Discernment Versus Doubt

Have you ever been deep sea fishing or tried to stand on a boat that was underway in high seas? Even if you haven’t, I’ll bet you can imagine that it’s very difficult to stand up straight or walk without stumbling, not to mention the sick feeling in your stomach unless you’re a seasoned sailor. 

This is the perfect analogy to what happens when we doubt the Lord has spoken to us. We stumble, are storm-tossed, and feel sick. Did God really speak that word, show me that vision, bring that verse to mind? Did he really or was it just wishful thinking? 

Fierce doubt often attacks on the heels of a great victory in hearing God’s voice. How can we walk in Victory and not Doubt?

First, Ask God For Wisdom

In James 1:5-8 the Bible says: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” (NIV)  

I remember reading this scripture as a young woman and thinking, “But I doubt all the time, how can I ever expect to hear from God?” I learned to pray the same prayer that a desperate father said to Jesus 2000 years ago when he asked Jesus to heal his son: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NIV)

Our Father knows that we are human and we need help. It’s ok to believe AND ask for help believing in the same sentence!

Second, Check For Attack

The question, “Did God really say…?” is a common ploy the Enemy uses to confuse our thinking and get us to question God’s voice. In Genesis 3:1 the serpent says to Eve, Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (NIV)

Crafty, evil, and deceitful, the Enemy uses this one phrase to set us off on a spiral of doubt. He doesn’t want us to walk in victory, so he uses our own minds to trip us up.

I recently had a wonderful encounter with the Lord as I was asking for direction on my next steps in life. He was very clear and there was no doubt in my mind. Fast forward to 3 days later, I began to hear, Did God really say that? 

Sadly, it took me the better part of a day to realize that every thought I had that day came from the Pit of Hell. Each question in my head was whispered to me from the Enemy. The words were quiet and in my own voice. It was very effective. The attack nearly took away all my confidence in the victory I’d had a few days before. Get Out, Satan!

Third, Test It

We should absolutely test what we hear to see if it lines up with Scripture and the Holy Spirit living inside us. Does the word line up with the tone of grace, love, and conviction that can be found in the words of Jesus? Also, we check with our leaders and close faith-filled friends. 

His voice never condemns and always points the way to the truth, in love. Shame is not from him. If we feel shame or condemnation, think about whether our own emotions are tripping us up or whether the enemy is trying to confuse God’s message. Jesus asks us for repentance and contrite hearts. Then he immediately extends us grace and forgiveness when we ask for it. We can leave all the other baggage at the door. 

Fourth, Don’t Forget Jesus Is In Your Boat

One day, Jesus and the disciples were crossing the lake in a boat when a windstorm stirred up waves. The boat was nearly swamped. Meanwhile Jesus was sleeping down below, and when the disciples woke him, they were panicked! They didn’t ask him for help, they just told him: We are going to drown! Of course, Jesus rebuked the waves and wind, leaving the seas calm. (Luke 8:22-25)

Sometimes the Enemy gets a foothold, and we can’t even recognize the attack for what it is. We get so wrapped up in our fear and doubt, we panic and go straight to the worst case scenario. We have trouble praying with coherent words. Just, I’m drowning!

Jesus is in our boat at all times! ALL TIMES! We can call on him and with one word he will rebuke the wind and waves. With one word he will give you calm instead of the Enemy’s attack of doubt, swirling emotions, and panic.

Fifth, Thank Him!

When the word we received lines up with wise counsel, scripture, and the Holy Spirit, then we thank him for speaking to us! We rest on the Lord’s words to his people in Isaiah 46:11 “What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.”  (NIV)

Finally, Remember This:

Doubt says: Did I really hear from the Lord?

Discernment says: Does this line up with God’s Word and character?

The first screams out in fear and worry, the other whispers with calm wisdom and confidence.

God is speaking to us. Today, I am praying we are filled with confidence and peace as we choose to believe Truth over doubt.


This blog post was the last of a five part series on Hearing God’s Voice. Here’s what we covered in the past five weeks if you’d like to catch up:

  • We stand firm on the Scripture that says we can hear his voice – because he said we can. (Part one)
  • We use spiritual tools and Scripture with our imagination to hear from his Spirit. (Part two)
  • We immerse our hearts in the Word so the Spirit can recall it to our minds. (Part three)
  • We write down what he’s told us already to use as encouragement later. (Part four)
  • We test what we hear and then don’t doubt that he spoke to us. (Part five)

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