More Contagious Than the Common Cold

   Written by on November 20, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Doubting cripples us spiritually. Often, though, we’re blind to our own doubts. It’s not as easy to see doubt in our own lives as in the lives of others—which is one reason God gives us the stories of the children of Israel. On the edge of the wilderness, poised to enter the Promised Land, God’s people were torn between faith and doubt.

word - macdonaldDoubt is the absence of faith. It is a lack of confidence or assurance that God will keep His promises. Doubt whispers to your soul, “Will God really keep His promises? What if He fails you?”

Doubt is not an honest craving for answers. The disciple Thomas, who’s unfairly dubbed “doubting Thomas,” had doubtful questions, but his heart was willing to believe. And God will go a long way to reveal Himself to a person who sincerely wants answers. (see John 11:16, 14:5, 20:24–29)

In contrast, doubt is a mindset, a persistent choice to live with uncertainty. Doubt is dangerous, destructive, and detrimental to any kind of relationship with God.

Now doubt has many disguises. It doesn’t always present as pure, obvious doubt; it operates undercover. You have to pull back the disguise to see that the real problem is doubt. Consider these common disguises:

Fear. Doubters battle deep-seated fears. “What’s coming next in my life? What is going to happen to me? What if God doesn’t protect me? Will I be okay?” That anxiety is rooted in doubt.

Frustration and anger. Doubters often feel frustrated and angry. They don’t like how God is handling their problems. “God won’t solve this problem on my agenda in my time,” they seethe in frustration. They’re right . . . and their anger reveals nagging doubts

Withdrawal. Doubters feel tempted to pull back from others or put up a wall. They pull back spiritually too, unwilling to draw close to God. At the core of this withdrawal is a growing attitude of doubt.

Bitterness. Over time doubters can grow bitter and unforgiving because they doubt the goodness of God. They fume, “God won’t heal this hurt in me.” They take that responsibility on themselves and keep their hearts stirred up about it, because they don’t really believe that God can fully heal the wounds of sins done to them.

So why does doubt come so easily?

It’s contagious. Doubt is easier to catch than the common cold. When surrounded by doubters, doubting comes easily. In the Israelite camp, the faith-filled words of the two spies were drowned out by the weak-faith words of the ten spies. “They brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out.” (Numbers 13:32) That highly contagious bug of doubt spread through the camp like an infectious disease.

Doubting also comes easily because it’s passive. Faith requires action; doubting does not. The Israelites would have had to take action to overcome their doubts—squelch the rumors, choose faith, and march into war. Whereas faith requires a choice, doubting is the passive default that requires nothing from you. If you don’t consciously, actively choose faith, you’ll naturally slip into doubt.

Doubting also satisfies our tendency toward self-protection. Nobody likes to be wrong or disappointed. On the border of the Promised Land, the Israelites fretted, “What if we go into the land, trust God for great victories, and lose? We’ll look dumb. And dead. We’ll end up in the cemetery outside Jericho. It’s easier not to trust God and to lower our expectations so we won’t be disappointed.” But despite the guise of self-protection, those who doubt are disappointed on much deeper, more consequential levels.

And doubters are easier to find than friends of faith. How many real, genuine friends of faith do you have—people who speak the Word of God into your life and fire you up spiritually? Those are critical, cherished, life-giving relationships.

About James McDonald

James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is married to his high school sweetheart, Kathy, and both are from Ontario, Canada. He is the father of three grown children, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and grandfather to five amazing grandsons. James has committed his life and ministry to the unapologetic proclamation of God’s Word. In 1988, along with a small group of ministry partners, James and Kathy planted Harvest Bible Chapel (HarvestBibleChapel.org) which now has 13,000 people meeting at seven locations across Chicagoland each weekend. Walk in the Word, a Bible-teaching television and radio broadcast ministry (WalkintheWord.org), was established in 1997. The radio program reaches more than three million people daily, and the television audience extends around the world. In 2002, through James’s leadership and by God’s grace, the church-planting ministry Harvest Bible Fellowship (HarvestBibleFellowship.org) was founded and has established more than 100 churches across North America and around the world. James’ vision is for God to use Harvest Bible Fellowship to plant 1,000 churches by 2020. James’ extensive ministry also includes a training center for pastors, a year-round camp, a center for biblical counseling, a disaster-recovery organization, and a Christian school—all used to reach more people with the life-changing message of the Gospel. James is the author of several books including Vertical Church, Authentic, Lord Change My Attitude, When Life is Hard, Always True, and most recently, Come Home.

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