BY NICOLE STEVENSON
Doubt is not unique to those who have left cults, but as a former Adventist, I have a unique grab-bag of doubts that other Christians don’t always understand. I’ve discovered that life’s surprises have a way of shining a spotlight on those doubts. Recently I have been faced with one of those surprises, and I found myself wrestling with the reality of the human spirit and the promise of believers going to be with the Lord when they die. I know what the Scriptures teach about these things. So why, even with the trust I have in the Scriptures, did I still find myself doubting concerning these truths? If I am to be honest, I have to admit that sometimes, during conversations or during Bible studies when these issues arise, doubts arise at the same time. Normally I would dismiss those doubts, telling myself they were merely familiar lies from my past, but I’ve recently learned that ignoring my doubts without actually rejecting them does not resolve them. As long as I suppressed and ignored my doubts, they were merely annoyances that occasionally disturbed my thoughts. When I faced this crisis, however, they became terrorists of my soul. What I was ultimately doing was putting off facing them for a time when I would be the least emotionally equipped to do so.
I suspect I’m not the only one who has those deep places hiding old doubts and terrors that we keep so tightly locked away that we never destroy them with the truth of the gospel. We have already identified those doubts and fears as lies we learned in the past, but they are still lurking just out of our awareness—until we face a crisis. Suddenly they spring to life, and fear causes us to doubt and question the truth we now know. My recent crisis was just such a time. There I stood, alone on the stage of my life, with a spotlight shining right on the dungeon of my doubts. My emotions reached a crisis as I was driving, and I cried to my Father, “Lord, I know faith is a gift; please, give me more faith! Jesus, you said that the Father longs to give good gifts to His children. Please, give me more faith!”
As I prayed, I knew: God speaks to me in His word. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. At that moment I knew that the only way I would find the faith to withstand the sudden flood of doubt was to pore over God’s word and find what the Bible said about my fears that were tempting me to doubt.
One might think I came home and grabbed my Bible and began studying, but I didn’t. What I did notice, however, was that over the next few days, an intense desire for God’s word like I hadn’t had in a long time grew in me. Eventually, this stubborn and busy mom sat with her Bible at the kitchen table and began to follow a trail of cross references. I found myself reading passages which I had read countless times over the years that I had been a believer, but now I read them again specifically in reference to my raging doubts. By the end of my study, God’s word had pierced my soul and excised the doubt that had been tormenting me. His Truth had fortified me and cleansed my tortured thoughts.
I know that as time goes on, I will need to pore over these realities again, taking in God’s word as I take in food. I know now, however, that His living word is able to shine truth and reality into the darkness of my fears and resolve them, when I am willing to look at them.
At the end of that study I realized something I had known but now understood in a new way. If the gospel is true (and it is), if Jesus is God (and He is), if some of the Bible is believable (and it is), then all of it is trustworthy. Doubting any part of it—no matter what my crisis or how realistic my fears—is the sin of unbelief!
For many of us who have come out of Adventism, the doctrine that believers go to be with the Lord when we die is both easy to prove but hard to believe. How can something which God’s word states so clearly be so hard to believe? As I studied I wept over John 11 which records Jesus raising Lazarus and telling Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (v. 25). I read many passages that promised, from the mouth of Christ Himself, that those who believe will not see death.
Reading those, I remembered my pastor looking seriously at us sitting in front of him during the 2017 Former Adventist Fellowship Conference, and pounding his fits on the pulpit while leaning into the crowd over his Bible, he said with all the authority of a parent, “You are NOT your body!”.
I am not my body
His words had hardly left his mouth that day when my eyes flooded with tears, and my heart was broken with conviction that I was sinning to doubt what the Word of God taught just because it was “too good to be true”, or because it was “too hard” to undo the lie I had believed for so long! I knew that day that I needed to repent—yet here I was, struggling again with the concept.
Scripture is clear; my pastor is right. We are NOT our bodies.
As I sat in front of my Bible, I realized that repenting with words is never enough. I had never repented with actions from my heretical belief that my physical body defined me. I knew the concepts and the central passages that proved the essence of myself was not my body, but I had never flooded my mind with the words that slaughtered my doubts. Instead, I took my doubts and banished them to the dungeon of my mind where I didn’t have to look at them often but still allowed them residency. Now I saw that I must saturate my mind with the Bible truths that destroy the lie. I must thank God for the reality they describe, and when a doubt rattles its chains in its dungeon, instead of examining it, I must quote Scripture to silence it. Truth is poison to heresy. Only by deciding to fill my mind with Scripture instead of giving my doubt space in my head will I kill the doubt. Only by acting on God’s reality and trusting His word exclusively will I become free from the fear that fuels my doubts.
I am never tempted to believe that Ellen G. White is a true prophet. I am never tempted to believe that I am supposed to keep the Sabbath. I am never tempted to believe I shouldn’t have left Adventism—and I suspect I know why. When I studied my way out of Adventism I gave my life—day and night—to studying those issues. I allowed truth to destroy those false beliefs, and I changed my life to act on biblical reality. I refused to give those old beliefs any residency in my mind, and when doubts arose, I confronted them with Scripture.
At some point, however, I decided that I was just going to have to live with certain struggles unique to me. I decided I might always have confusion because my past had been so confusing. I thought I could reference the Word when needed to straighten out old patterns of thought, but I didn’t have to work out every fear and doubt in detail.
That decision proves to be useless in a crisis. When faced with fear and unknown dangers, I have to have a knowledge of truth that equips me to walk through trials with faith that glorifies God.
I am learning that it is not OK to give myself permission to entertain doubt from time to time. I don’t get a “pass” simply because I had a rough start. I have to trust God and believe that He cannot lie. I have to remember that He allows what touches my life, and He teaches me what I need to know.
I have to pray for endurance and courage as I run this race, and I always must be on guard to slaughter the sinful doubts and dark thoughts I cherished as an Adventist. I must battle while I am strong so I can rest in truth when I am weak. I must trust God and every word He said so that, when doubts threaten my confidence, I can destroy those doubts with truth.
“Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart” (Ps. 119:111).