In a recent class at Liberty University, it was noted how 80% of a person’s doubts do not stem from intellectual problems with Christianity, but rather from emotional doubt. Emotional doubt is a problem for every person, but it seems to be a tougher concept for men to combat. The reason is that most men abstain from talking about their emotions. Many will suppress the emotional doubt and ignore it. However, such actions do not eliminate the doubt. Emotional doubt may address issues concerning the loss of a loved one, an unanswered prayer, or frustrations in life for which one blames God.
Interestingly, emotional doubt can be combated by a form of biblical cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Some may claim, “Hold up, Brian! You are talking that psychology mumbo-jumbo! What good is cognitive therapy?” Actually, cognitive behavioral therapy is quite a good practice. Paul argues the following:
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things” (Php. 4:6-8).
The believer should focus on those things that build up one’s faith and not on worry and fears which cause anxiety. CBT does just that. Using CBT to combat emotional doubt is quite effective. CBT can also combat depression and anxiety. Biblical CBT follows three steps.
- Identify your lies. First, recognize the doubts and fears you tell yourself. You may say, “I am going to certainly fail this test even though I have studied hard for it. I am too dumb to pass it.” Realize that the statements do not correspond with reality. If you have studied hard for the test, then you have learned the information which will be on the test. You are certainly not too dumb to learn the material.
- Remove your lies by arguing against it and give reasons for your optimism. Second, argue against the lies you are telling yourself with a positive, encouraging case. You may tell yourself that if you fail the test that it would be the worst thing in the world. In this case, remind yourself that you have studied the material and have learned the material quite well. Even if the worst should happen and you fail the test, it is not the end of the world. As bad as it may be, it is not as bad as you’re making it out to be.
- Replace your lies with the truth of God’s word. Third and finally, replace your lies with the truth of God’s word. Realize that “I am able to do all things through him (Christ) who strengthens me” (Php. 4:13, brackets mine). Realize that “all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). With these truths in mind, the doubts and anxieties begin to lose their grip.
CBT is a biblical practice that all believers need to practice. For too long, we have allowed the devil to steal our joy and hope. Often, we are our own worst enemies as we feel too frightened to take a chance on something for playing the “what if” game. Stop letting fear and anxiety steal the thunder from the grace that God has given you. Always keep in mind that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Tim. 1:9).
Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.
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