Writers, do you struggle with doubt?
Let us show you how to stop doubt in its tracks so it never derails you again!
We did a podcast several weeks ago called “Did God Really Ask You to Write?” That was episode #58, and I encourage you to go back a listen to it. We focused on knowing who God really is and how that helps us to hear and trust Him and not doubt Him.
But doubt comes at us in a lot of different ways, and all of them can affect our writing lives. The kinds of doubt we’re talking about today are circumstances that make us doubt and doubt that makes us struggle with decision. In a future podcast we’ll talk about another damaging type of doubt: self doubt. Self-doubt is so debilitating, we’re going to give it it’s own podcast. So watch for that soon. But in this podcast, which you can think of as “Doubt, part 2,” we’ll address the first two kinds of doubt.
Here’s the thing. We’re human and we’re called to step out into something supernatural. This writing task with God isn’t accomplished through our human efforts. It requires God’s power, not ours. Yes, we write words, but it’s God who infuses them with true impact and power.
Anything supernatural is by definition uncontrollable by us. It’s unfamiliar territory. It’s scary. We’re not alone in this struggle with doubt. Look at what Peter experienced in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 14:
Jesus has just done a miracle—he’s fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Then he tells his disciples to get in the boat and go to the other side of the lake while he dismisses the crowd. So they head off. Then Jesus goes up on a mountain to pray.
It’s not till the 4th watch of the night (between 3 and 6 am) that Jesus is ready to join the disciples. They’re still in the middle of the lake when he comes to them, walking on the water. When the disciples see Him, they’re terrified. They think it’s a ghost because normal people don’t walk on water.
Jesus says, “Take courage, don’t be afraid, it’s me.”
Peter says, “Lord, if it’s really you, command me to come to you.” The translations can be a little misleading here. Most of the commentaries* I read said the meaning of “If it’s you” has more of the essence of “Since it’s you,” so this isn’t really the doubting part.
Jesus says, “Come,” and Peter does. He steps out of the boat and smack dab into something supernatural. Let’s give Peter some credit for taking that step. He’s walking on the water.
It’s all fine until Peter sees the wind kicking up the waves, and he gets scared. That’s when the doubt comes. He looks at the circumstances around him and he doubts. And starts to sink.
The story has a happy ending because Peter calls out to Jesus to save him and Jesus does. But He rebukes Peter for doubting.
As writers, we do this kind of doubting too. That’s the first kind of doubt we want to talk about today.
TYPES OF DOUBT
Doubting God’s provision because of circumstances
It’s never a good idea to base your trust in God on circumstances, or allow yourself to doubt based on circumstances. “The word ‘doubt’ [in the gospel story, from Greek distazō] suggests the idea of trying to go in two different directions at once or of serving two different masters simultaneously.”* When we doubt based on circumstances we’re allowing circumstances to be our master, not God.
Here’s another example. What if something wonderful happens—a huge prayer request is answered? You celebrate and say how wonderful God is. Then, the next day, or even later that same day, something else happens that seems like it’s going to override your wonderful answer to prayer. Was God good one moment, and then not the next? If you believe what Scripture tells us about Him, you know that’s impossible.
James 1:3-8 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
If you find yourself looking at circumstances, stop.
- Stay focused on God.
- Trust in His character and promises.
- Obey His commands.
- Pray. Battle this kind of doubt by praying for the faith to trust, regardless of circumstances.
Doubting if you’re hearing God, Or doubting which way He’s leading in a decision
Another type of doubt that comes into play for writers happens at decision-making time. Let’s face it, the writing journey is filled with decisions.
Maybe you’re trying to decide between 2 publishers, or whether to go indie, or whether to hire Editor A or B? There are a lot of questions. And they matter.
Principles to Help You Discern God’s Leading
- Don’t make decisions based on fear, or motivated by fear. If you’re making a decision to do or not do something because you’re afraid, that’s not a decision based on God’s leading. We’re to fear the Lord only. And by fearing the Lord, we gain wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And the knowledge of the Holy one is understanding.” You’ve got to get the perspective right—fear God—in order to make good decisions.
- Seek truth speakers or an advisory board. There is wisdom in good counselors!
- Consider character first, logistics second. We often want to look at logistics first, and we’re concerned about whether something is hard or complicated to do. God is concerned about building our character. About whether we’re willing to trust. Not whether something will be logistically easy.
- If what you’re hearing is condemning, it’s a lie. It’s not God’s leading. But if it’s convicting, it will lead to restoration through truth, and you don’t have to doubt.
- If it goes against Scripture, it’s not God’s leading. Don’t do it.
- Don’t make decisions based on comfort. We’re to be living sacrifices. That doesn’t mean we’re ALWAYS supposed to do what’s hard, but it means that you can’t let what’s comfortable or uncomfortable cause you to doubt which way God is leading.
- Are your doubts really a lack of trust that you’re hearing God, or is it lack of trust because you can’t see how it’ll happen, or you can’t see how it makes sense? Maybe you’re not sensing God’s leading because all He wants from you first is a willingness to obey even if you can’t see the next step yet. Maybe it’s not about whether God’s leading you. Maybe it’s about where your heart is right now, and whether you’re ready to be compliant, no matter what.
- Just because it’s something you want, doesn’t mean God doesn’t want it for you. We sometimes feel like if it’s something we really want, we’re simply hearing what we want to hear. Remember, God is FOR US. But like we talked about in episode 58, you have to know God so you know HIS voice, and can distinguish it from your own.
There are so many ways doubt can undermine us in our desire and work to follow God. So many ways the enemy can use doubt to chip away at our foundation of trust in a God who has every aspect of our lives and work in His hands. So our hope is that, the next time doubt sneaks in, you can use these tips and tools to stop it in its tracks. That you can use the truth of who God is and who you are in Him to tell doubt to shut up and leave you alone.
Yes, doubt is an effective weapon against us, especially against writers. But our God, and His truths, are far more effective if we’ll just embrace them and rest in them. May you find peace in His presence, and may doubt never again gain admittance into your heart and spirit. But when it does, because as we said before, we’re human, use God’s truths to give it what-for and send it running back into the darkness!
Blomberg, C. (1992). The New American Commentary: Matthew (Vol. 22, p. 235). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Hagner, D. A. (1998). Word Biblical Commentary: Matthew 14–28 (Vol. 33B, p. 424). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
We Want to hear from you!
What principles help you discern God’s leading?
What circumstances have made you doubt? How did you overcome those doubts?
Links to conferences we mentioned