Of all the obstacles I’ve encountered on the road towards God and His purpose for my life, self-doubt by far has been the most frequent. I have grappled with this fiend more times than I care to remember but every time I do I leave the ring with a bit more strength and skill for our next match.
SPOILER ALERT! We will encounter self-doubt in our lives. And if we follow the One who habitually calls His followers to the impossible, we will encounter it often. Since this is a given, wouldn’t it be good to have the antidote on hand?
God’s remedy for self-doubt is actually surprising to me. Based on the consensus of our culture, and “common sense,” I would have thought it best to strike back at self-doubt with self-affirmation. But affirmation actually isn’t the most powerful weapon we have in our arsenal.
Not that I’m minimizing the power of affirmation. Affirmation, granted that it’s true affirmation, is biblical and can be life changing. Untrue affirmation, on the other hand, can be incredibly destructive. For an example of the negative effects of false affirmation, just watch some American Idol auditions. You’ll see many “victims” of false affirmation (i.e. Tone deaf kids who have been told their whole lives that they can sing.)
The problem with affirmation is that it only gets us so far and God is often calling us beyond that place. Let’s look at one of the many examples of this in Scripture.
In Exodus 4 God informs Moses that He is calling him to be His mouthpiece to His people Israel and to the Pharaoh of Egypt. In the moment of it all poor Moses experiences some self-doubt. He informs the Lord in v.10 that he’s actually a lousy public speaker and probably not fit for the job.
If Moses had been talking to a 21st-century life coach instead of God he might have heard something in return like, “No Moses! You’re selling yourself short, you’re actually a very, very good speaker. Different, but good in your own way.”
God, on the other hand, does not respond to Moses with affirmation but with revelation. In v. 11 He reminds Moses that He is the one who actually created his mouth and has the ability to make people mute or eloquent if He so desires. Then, in v.12 He tells Moses that He will be with him.
The answer to self-doubt that God offered Moses was the same answer He would offer Joshua (Joshua 1:9), Gideon (Judges 6:16), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:8) and countless others for their self-doubt: I will be with you. The creator of all that is seen and unseen will be with you. This is enough.
There is no greater weapon against self-doubt than the confidence that God is with you.
God has invited us to live with Him in the realm of the impossibility. Self-doubt is a natural response when faced with an impossible task. No amount of affirmation will convince us that we can do the impossible. Only the revelation of God’s promise to be with us will do that.
He is with us.