks, because I knew that if He was not real, everything meant nothing, there was no purpose to it all, my degree was for nothing, dreams, aspirations had no ultimate purpose or meaning. This was absolutely tormenting me. I could barely sleep sometimes. And again like you I was praying, desperately trying to hold on. But I did not just sit there, I went and talked to people I trusted that said they went through doubt as well and it is not something you should be ashamed of. So encouraged by this I got books, I started looking at the evidence, to truly see if all this was irrational.

My advice would be this. If you have doubts, try to pinpoint what youre doubting. If youre doubting the existence of God all together look at the evidence for that. There. Is. Plenty. It is not an irrational belief. From then on, if you are doubting the Bible, or the existence of Jesus, look at the evidence for the existence of Jesus. If you doubt the Resurrection look at the evidence for that. If the Resurrection is false then Christianity falls apart. Again, there is historical evidence for all these. There is historical evidence for everything the Bible claims to be true, and some of this evidence comes from people who were openly hostile to Christianity.

One last thing. I dont know if your doubt is emotional or factual. It seems to be emotional because it hurts. Factual doubt does not hurt. I highly, highly recommend this video:


Gary Habermas - Dealing with Emotional Doubt

Please, pleaseeee have a look at this video. It has helped me so much to understand this doubt and how to deal with this emotion.

If you have any doubts regarding facts, or you feel like you need evidence I would recommend these books:

Can we trust the Gospels? - Peter J. Williams
Evidence that demands a Verdict - Josh McDowel
The Case for Christ - Lee Strobel

There are plenty more books out there by Gary Habermas and these great authors if you want to read.

You are not alone! Remember that. I have been through this and you will be fine. I am still in the process of looking at the evidence but the anxiety and the agony I felt at the beginning is not as prominent anymore. If you want to talk just drop me a message!

God bless!