Here’s How “Choosing to Believe” Differs from Actually Believing

(First, a word about my upcoming book.)

Thanks to the help of some excellent pre-readers and others, Untwisting Scriptures #3 Your Words, Your Emotions, is aiming for a November 1st 2021 publication date. Several pre-readers will be seeing themselves in print there, because they kindly granted me permission to use some of their insightful thoughts to make the book even better.

Next week, hopefully Monday October 11th, I’ll be sending out an email to my blog subscribers to offer a free pdf of the book for any subscribers who agree to read it and then write and post an Amazon review. This offer will be exclusive for blog subscribers, and it will be time sensitive (only 24 hours allowed for response), so be on the lookout for it!

Here are some words from a few of the pre-readers, who granted me permission to quote them:

 

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this! As a therapist I talk about these things all the time, but I will be recommending this book to lots of people and giving it as a gift as well.   Every pastor, Bible study leader, elder, deacon, etc should have this as required reading!  Thank you so much for writing a book like this.  SO NECESSARY and praying that it will touch the lives of many!!! What you will not see in this document is how many “Amen’s”, exclamation points and stars I have written all over these chapters for the many points that I am thrilled with.  Thanks again for letting me get a glimpse of this up front and for all the labor of love that you have put into this and into helping victims. –Edith Johnson

You did SUCH an excellent job unpacking the six big negative emotions. The whole chapter about fear is AWESOME!!! The end of Ch. 14 brought me to tears. Wow, so beautifully done. I have SO many positive things to say about this book!!! Thank you so much for writing it. –Shari Ellis

I have been deeply touched by all that you wrote. Especially since I’ve personally faced many of the things you talk about. So much clarity and letting go of condemnation. I admit that I have responded poorly to others by using manipulative delivery with Scriptures ignorance and immaturity. I’ve also questioned the discernment the Lord has given me because I was accused of being judgy. So thank you! Reminded to be praying for wisdom and discernment. –Dana Lange

It seems to me your books are getting better. I think my favorite one will always be the first one you wrote, simply because it was cool water to my dry and weary bones, but this last one had me really going deeper in to God’s Word. You have, once again, done an excellent job of breaking down all of the Scriptures that are used to silence, abuse, and re-abuse women by their husbands and church leaders. I say women because that was my experience. Your research and studying the Scriptures, definitions, and translations is exhaustive.  –Julie Hauser

Thank you so much for your love of the Scriptures and helping us get untwisted. I am truly grateful! –Linda Lorring

[Your words are] healing and helpful. I wanted to cry at several points because it was so helpful and encouraging to read. –Liz Montez

Your exposition is clear, gentle, and insightful, and so very encouraging…I still need to renew my mind and I am blessed again as I read! I really thank God, and you, for your prayerful, hard work!  I refer every survivor I meet to your Untwisting Scripture books. My friends say they are so freeing. Thank you again! –Ann Thelen

Thank you again for your reasoning, hard work and delightful writing style. –Carla Moodie

*****

And now, our (more or less) regularly scheduled blog post. . . .

Here’s How “Choosing to Believe” Differs from Actually Believing

I have a friend, “Mary,” who has been “choosing to believe” the Lord for a very long time, in the midst of darkness. Some time ago the Lord Jesus came to her in an experiential way, speaking words of love to her, “You love me because I first loved you.”  That was a Bible verse she’d known since childhood (the childhood when her pastor was using her for his sexual perversions). Throughout all her years, she had “chosen to believe” that the Lord loved her. But now, with that revelation from the Lord, she actually believed it. She didn’t have to remind herself that it was true. She knew it was true.

I’ve had these kinds of epiphanies myself. Something that you’ve “known,” intellectually, takes deep root and grows in your heart, and you KNOW it, experientially. It’s the very thing Paul was talking about in Ephesians 3 when he prayed that the Ephesian Christians would KNOW the love of Christ (in their experience) that passes “knowledge” (in their intellect).

That’s the difference between “choosing to believe” and actually believing.

In the Christmas story Amahl and the Night Visitors, the three wise men stop by Amahl’s house on their way to see the Christ child. Amahl insists to his mother that there are three kings at the door, but his mother doesn’t believe him, that is, until she goes to the door herself and sees. If she hadn’t thought Amahl was making up a wild tale, she could have “chosen to believe” her son. But it would have been a very hard thing to do, until she saw those three kings herself.

When Elisha’s servant cried out in 2 Kings 6 that they were doomed because of the surrounding army, Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid, because those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” The servant could have “chosen to believe” what Elisha said, and then could have continued to constantly remind himself of what Elisha had said, which was the opposite of that enemy army he saw with his very own eyes.

But then Elisha prayed the strangest prayer. “Lord, open his eyes, so that he can see.”

Now, the servant’s eyes were already open, of course—they had to be, in order for him to see that enemy army surrounding the city.

But Elisha was praying that the servant’s spiritual eyes would be open. And God answered his prayer. The servant saw the heavenly host surrounding the city. He saw in spirit realm.

It is when our spiritual eyes are open to see in the realm of the spirit and our spiritual ears are opened to hear in the realm of the spirit that we can move from “choosing to believe” the Lord to actually believing Him. This is when we won’t have to remind ourselves of truth because we will know, deep in our soul.

