Posts tagged: Doubt

Placing Responsibility Where It Belongs

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By Paula Marolewski, July 11, 2010 4:25 pm

I am deeply grieved today as I write. And the reason is this: at this very moment, people are turning away from God and sinking into despair, their faith in shambles, bitterness and grief clutching at their chest, because they don’t understand – or perhaps want to accept – two simple words:

Free will.

Two short words. Easily defined. Even the theology behind them can be stated in words of single syllables:

Free will means I can choose what I want to do.

So where does the doubt come in? The despair? The broken faith? The bitterness? The grief?

It comes here:

Suppose you have a friend or family member who is making choices that are wrecking his or her life. Maybe it’s drugs. Or alcohol. Promiscuity. Pornography. Wanton spending. Staying in an abusive relationship. The list goes on and on. The bottom line is this: their life is in chaos, they are screaming out in agony, they may actually be on the short road to death and even hell, and you love them with all your heart.

What do you do? You advise, you plead, you intervene, you act. And you pray.

And then … nothing happens. Nothing changes. The pain in the other person’s life just goes on and on and on.

And you pray.

Still nothing happens. Nothing changes. The pain is worse than ever.

And you pray.

And … nothing … changes.

Then comes the day when you stop praying. When the despair sets in. When the doubt that was creeping at the edges of your consciousness springs into full bloom.

You find yourself doubting God’s love. His power. Even his existence.

You bitterly resign yourself to “whatever he wants.”

Your entire spirit collapses within.

And maybe, you even hate God.


Because God didn’t do what you wanted him to do. Because God didn’t save your loved one. Because God didn’t work a miracle in the other person’s life.

And surely, that would have been for God’s glory and the other person’s good, wouldn’t it? Your prayer wasn’t selfish. It wasn’t focused on you. All you ever wanted was for the other person to be saved, to be happy, and to give God the glory for a beautifully changed life – delivered from all the pain and garbage they had been experiencing.

What was wrong with that?

Here’s the answer:

There is nothing wrong with wanting those things. That is, indeed, what God wants, too. He doesn’t want your friend or your family member to be caught in the web of pain. He longs to deliver them.

But here’s the catch:

We’re talking here about a loved one whose pain is the direct result of the choices they are making. This isn’t about someone in pain because (for instance) they have cancer and God has not brought healing. A person with cancer didn’t choose his or her illness in any way. Today, we’re talking about people who are making poor, unwise, or sinful choices that are directly impacting their lives in a negative way.

And because we are talking about choices, we are talking about free will. And free will is always, forever, and exactly that:


That means … are you ready? … God can’t change their life unless they choose to let him do so.

God … can’t?

Correct. God can’t. Because that is the nature of the gift of free will. When God gave us free will, he gave it to us with no strings attached: nothing and no one, not God himself, can impose their will on us. We are truly free to choose. All the time. In every circumstance. Period.

But, you say, God is all-powerful!

Correct again. God is all-powerful. But he also obeys his own rules. Because he gave us free will, he limits his power in that respect. He will not use his power to overcome our free will. Otherwise, free will would no longer be free.

Let’s bring this home:

When a friend or family member is choosing a destructive path in their life, you can pray that God would do everything that is within his sovereign power to influence, guide, and direct them toward repentance and healing. That might mean that:

  • God would pour out his grace on them.
  • God would entreat them constantly through his Spirit.
  • God would remove the veils of deception from their mind.
  • God would give you and others words that would speak to their heart.
  • God would order circumstances to influence them.
  • God would convict them concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment.
  • God would place a yearning for himself in their souls.

And so much more! God is all-powerful – and all these things are well within his power! You can therefore pray for all these things and look for them in the person’s life. I am sure you will see God moving in these ways.

But there is one thing that you must remember at all times: God can do and will do all these things when you pray. But he cannot do one thing: he cannot force them to change their life.

God can pour out his grace, his love, his power, and his truth on the person: but they can still choose to refuse his grace, ignore his love, disparage his power, and spit on his truth.

Or, they can choose to respond to his grace, accept his love, delight in his power, and embrace his truth.

It is their choice. It is not God’s choice. It has everything to do with them. It has nothing to do with God.

That is the nature of free will. We are truly free. We can freely choose evil and hurt and pain and folly, just as we can freely choose good and healing and joy and wisdom. 

So if today you feel like turning away from God, if you are doubting your faith, if you are in despair because God hasn’t answered your prayers in saving your loved one from a destructive path, or if you’ve already turned your back on God … remember this. God hasn’t failed you, nor them. He is doing everything he can to speak into their lives.

I know it hurts. I know you are grieving and in pain. I know you are anxious for them. It is right to feel all those things, because you love them. And though you may not realize it, God feels all that, too – much more than you ever can. He loves the person you are praying for with all his infinite love … the love that brought Jesus to Calvary.

But we are free. We are always free to choose our way.

Therefore, the final choice to change is, and must be, their own.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

Praying through Fear and Doubt

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By Paula Marolewski, July 11, 2010 4:19 pm

The other day, I was praying and found myself saying urgently, “God, don’t fail me!”

I stopped, caught by my own words.

I was praying to the God of the universe. The God who not only speaks truth, but who is Truth. What he promises, he will do. What he says, he will accomplish. He is all-powerful, all-loving, and in control. Why then, did I pray, “God, don’t fail me!”

My uttered plea was really the result of my fear and doubt. Fear that God would lie or talk in double-speak, like the anthropomorphized gods of Greek and Roman mythology. Doubt that God loved me or had the power to do what he promised he would.

