Second Guessing

“Late Afternoon in Positano,” © 2017 Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2017 Lynn Abbott

To this day, I can still remember that emotionally traumatic walk home from Oak Elementary School.  My neighborhood BFF and I had turned onto the sidewalk that paralleled Bryant Road when she issued that warning so infamous in the annuls of kid wisdom…

“Don’t step on a crack or you’ll break your mother’s back…” she chanted.

I immediately felt  the icy fingers of indecision grip my heart.

You see, cracks covered that older stretch of sidewalk.  In no way could I avoid every crack.  Which crack would prove the back-breaker?

I stopped in my tracks to carefully consider my next step.  Apparently, my decision would potentially result in life or death consequences.  The stakes were high.

I wondered what terrible things might befall my beloved mother if I accidentally stepped on more than one crack. Would the second crack break her arm?  Or would it simply break her back a second time?

Or maybe, I hypothesized, the second crack might heal my mother’s broken back.  And just when I thought I’d figured out how to proceed, doubt settled.

My friend grew impatient and left me standing there, considering all my options.  Quite frankly, I don’t know how I got home that day.

I suspect, however, that I second-guessed that day’s decisions for many weeks following that crisis of conscience. Undoubtedly, my mother puzzled over my newly acquired concern for her health.

Yes, you can call me the queen of second guessing, the master of indecision.  Uh, huh.  I’ll admit that I sometimes over think things.  It’s an Achilles’ heel of sorts.

I guess that’s why I’ve never railed against Eve for her disobedience in the garden.  Given my history with second-guessing, it’s clear that I would have crumbled as well.

Just when I think I’ve figured out how to proceed, doubt settles.

Adam and Even had received a warning, one of a serious and reasonable nature.  At first, following God’s directive didn’t appear a problem.

But then, the serpent struck Eve’s Achilles’ heel.

Quite simply, the serpent raised doubt.  “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'”

First off, the question began with misinformation.  In fact, Eve found herself trying to recall God’s exact words.  Scripture doesn’t tell us whether she had heard God’s warning firsthand or through Adam.

Whatever the case, the serpent asked Eve to rethink what she knew.  And unfortunately for all of us, she took the bait.

She engaged in debate with an opponent who had no interest in truth; he simply wished to destroy her.

As she began to doubt and second guess her decision to follow God’s one law, the serpent moved in for the kill.  He boldly proposed a bald-faced lie: “You will not surely die…For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” (Genesis 3:1-3).

Fiery darts and wily schemes, indeed.

And waves of doubt erode castles built on sand.

Perhaps, like me, you find yourself second-guessing God’s direction or even His love and grace when you encounter the large–or even the insidious small–cracks on life’s path.

Faith sometimes falters when…

your work goes unnoticed,

your dreams remain unfulfilled,

you face extraordinary grief,

your illness isn’t healed,

financial or physical disaster threatens you or those you love,

or death shadows you…

The serpent asked Eve to rethink what she knew.

The serpent knows our vulnerabilities.  He cuts us no slack.  He arrives “Johnny-on-the-spot” to administer his lethal dose of doubt.

Of course, in Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul addresses the spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of God’s children.  Paul devotes nine verses to his detailed description of  the armor of God, our protection when the serpent calls.

Thing is, although I frequently read Ephesians 6, I wasn’t sure how to apply or use the armor.  The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God… Well, that seemed straightforward.

But the shield of faith? I initially missed the user instructions.

Yet, it was crucial that I learn to effectively wield that shield of faith.  That shield was evidently the key to defeating doubt.

I’m grateful that God–through the Holy Spirit and the entirety of Biblical revelation– teaches me how to practically apply His Word.

As I studied, I read Peter’s warning: “Be self-controlled and alert. You enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour,” (1 Peter 5:8).

But Peter doesn’t stop there.  He also tells us to resist the enemy by standing firm in the faith.

Again, that shield.  “But what exactly does raising the shield look like?” I wondered.

I needed to know.  After all, I completely relate to Eve.  When doubt takes root, it’s easy to take my eyes off God and to begin second guessing.

I found the practical answer to my question as I studied David’s life.    As I studied David’s songs, I began to see a pattern in David’s prayer life.

Many of the Psalms begin with David’s honest admission of fear and doubt.  Obviously, he wasn’t immune to the schemes of the evil one.  Yet, David knew the battle plan.

When those fiery darts threatened to burn down his house of faith, David practiced praise.  No, I don’t necessary think that he organized a national worship service or concert when doubts assailed him.

That certainly would not be a feasible or practical action plan for me.

When  fiery darts threatened to burn down his house of faith, David practiced praise.

However, when fear and doubt filled his mind, David models the essence of praise:  to recall God’s character and review God’s past faithfulness.

For example, in Psalm 25, David begins, “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.  Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.”

We know from the historical books that David definitely faced some pretty powerful enemies; Psalm 25 honestly expresses David’s emotional response.

Those fiery darts of doubt clearly found their way into his camp at times.  Yet, as I read further, I discover that David answered doubts with praise.

He reviews the character of God: “Remember, O LORD,your great mercy and love, for they are from of old…He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way,” (Psalm 25:8-10).

Through his praise, David returns to what He knows about God.  He raises that shield of faith. And as he concludes many of his songs, he reaffirms his trust in Yahweh.

Yeah, sometimes, those fiery darts make it over the fortress walls.  Doubts rain down.

And “Did God really say?” burns. It catches my Achilles’ heel.

Yet,  I now realize that in moments like these, I can lift my praise like an umbrella.

As I recall all that God is and all that He has already done on my behalf,  my confidence returns.

And my fear and doubt suddenly seem insignificant.

You betcha. That shield of faith extinguishes the enemy’s fire.

“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you,” ~Psalm 9:9-10