I love to counsel other women. I love to be a part of the work that God does in their lives through His precious Word. Seeing God rescue them from life dominating sins, depression, and many other life issues by His truth gives me great joy. Ironically, I find that my soul often needs the same reminders and counsel from God’s word that I am giving them. One such example comes from how frequently I heard young women say, “I know that is what God says; I just don’t believe it.” Most of these ladies would have no problem professing belief in Christ’s Lordship for their salvation; but when it came to believing His love, His care, His providence or sovereignty, their practical theology lived out in daily life revealed their unbelief.
I’ll admit, I wrestled with how to respond to this the first time I heard it. I was immediately put on the defensive, scrambling to convince this dear lady why she could believe God. It wasn’t until I began to use this justification in my own life that God revealed what was really going on at the heart level. While battling difficult circumstances in my own life, I recently told a dear friend that I already knew all these verses she was sharing with me. She assured me of God’s loving providence, His protection, and His purposes. In pride, I blew them all off and told her, “I know all of this, but I guess I just don’t believe it.” The earthly injustice I experienced seemed like a good excuse to turn from God, proclaim Him as untrustworthy and take matters into my own hands. My anger displayed my false belief that I certainly could have made better decisions for my life than He had. At that moment, I know God allowed me to see my foolishness. Where was my faith? Can a genuine Christian really know something is true and not believe it? That one statement reveals more about our hearts than you may think.
Perhaps your initial reaction is to feel sorry for this person who wants to believe but “can’t.” After all, it seems as though they are a victim to this unbelief. They desperately want to believe the truth, but something is prohibiting them from doing so. As a counselor or even a friend, you must choose how to respond to this statement in a biblical way, for the good of your friend and God’s glory.
Let me provide a more specific example. Maybe you are struggling with believing God’s sovereignty or His goodness in a seemingly hopeless situation. You look at your circumstances which are filled with pain, sickness, or even the temporary victory of the wicked. You know God is in control of all things and He is for His people, but if that’s true, why did he allow your child to die? Why did he allow you to be abused or neglected? Why are your children denying the Lord even though you did your best to raise them in the truth? Why are you facing one debilitating health issue after another? Your soul is in turmoil trying to merge God’s truth with what you are experiencing. You tell God that you can’t possibly trust Him unless He explains or justifies Himself.
When you say, “I know that it’s true (that God is good, sovereign, working things for good, etc.), I just don’t believe it,” you are essentially putting God on trial. It’s as though you are telling Him that He must prove that He is good or sovereign before you will believe Him. He hasn’t quite met your standards. What Christ has done on the cross and in His resurrection is not enough. His word is not enough. You become the prosecuting attorney and God becomes the defendant in your heart. You begin to accuse Him or bargain with Him. Maybe once He gives you what you think you deserve, then you will graciously believe what He says about Himself. For you, maybe that means saying, “Lord, if you will give me a child, then I will believe that you are a God who sees and cares.”“God, you couldn’t possibly allow me to die of this cancer. If You are all powerful, then heal me.”
“I’ve been hurt too many times. You can’t be good. If you really love me, then prove it, or I am walking away from the faith.”
Most of us wouldn’t be bold enough to actually utter these things out loud, but if we are honest, it accurately reflects our secret thoughts. These demands sound very similar to what the crowds said to Jesus on the cross.
“If He is the king of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross and we will believe Him.” Matthew 27:42Remember our Lord’s warning that it is “an evil and adulterous generation (that) demands a sign (Matthew 16:4). As Christians, we must believe God is who He says He is. His testimony about Himself is sufficient. His finished work on the cross is sufficient and an absolutely perfect display of His love for us. We must not demand any more from Him. He will do what He promises in His word, even if it doesn’t look the way we think it should. We are not to gaze at our circumstances, rather we are to keep our eyes on eternal things (Colossians 3:2). We must not try to define God by what we are experiencing. The one who believes God is not shaken by circumstances. She firmly believes the Word of God and uses that as the lens through which she interprets her circumstances.
That is the very essence of faith.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”Hebrews 11:6
When you say you don’t believe God, you are choosing to sin. You are essentially saying that He is untrustworthy, a liar. But remember, God is not accountable to us. He does not need to prove Himself to us. We are accountable to God. He commands us to believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 3:23). Belief is not a feeling. It is a choice based on absolute truth.The Greek word for believe, pisteuo, is used more than 200 times in the New Testament. It means to “be persuaded of, place confidence in, or to entrust a thing to one.”
Our precious Savior wants us to completely trust in His saving work on the cross and daily providence in our lives. He does not want us to fear. He can and should be trusted. The One who created and sustains every detail of the universe and knows the number of hairs on your head deserves your submission and worship. Knowing our weak frame, Jesus pleads with His disciples, “let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:1). I love what John MacArthur says about this verse because it reveals the heart of our Shepherd.
“Instead of the disciples lending support to Jesus in the hours before His cross, He had to support them spiritually as well as emotionally. This reveals His heart of serving love. Faith in Him can stop the heart from being agitated.” When doubts are consuming you, make a choice to believe God. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Trying to control or manipulate your circumstances to prevent suffering will only put you in emotional turmoil. When you are driven by emotions, you are certainly building your house on sinking sand.
Martyn Lloyd Jones said,
“Faith…is primarily thinking; and the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think. He allows circumstances to bludgeon him. We must spend more time in studying our Lord’s lessons in observation and deduction. The Bible is full of logic…Faith can be defined like this: It is a man insisting upon thinking when everything seems determined to bludgeon and knock him down in an intellectual sense. The trouble with the person of little faith is that, instead of controlling his own thought, his thought is being controlled by something else…”
This quote pierced my heart. Why? Because I’m prone to panic. I’m prone to wander and trust in myself rather than the Lord. When I’m panicking, I am not thinking rationally or correctly about God. To make matters worse, I wrongly thought that the Lord was coddling me when I told Him I didn’t believe or trust Him. I thought surely that He bought into my victim mentality. But that is not so. How seriously our Lord takes unbelief. The angel Gabriel said to Zechariah,“Behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” Luke 1:20
Dear friend, believe the Lord, regardless of how trying your circumstances are. My pastor, who recently went to be with the Lord in glory, would often remind me that “afflictions are God’s mercies.” Afflictions draw us closer to the fount of Living Water. The Lord disciplines those He loves. Trials do not display a lack of love from the Lord, rather they are evidence of His faithful love. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39). Believe Him, Christian, and do not swerve to the right or the left. Pray now and ask God to help your unbelief.