Doubt is the greatest enemy of my faith. Whenever faith rises within, doubt creeps up behind seeking to divert my impending obedience. Doubt deprives me of growth in God and eclipses His light with the shadows of uncertainty. When I want to listen and obey my Lord, doubt says that He hasn’t spoken. When God reveals the path of obedience, doubt reveals the path of least resistance. My faith is captured; my blessings detained. I stagnate.
Interestingly, the most amazing seasons of blessing in my life have been preceded by tumultuous seasons of doubt and struggles with sin.
The devil is no fool.
I remember when God impressed my heart with His desire for me to become a missionary. I was deeply humbled by His gracious invitation. Considering my past, I certainly did not deserve to play such a vital role in His kingdom. The most endearing paradox of the Christian faith though, is that God chooses to use the most ill-equipped people to carry out His plan. I was one of them.
It all happened one starry night as I sat on the rooftop of our hotel in Greece. I was surrounded by new friends from all over the world. Together, we were celebrating the end of a week-long outreach spent cleaning the hot streets of Volos. It was my first mission trip; my first time in a foreign land. I was heavy hearted for the lost people of Greece who were steeped in false orthodoxy and idol worship. God was at work in me and around me. I was excited and I knew, from that day on, I would follow the Lord anywhere and give Him everything He asked of me! Yes, I could be a missionary forever!
But was that what God wanted? Could I really be a set-apart servant of God sent into His world to share His good news? Or was I just in love with a new land and intriguing people? I needed a sign; something concrete to recall in times of doubt.
“God, if you are calling me to become a missionary, I will go. But please, I need to know for sure! Lord, send me a shooting star and I will stop questioning your direction!”
My mind left the celebration and I gazed up into the dark night, anticipating an answer. The roof was crowded, but God was the only presence I was conscious of. My eyes sank deep into the abundant stars and I waited. Before my stare fell back to the crowd around me, a bright streak ran from west to east leaving a light-soaked, glowing trail behind it. A shooting star? It could’t have been. It was too big, too bright, too…obvious! I jumped up, my stool falling behind me. “Did you guys see that?” I shouted, pointing and waving my finger at the residual glow in the sky. Everyone looked at me wondering what I was blubbering about. My excitement was mine alone as I realized the magnificent shooting star seemed to be for my eyes only.
I was elated! God had confirmed what He had impressed on my heart! Resolve immediately set in. I was ready to answer His call. I would become a missionary and commit to serve in Greece for the next two years. The Lord would be my guide; my partner in the great adventure ahead of me. With Him on my side, what earthly circumstance could stop me?
I arrived back home forever changed. I shared the news with my family and began planning ahead. The application process was surprisingly rigorous. It seemed like they wanted to know everything about me.
Hmmm…I never thought becoming a missionary would be so hard. Wait a second, why do I need to undergo a psychological evaluation? Is that really necessary? I need to raise how much money each month? $800? Oh, that’ll never happen. I have to pay off all my loans before I go? Where will I get the money? I need vaccines? Why? Will I be in danger of contracting a deadly illness while I’m overseas? I need to learn Greek? That’s a pretty tough language and I’m not a quick learner.
Suddenly the lush green landscape in front of me became jagged and mountainous.
Is this really what God has in store for my future?
I began rethinking my plans.
Maybe I’m actually supposed to be a missionary right here in my own home town. It would be hard but I’m sure I can be just as effective in a familiar place. If God really wanted me in Greece He wouldn’t make it so hard to get there. Besides, I’ve never really been the missionary type. I still have sin issues to work through. Yeah…I think I’ll just stay right here.
I think I remember someone saying there was a meteor shower on the night I prayed for a sign, anyway.
I turned my face away from shooting stars; away from the miraculous.
At the time, I was working as a server at a fancy restaurant in my home town. I was happy enough. Earning money to pay for my expenses and saving for the future made me feel productive. I decided to apply for a teaching position in the local school district and work toward a Master’s Degree in Christian Psychology.
I continued attending Bible study on Wednesdays and church on Sundays. I even joined a Theology class on Tuesday mornings. I was gathering lots of information about God and, yes, He sure was amazing!
Sacrifice, atonement, reconciliation, sanctification, justification, propitiation… complex and amazing concepts.
I was really getting it.
I’m going to stay right here and acquire as much Biblical knowledge as I can.
The more knowledge I gained, the more apathetic I grew. The scale began to tip. My mind expanded but my heart for the Lord shrank. My continued disobedience and denial of God’s direction deafened me and I could no longer hear His voice.
I was in a dangerous place.
My old habits and desires were pursuing me, seeking to ensnare me. Long hours at the restaurant birthed superficial friendships with co-workers. Each night after closing, we would all sit around drinking wine, talking nonsense and laughing together. Actually, at the time, it was a lot of fun. I began looking forward to work more than church. Since my co-workers were mostly older single moms, I thought I was safe.The only man around was my boss.
