July 1, 2014

Doubt and Insecurity

I found this graphic on the Internet this morning. I picked it out after reviewing several other catchy sayings about doubt because I liked the "look" of it. My eye is drawn toward this style of graphic art, and I liked the saying.

Have you ever Googled for sayings on doubt? 

Oh my goodness, there are all sorts of sayings about doubt, how to overcome doubt, and why you should never doubt. Some are feel-good sayings, and others seem to condescend to you, shout that you are a failure for feeling doubtful about whatever it is that you doubt.

I think doubt is a natural feeling. We all doubt things, some of us doubt more than others. I know that I am prone to doubt. It is part of my personality type. I am pragmatic, a realist, so when I see something or hear someone say something that seems "unrealistic," my natural tendency is to think twice about it. I ponder the veracity of what is being said or the thing being offered. Is this really true? Is this a good thing? Should I follow after this desire or that opportunity?

These kinds of "doubts" are different in my view from spiritual doubts. Spiritual doubts are the kind that Scripture warns us about, encourages us to fight, and supports us as we labor through them. Natural doubts often are those feelings or inklings that tell us to pay attention, to consider carefully, or even to see the "signs" (as in "walk away brother or sister!")

As I said, I am prone to doubt. I find that I doubt the integrity of what people do and say every single day. I don't want to be negative about things, but in truth, I tend to be one of those who always points out the critical flaw in the plan. I can see the big picture, visually imagine the outcome. My foresight is not perfect, and often, my judgment missed the mark. For me, the issue I struggle with is knowing which "voice" I should listen to and accept and which voice I need to stand against.

Let me explain...

This morning I woke up in a pretty good mood. Hooray! It was a good morning (well, is so far). I went through my normal routine, which includes reading my emails, checking Facebook (I am so addicted to it), reading the news (CNN, USA Today and CBS 5 - Local). I do all of this before I get out of bed each morning. Sometimes I log into Blackboard at Regent, just to see if my professors have posted feedback on my assignments. I love my iPhone -- I love the fact that I can do all of this without even getting out of my comfy bed each day. Once I do get up, I get my cup of coffee and settle into the family room sofa or chair to watch Fox News (unless Mom has the TV turned to GMA - Gag!) Just an aside: I think I have gotten my parents trained to watch Fox News in the early morning (well, at least my Dad watches it with me). After I have had my "parent time" -- catching up on the news of the day (including all the ills of older family and friends), I usually head to my bedroom where my Mac sits. I do most of the real work on the computer because I need a bigger monitor with keyboard (I digress). So all of this is just to say that within a hour of waking up, I have read or watched the news on several channels, I have read the latest gossip (thanks USA Today -- celebrity trifle), and I have stayed in touch with family and friends via the Internet.

Sometimes I wonder if all this information input is good for me (for us). I can remember growing up in Chicago (Hazel Crest, actually -- a small village south of Chicago) and never once did I turn on TV in the morning (as I recall, I think we were not allowed to turn the TV on without permission). If I think really hard about it, I can almost visualize those summer mornings. We had air conditioning in our house, but we didn't always use it. Summer mornings were the best. I would sleep with my window open, and at night, it was always stuffy in the house. By morning, however, the cool breezes would blow through the window and across my face. The smell of the air was fresh and sweet and I loved waking up this way. Of course, my Mom was hard at work cleaning house (she still is -- at 81 -- she gets up at 6 and starts cleaning) and I never liked that she would come into my room and make me get up so early. Still, I love those thoughts and I love remembering what life was like back then. I don't remember doubting much then. Life seemed pretty simple, pretty carefree, pretty low-key.

Now, my life is racked with "things to do" and opportunities to sort and to prioritize.

How do I choose what to do with my life? How do I choose what to do today?

Opportunity knocks: A friend and colleague asked me if I would design a website for his business. He wants something simple, nothing too fancy, just a web presence so he can be found online. I said I would be happy to help him out, and I would email him with details, etc. My time is pretty limited these days so I am very careful about taking extra work. Truth be told, if pay is involved, I tend to take the work regardless of whether I have free time to do it. It is no secret that adjunct instructors get paid a little more than minimum wage. Yeah, think about that for a moment. I make minimum wage or thereabouts and I am responsible for teaching college students content that will prepare them to be successful in life. I work my backside off during the semester, but once summer comes around, I am technically "unemployed." It is very hard to support yourself on adjunct pay, especially when it is 9-months of pay. I digress -- again!

Back to the point about doubting. I asked the Lord on Sunday if I should accept this offer to work. It seemed an easy decision for me -- design a website, make some quick cash. It would cover me for a month and PTL would offset some of my outgo (you know, the reverse of income). I decided it was a "God thing" timing wise and this would be His provision for me this summer. I sent the email off, feeling pleased with myself, and thinking "God you are so good to me!"