So right there, I flipped the prayer around to the way I really needed to be praying:

“Lord, you know my fear and my doubt. You see my anxious thoughts. You know how frail I am; how easily I fall. But I pledge right now to stand on the truth of your Word – that you are always truthful, always loving, always sovereign. God, don’t let me fail you!”


© 2009 Paula Marolewski


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Sentence Prayers

God in a Box

The Big Uglies

By Paula Marolewski, February 3, 2010 9:47 am

Have you ever prayed – with despair wrenching your gut, doubt tearing at your mind, discouragement dragging you down, desperation clutching at your chest?

I have, too.

Then, after some indeterminate time on your knees, you drag yourself to your feet … with the same despair, the same doubt, the same discouragement, the same desperation?

I have, too.

You may wonder if you have lost your faith. If you ever knew God at all. If you can go on another step. If this whole Christianity thing is worth it.

I have, too.

You’ve read through the promises in Scripture – promises of hope, of purpose, of comfort, of God’s presence, his love, his Spirit. And it all seems empty.

I have, too.

The hard truth is, being a Christian doesn’t exempt us from the big uglies of despair, doubt, discouragement, desperation … or any of the other nasties out there. You can believe in God with all your heart, love him with all your soul, and follow him with all your strength – and still get jumped, and jumped badly, by the big uglies.

Are the promises of God true? Is his presence always with us?

Yes, and yes.

Perhaps part of our quandary is that we forget that we have to “wait on the Lord” before he will indeed renew our strength.

Sometimes, it can be a very, very long wait.

I know.

I’ve been there, too.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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What Are You Doing Here?

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By Paula Marolewski, November 9, 2009 5:50 pm

Elijah had beaten the priests of Baal at Mount Carmel and outrun Ahab to Jezreel – but when Jezebel tacked up a “Most Wanted” poster, he tucked his tail between his legs and ran.

You know the story – the wind, the fire, the earthquake. Then the still, small voice of God.

Remember what God said first?

He asked a question (I Kings 19:13):

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”

I don’t think the question was reproachful or demanding. In the previous verses, God had provided angelic cookery for his weary prophet, and comforted him with gentle words. Perhaps God even asked his question with a hint of a smile:

“Elijah, you’ve seen me stop the rain for three years, provide for you by the stream at Cherith, supply flour and oil for you and the widow and her son, raise the boy from the dead, bring down fire from heaven, and restore water to the earth. Yet here you are, living in a place of fear and doubt and depression. What are you doing here?”

Does God sometimes ask that of us? I think so. When I consider everything God has done for me over the decades in which I have trusted him, I am astonished and overwhelmed. He has never failed me. Never forsaken me. Yet all too easily, I fall into fear and doubt and depression. It is then that I hear his still, small voice asking me the same question: “What are you doing here?”

And here’s the key: I have a choice about where I am going to live. I can live in fear and doubt and depression, looking only at the problems that surround me. Or, I can live in confidence and faith and strength, looking only at my God who is sovereign over all.

Where are you living today? And is God perhaps asking you, gently inquiring,

“What are you doing here?”


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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A Letter to a Friend Struggling with Doubt

By Paula Marolewski, August 25, 2009 7:56 pm

Dear Friend,

I want to encourage you that doubt and questioning are a normal part of maturing in your Christian faith. For many people, it’s the “rite of passage” that brings them from believing because they’ve been told, to believing because they know. In fact, I would say it’s not only normal, but it’s healthy.

For my own part, doubt and questioning have been an integral part of my growth in my faith. And I have to tell you this: I still struggle with periods of doubt. They come now and then, shaking me to my core, and making me re-examine what I believe. But through it all, God has proven himself faithful, good, and true – and has used these scary periods of time to strengthen me, increasing my knowledge of Scripture and my understanding of himself.

This is a scary period in your life. It’s not a comfortable thing to have the ground ripped out from under you – I know. So let me make bold to give you some anchor points to help you as you feel tossed about:

First, approach your doubt with prayer. This may seem almost a contradiction in terms, because God is the very Person you are doubting. So what? If he’s not there, he can’t answer. If he is there, he will be pleased to answer the honest seeker’s prayer. If he’s there and doesn’t want to answer an honest prayer, he wouldn’t be a God you’d want to serve, anyway. So pray: tell him you’re not sure he’s even there. Ask him to show you the truth. Remember: God can handle your questions. This period in your life comes as no surprise to him. Don’t be afraid to pray.

Second, keep reading the Bible. You see, it’s very easy in periods of doubt to throw out the Bible and stop praying and cease going to church and all the rest of it – because you’re questioning all those things. But that means you are not giving God an honest chance to demonstrate to you that Christianity is true. If you doubt and question, and only feed your mind with philosophies and books and conversations that are anti-Christian, you’re going to “load the dice” in favor of a non-Christian decision. Don’t kid yourself: we’re very easily swayed by what we take in – and if we take in 100% of a certain idea for a long enough time, we’re going to believe it’s true – simply because we don’t have any input presenting an alternative view. If you really want to know the truth, then you have to be fair in your search for it.

Third, journal your thoughts. Keep it private and safe, so that you can be honest in the journal. But it’s important to write things down, because when you’re feeling tossed about in your thoughts and beliefs, it’s hard to think straight. I know that from long experience. But when you write it down, you can at least look at your questions in black and white, and review what your thoughts are and what you’ve learned. That helps you think with your mind, rather than with your emotions – which right now are pulling you in every direction.

As a final word of advice: Don’t rush this process. This is going to take time. It should. It’s serious business, and you are asking serious questions. Take the time you need. If that means months of reading and researching and asking questions, then take those months. God will be with you every step of the way.

I’ve been where you are. I understand how hard it is. And I’ve come through it with my feet on solid ground. You will, too.

In Christ,



© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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