Doubting God

“Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this?'”

Luke 1:18, NIV

Lord, did you really call us to Africa?

That was my middle-of-the-night cry just after husband Larry had chased away a thief climbing in through the window of the guest room we were staying in.

And that had occurred only hours after our carry-on luggage had been stolen.

And that had occurred just a few hours after customs had insisted on keeping our radio and tape recorder–the latter being an item we needed for our language work in the country.

And all that had occurred during our first 12 hours on the continent we believed God had called us to. the place where we’d planned to spend years of our lives translating the Bible for a people group who did not yet have God’s Word.

Is it any wonder that I had a moment of doubt? Lord, did you really call us to Africa?

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s had doubts. Maybe you can relate. I know Zechariah could.

In the first chapter of Luke we read his story. Luke introduces Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth this way: Zechariah was a priest, and both he and his wife were of the line of Aaron. “Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly” (Luke 1:6, NIV).

Wow! That’s high praise! But, in spite of his faithfulness, Zechariah still had a moment of doubt, a time when his faith seemed to fail him.

So many things struck me as I read this passage.
*Even the “righteous and blameless” have moments of unbelief. That should encourage me when I find myself in such a moment. All is not lost. I need to renew my relationship with God by confessing my unbelief and asking for his forgiveness. And then I need to forgive myself.

*Focusing on circumstances can lead us to the wrong conclusions. We need to focus instead on God’s Word. If we’d focused on the circumstances when we first arrived in Africa, we might never have stayed. But God was with us: encouraging us, teaching us, leading us to trust him. And that day, instead of beginning a flight home, we began a ministry and a blessing of over 25 years.

*God did not abandon Zechariah. In fact, he still chose to use Zechariah–in spite of Zechariah’s doubt. God could have said to him, “Okay, Zechariah, if you won’t believe me, if you don’t believe I can do this, let’s just forget it. I’ll give another couple the opportunity to birth the one who will be filled with the Holy Spirit, who will ‘bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God,’ who will ‘make ready a people prepared for the Lord.'”
But God didn’t do that. It would appear that God wanted to perform a work in Zechariah as well as through Zechariah.

*Although God did not abandon or destroy Zechariah because of his unbelief, Zechariah did suffer some consequences. he would be unable to speak from that time until eight days after the child was born. It was then that Zechariah obeyed the angel’s directions and named his son John. And it was then that God restored Zechariah’s speech.
I suppose to some those consequences didn’t seem so bad. Still, I’m not sure I’d like to go that long without speaking. Yes, it was only temporary. Yet, I think that silence during those nine months was to Zechariah a constant reminder of the power of God that he had doubted.
It certainly must have been frustrating to not be able to express himself. Yet, in those times of frustration, God was also teaching Zechariah that sin is serious and has consequences.

*But do you know what I find most fascinating about this passage? Isn’t it strange that Zechariah seemed to question God’s ability to give them a son even though Zechariah had been asking God for that very thing! (Luke 1:13)

What complicated and contradictory creatures we humans are!

How many times have we prayed for something even while somewhere deep inside we’re questioning God’s ability to bring that thing about?

How many times have I? I can’t really say.

But I can say this: This revelation is going to have an impact of my present and future prayers.

Soul Refreshers for your week:

  • Rejoice that God can and does use us in spite of our moments of doubt.
  • When you do encounter moments of unbelief, let the prayer of this father, become your prayer: “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, ESV).
  • Consider your prayers. Do you believe that God has the power to answer them? Let the knowledge that he is indeed able spur you on to more prayer and more fervent prayer.
  • What in the account of Zechariah resonates with you? Anything you want to take away from this? (You can read the whole story in Luke 1:5-80.) How about sharing your insights in the comments section below.

3 comments

  1. What an encouragement!! Thank you for this reminder. I love the Lord, but definitely waiver in my faith when the circumstances are overwhelming. I look around instead of looking up. Thank you for this!

  2. What an encouragement! Thank you for this. And I’m glad you followed God’s calling to ministry all those years ago!

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