Standing on our Own Two Feet: Dealing with doubts

‘And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace’, Eph. 6. 15 NKJV.

It’s a ridiculous game, and Canadians want credit for inventing it. The game is called ‘broomball’, and it is played with a ‘stick’ that resembles a broom and a ball that is supposed to go in the opponent’s net. But here’s the catch – the game is played on ice. Not with skates or cleats, but with shoes. As you can expect, the game is filled with the chaos of not being able to stop: collisions, sprawling, flailing and the constant need to find your feet. Broomball is a game designed around the idea of not having a firm footing.

But that’s not the only ice sport that Canadians play, of course. We love hockey. We don’t often mix shoes and ice. We wear skates. Sharp skates with an edge. Many Canadian kids learn to skate at a very young age. Balance is so important. The sharper the skates, the less chance of slipping and crashing to the ice. It’s crucial when trophies are on the line and your teammates are counting on you to stay on your own two feet!

Roman soldiers were not into ice hockey or broomball, but they understood the need for good footwear. Sure, the feet are not vital organs. You won’t die if you lose a foot. But in hand-to-hand combat, losing your balance leaves your enemy standing over you. Roman soldiers didn’t get to decide what kind of turf they were going to fight on. They needed shoes that could hold their feet firm anywhere anytime. They wore special military grade footwear with sharp spikes in the bottom to keep them steady on anything.

Paul had this in mind as he wrote about the Christian’s ‘shoes’. He said that our feet needed to be fitted with ‘the preparation of the gospel of peace’. The key to understanding this phrase is the term ‘preparation’ or ‘readiness’. The Greek word that Paul used was also used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It was used to communicate the idea of a ‘base’, or ‘foundation’. Paul is telling us that our thinking needs a solid foundation so we will not slip in spiritual combat with the enemy.

If we follow Paul’s train of thought, he has already told us that truth must be our core strength and righteousness must protect our deepest feelings of shame and guilt. But the enemy is relentless. It is possible for us to be in line with reality and know our righteous standing in Christ, and yet to be off-balance with nagging doubts.

Yes, that’s how Satan is coming at us now – with the seeds of doubt and ‘what-ifs’. He doesn’t need us to accept his lies. He doesn’t need us to deny the truth or give in to our changing feelings. He just needs to plant a bit of uncertainty in our hearts, and we are thrown off-balance. Unchecked doubt opens us up to consider the devil’s alternatives.

He planted the seed in Eve’s mind with his first words to her – ‘did God actually say?' He is still planting the seeds today. The seeds of doubt come in many shapes and sizes. We may doubt our status as Christians, or God’s pleasure in us, or His goodness toward us. We may doubt whether God will come through for us when we surrender to Him. Yet all of these seeds somehow undermine God’s character and word. Nagging doubts can be terrifying. They do not need proof in order to exist. Doubts don’t have to explain themselves or prove their case – they merely have to ask the questions of our greatest fears over and over again.

Paul tells us that the only answer to our ‘what-ifs’ is the ‘Gospel of Peace’. This is where we can stand with confidence. Jesus Christ has died and risen again to make peace between us and God. And this means far more than God no longer coming after us in judgement. The gospel of peace says that God is now ‘for’ us (not just ‘not against’ us) because we are found in Christ. Paul digs into this reality in Romans and finally concludes that because ‘God is for us, who can be against us?’ Rom. 8. 31. He reminds us that this God who cannot fail in His plan, cannot fail us because of the sacrifice of Jesus. We can count on the fact that He is working ‘all things together for good’ in our lives and ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God’.

If you are struggling with doubts, you are not alone. It is perfectly normal in the battle of faith to face relentless misgivings. Acknowledge your doubts and admit them to God. Take them seriously and confront them. Talk to other Christians about them. But most importantly, only Jesus Christ can be your sure foundation. He will never let you slip. Keep your eyes fixed on Him.

Wilbur Chapman was a well-known evangelist at the turn of the 20th century. At one point, he was struggling with severe doubts and went to speak with D. L. Moody about them. While Moody continued to point to John chapter 5 verse 24 and ask Chapman whether he believed it or not, Chapman continued to struggle. Finally, Moody asked him, ‘whom are you doubting?’ Instantly it became very personal to Chapman as his eyes were now fixed on Christ. He may have had doubts about himself, his conversion, and even Bible verses, but how could he doubt the One who died for him?