This morning, I get a reply, to which I was not surprised by the content. I had an inkling that my fee was too high, but I thought, "This is fair pay for the amount of work I will be doing. Plus I need this amount this summer." The response was expected. In my previous line of work as a web designer rejection was a normal part of the game. You submitted quotes and of those quotes perhaps 1 or 2 came to pass. You get used to people judging your ability by what you charge for your services. This is the "rub" of being self-employed. You don't have a boss to set your fee, to issue you a check. You work on your own, and you represent yourself through your accomplishments. I never liked having to quote a fee because I didn't want people/clients to judge me like that.

As I read the email, my heart sank. I really do need this money. In fact, I just had to give my son some money to cover his expenses until he gets his paycheck (so goes the minimum wage game). I really need this money -- but clearly this is not in the Lord's will for me. What gives?

You have to understand that I pray about my finances every single day. Sometimes I think the Lord gets tired of hearing me complain about the lack of income. I know He has me well-covered, I know this, and it is not like my bank account is close to zero. It is just that practically-speaking I see the zero coming toward me and that scares me. I panic when my account gets to a certain point and I begin to stress over the numbers. I shouldn't do it, really I shouldn't. I mean, God has been faithful to me since I started living singly (well, even before that time). He has never allowed my account to drop to zero, my auto-payments to default, or my creditors to come calling (at least not since I moved out of my husband's home). So what gives now?

I know the reason why I struggle this way. I lived for so many years without steady income and the fear of being unemployed, not making enough or any money, having collectors and others harass me -- well -- that scares me beyond words. This is how my husband and I lived for so many years. It wasn't my choice, in fact, I did whatever I could do to avoid living like this, but my husband wanted to be self-employed and he wanted us to live a certain way. He was an optimist, and he believed in the "what if" of positive thinking. I lived with his daily quotes from Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy and others who said "if you believe it, it will happen." For us, it never happened. It never came to pass. I was told the reason we were not successful was because I didn't "believe" in what my husband wanted to do, and because of my negative mindset, our lives were stuck in this negative place where his dreams could not come to pass (hence, the saying at the top of this post).

Just know -- I did not go gently into that good night (to quote Dylan Thomas). I tried supportive, constructive advice, but that rarely changed things.  I complained too -- a lot (wincing). In my mind, I was thinking practically. I mean, JUST get a job, a real job, and earn a regular paycheck (yes it was a point of contention for many, many years). I worked as I could, part-time, full-time, double-time. I home schooled. I managed the house. I took care of his parents. I ministered at church. I did all of these things and our income never fluctuated past the the "barely making it" point.

I share this not to lament those years, but to give support to my feelings -- to how I feel when it comes to having "enough" now. I struggle with it every single day. It doesn't get better for me. There never can be "enough" to make me not sit in fear, and to doubt the Lord's provision for my life.

Yet, I know that He has me well-covered. I know that I am in a good place, and that my decision to leave a full-time, great paying job, to begin teaching was within His will for me. I make minimum wage, and I don't have benefits. I have a huge student debt. My car payment about kills me each month. All of these things remind me of how indebted I am to Him. I need Him as my SHELTER, MY ROCK, MY REFUGE. He is my strong tower. He is Jehovah-Jireh (the Lord will see to it). He provides for my needs, and He covers me with His blessing and His favor.

But...

How do you continue to believe when your little world seems rocked by the cares and demands of life?

This is when doubt hits me like a steamroller. Yes, when I find myself backed up against a wall, facing that GIANT (be it whatever face I choose to put on it -- today it is the face of FINANCIAL UNCERTAINTY), when I feel like I am overwhelmed and unable to overcome, this is when I cower and struggle most with feeling doubtful.

My giant looks a lot like Goliath right now (HUGE, OVERBEARING, AND OBNOXIOUS). I look a lot like David (puny and defenseless).

I remember this story well because it reminds me that my God is greater than my struggles. He is greater than all my fears. He is able to handle whatever concerns me this day.

Yes, my problems will not go way this day, but my fear and doubt can be assuaged. I can be comforted, and I can find hope in His ability to handle this problem, in His strength, and in His might.

Isaiah 40: 31 - But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
 

Today, I confess that my strength is in the Lord. My hope and my trust are securely in Him. I let go of the fear and the doubt and I rest in His Name. I know my God has me well-covered, and although I may not see the way out, or see His provision yet -- I know that He knows my needs, and He has a good plan for my life.

God is good. He is good, all the time, He is good!

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