EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) — Something strange happens to the psyche of a nation in difficult times. The downtrodden begin to resent government and wealthy corporations and individuals, seeing them as out of touch with, if not the cause of, their plight.
Desperation can lead to a reversal of values so that any who rise up and strike back are cheered and viewed as heroes. Sometimes the rebel-heroes seem justified as in the traditional tale of Robin Hood, but others are simply lawbreakers like Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who terrorized middle America in the early 1930s.
While stories of their kindnesses to their victims made the rounds, such tales only confused the issue: Were they bad or were they good? The ambivalence toward this couple serves as a warning for us: It’s important to discern good from bad in the spiritual dimension of life. And nowhere is that more necessary than when we are confronted by spiritual doubt.
Modus operandi is one of those Latin phrases that made its way from the pages of criminal investigation textbooks into our cultural conversation. Literally, it means “way of operating.” Criminal investigators study the way a criminal operates to find patterns of behavior, patterns that may lead to future activity and ultimate apprehension. For us, we need to know the M.O. of doubt — how it operates in our lives.
In short, doubt is helpful in the Christian life when it leads to a clarification of truth, but destructive when it leads to disobeying truth. For instance, in the Garden of Eden, Satan introduced doubt into the minds of Adam and Eve when he said, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1) Their momentary doubts should have led to an instant clarification and a dismissal of Satan’s questioning.
Instead, Adam and Eve’s doubts allowed them to reconsider God’s words to them and to be deceived by Satan, leading to their (and our) spiritual downfall. A doubt is like a crossroads — the direction you choose to go makes all the difference.
Scientific analysis of the unique pattern of ridges on an individual’s fingers was first discussed in 1684, and by the end of the nineteenth century fingerprints were being used for identification purposes. Crime scene investigators can follow a criminal’s trail by following his left-behind fingerprints.
Doubt’s fingerprints show up in all areas of our life. Satan loves to attack what God has said to cause us to reject what He has said.
In some instances, doubt’s fingerprints show up in places where God has not specifically given us instruction, such as where to live or whom to marry. In those cases, the answer is to wait. Commit those questions or uncertainties to the Lord in prayer and wait for the peace of God to settle in your heart (Philippians 4:6-7).
Partners in crime
When doubt appears to steal the confidence of the Christian, it is always accompanied by fear and worry. When Jesus and the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee and a terrible storm arose, the disciples doubted Jesus’ ability to get them safely to the other side. Jesus asked them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)
Doubt likes to hide out where you might least expect it — right in the center of your faith. What better time for doubt to show up than when you have just taken a step or stand of faith for the Lord? That’s why it’s so important to keep your heart cultivated and receptive so seeds of faith can spring up quickly and be firmly rooted before doubt appears on the scene.
Like an arrow seeking a chink in a warrior’s armor, doubt always aims for the Christian’s feelings as a prime target for attack. Whenever you have established a faith position before God, it is first and foremost a conviction of the will. Never allow doubt to steal your faith because you don’t like how faith feels — faith is driving the train, not your feelings.