He was really nice and… very attractive.
Hmmm…he seems to be especially friendly toward me. Oh well. He must see Jesus in me. Besides, he’s married and over 10 years my senior. There’s no harm in spending a little time with him.
Well, a ‘little time’ became a lot more time as he and I discovered many mutual interests. He was constantly close by, telling me how pretty I was and making me feel important. It seemed innocent enough. He enjoyed listening to me talk about God. He was challenged by my faith and had tons of questions. His inquisitions were sharpening me. I liked that.
Maybe he’ll become a Christian through my witness of Christ! He really needs the Lord. Gosh, I feel so sorry for him. His wife treats him so badly. How can any woman ignore such an amazing guy? If I was his wife, I would never treat him like that. Oh well, they’ll be divorced soon anyway and for now, the least I can do is comfort and affirm him. I’ll soothe his hurts by being his friend.
One day he told me that I made him feel valuable again. I felt so good about that. We helped each other; I made him forget his wife and he made me forget my God.
The intensity of our conversations produced an undeniable physical attraction between us and one night long after the restaurant emptied, we found ourselves alone. It was quiet. The dull sounds of the piano hummed through the speakers above and finally, my desire to be in his arms overpowered my effort to keep him at bay. We drew close and our lips met. The moment was intense as the tension between us melted away. Our connection was strong and the encounter demanded to be relived.
We met several more times after work. I hated myself for enjoying this detestable situation I got myself into.
Before I knew it, a kiss was not enough for him. His physical advances frightened me. Suddenly, I awoke from the spell I was under and I wanted to run away. Wait a minute, what’s happening here? I never wanted any of this. I’m not supposed to be in this mess! I had led him on without even knowing I had the power to do so. I tried to distance myself. But avoiding him only made him angry. He became confrontational and mean; refusing to sign my checks or clock me out of my shift. Doing my job became impossible. He would come up behind me and make quiet mocking remarks about my Christianity calling it a farce. He made sure no one else would hear what he was saying. The manipulative, cruel person emerging in him didn’t resemble the kind, wounded man he was just the week before.
I had no other choice but to quit my job. I walked out and never returned.
I cried out to God.
Lord! HOW DID I GET HERE? I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry! I’m disgusting and pathetic! Weak willed and unfaithful! Forgive me! I’m not where I should be! I doubted you. I doubted your calling on my life and your ability to bring it to pass! I doubted your love and faithfulness in fear of what following your will might cost me! I’ve gone so far astray! Please, bring me back.
I was broken by what I was still capable of.
I sinned against God, deceived myself and hurt someone else. I fell hard into a cleverly fashioned scheme of the enemy; hand crafted specifically to target and entice my most formidable weaknesses. Doubting and denying God’s call on my life left me with idle hands and the devil knew exactly how to best occupy my time.
I went to my Pastor and revealed everything to him. I sat in the chair across from his desk. A few months earlier I sat in the same chair, brimming with excitement over my calling to missions. Today, though, the look on my face revealed no joy; only despair. My confession was received by a compassionate, wise friend and mentor who spoke words of comfort and forgiveness. In wisdom, he told me I needed to repent and move forward. Together we made a plan to help me get back on course for God.
I forced myself to search within and acknowledge deep insecurities that plagued me since my early teenage years. Looking back, I remembered all my beautiful friends who never went un-noticed by the boys at school. I was always looked over and brushed aside by someone; fading into the shadows as my friends stood in the spotlight. I often felt rejected and discarded. Inevitably, I developed a deep desire to be desired and attention from men made me feel valuable and significant.
Am I finally pretty enough to be noticed?
For many years, I looked to people and relationships for affirmation and security. I wanted to be accepted…the same way my pretty friends were. When I came to know the Lord, I tried to wrap my brain around the theological concept of finding my value in Christ. But I didn’t get it. It all seemed so abstract. When I fell into sin, I realized that even though I was saved, I was still susceptible to my old habits. I still longed for validation apart from Christ. I didn’t understand the Christian’s need for constant fellowship with the Lord. I thought I could get to know God personally by gathering facts about Him and trusting Him for my destiny beyond this world. I had a shell of a relationship with Him; it existed but it was hollow inside. I soon learned that the only true way to experience the transforming power of God in my life was to sit and pray, listen and obey.
I’ve discovered that the only way to remain ahead of my weaknesses is to literally live on Christ like a parasite lives on its host and draws its very life from it. Thankfully, unlike most parasites, I am a welcome guest and the life of Christ contains inexhaustible nutrients for my soul. He never seeks to cast me aside, but feeds me more and more. He is that devoted to me.
*More than a year later, I embarked on my life’s biggest adventure. I walked up the gangway and climbed aboard the MV Doulos, a mission ship that sailed around the world sharing the Good News of Christ with this lost generation! I spent two amazing, exciting years witnessing the Captain of my Soul change lives right before my eyes! No wonder the enemy was trying to sidetrack me!
–For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13