Once “Mary” had heard from Jesus directly that He loved her, she no longer questioned His love. But because her recovery journey from deep and extended trauma has been long, she has often flagged on having hope that she would ever heal. She even wrote a poem at the beginning of a difficult season (a major move and critical illness) in which she said,

Hope is slippery*

Hope feels as though it is slipping through my fingers 

 The tighter i squeeze-
The quicker it sifts

 I used to believe things 
Would not always be this hard

 But i don’t, i can’t anymore
Its been too long

Perhaps God has different plans for me

 Is losing hope a sin?
Can i pray for more of it to be given?  Or just ask for forgiveness?

 Or must i somehow muster it up? 
It feels too far gone.

 Despair matches my body
Better than hope does…
I’m tired of fighting my body

 Trying to expect good to come from pain
Is actually making the reality
That i may never know it so much harder

 When I’m allowed to express it 
My body and inside match – and that is what oddly “feels” like peace to me-
To not have to have with the mismatch

My energy is depleted
My body is weary
My mind is chaotic
My emotions are so full of dread

 Doors slamming
Being silenced or ignored by people others call good AGAIN feels excruciating in a way i cant describe
Its unearthed the smashed trust
And always, ALWAYS  on the outside looking in- i feel crazy

 I can’t help but wonder if it’s All me – not the abuse- but what i let it do to me

 At this time in my life grief feels “good”
Despair feels more normal to me
But i feel as though only my hope or my faith will survive-  
please Lord Jesus, hold my faith for without it i lose the real You.

 My hope is only as healthy as the You, i understand…
and i know right now there are a lot of distortions being exposed.   

 I only HOPE i held on long enough
to pass both hope and faith on to my family-
i want better for them 

Mary sent that poem to me at that time, and I mourned with her. This dear friend had reached a low point of despair. She had tried to “choose to believe,” but she couldn’t actually believe.

Then. About a month later.

The Lord met her again. These words are hers.

 [In the past], I never had to wake up every morning and remind myself I did not deserve peace or joy or that I was supposed to be dead, not living another new day, it just felt true.  I can’t remember ever having to write a sticky note about how worthless I felt.  I just woke each day, knowing I hadn’t met Jesus in my sleep and my mind would run with the confusion of whether I was pleasing God to keep fighting for my life, or disappointing Him that I wouldn’t end it that day there on the cliff [when her abuser tried to get her to kill herself].

Somehow, through the helplessness and hopelessness of [critical illness] in the middle of that very difficult move, that shifted. 

He was present with me in this last month in a way I could feel…especially in response to the young parts that were being so constantly triggered.    My thoughts were still scrambled and chaotic (maybe even more so because the move triggered young parts) but what I feel as I am recovering is Jesus’ ASSURANCE: “You are going to be okay… you WILL experience healing.”  

THAT simple truth, even as I screamed to/at Him dripping in sweat and soaked  in 95 degree heat trying to chop logs from under my shed to burn . . . as I had to pack up a big house and move it without the help of movers . . . as I tried to move big pieces of furniture and refrigerators alone . . . as I sat in my car holding my dog and soaking her fur with my tears . . . as I broke down in front of family of origin members . . . that simple truth now feels truer in my heart than the lie it replaced.

When Jesus changes the lie I didn’t even know I was believing, it’s as though I don’t have to “work” to believe the truth- it’s just as easy to believe HIS TRUTH as it was to believe Satan’s lie.  No more warring with my own brain to convince my heart. 

Now I am sleeping 5-6 hours most nights (you know what am incredible answer to prayer and relief to my body and mind this is) and when I wake, I am content with knowing Jesus kept me here and fought for me through this last month [of critical illness] when I really believed He was going to finally end my pain and bring me to Himself in death.   I guess in my soul, I am settled somehow, that if He is fighting for me now, He must have had and still has some purpose left for me here, and Satan’s attempts to convince me [the abuser’s] message that God wanted me to die WAS AND IS A LIE. 

I know it seems too simple to have taken this long to “get”… I could have quoted scripture defending that my significance is based on the fact that I am created by Him, not what I “do” – but hearing it and being convinced of it because Jesus, through His Spirit spoke it specifically to my spirit just takes the effort out of it – I’m not trying to believe it- some part of me just DOES.  My mind isn’t at war with my spirit about this lie of Satan anymore.  

I don’t know which young part held this lie of “I should die”…but wherever the lie lived, something is shifting for sure. So now I KNOW (with experiential knowledge that FEELS TRUE) both that JESUS LOVES ME (you love Me because I first loved you) and that I can have HOPE that HE WANTS me to live and heal as I live (you are going to be okay).

I hope this makes sense.  It’s hard to put words around Spirit-to-spirit work.  I know you are praying and have allowed me to “borrow your hope for healing” for quite a long time.  

Hope feels WONDERFUL.

*****

It isn’t just for Mary. Here’s the joy for the people of God. This hope is for you. Yes, it is for you, and for any child of God who despairs. Keep asking Him. Keep seeking Him, and don’t give up. He is there, and He loves you.  As you continue to “choose to believe,” know that there is more, much more, available. Ask Him to move you from “choosing to believe” to simply knowing, unshakably, that His love for you is real and His plan for you is good.

Look to Him, and keep expecting those seismic shifts.

 

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Joel Horst
1 month ago

As I read this, I remembered the verses that tell us that salvation comes through believing in our heart. In order to believe in your heart, it takes more than mere “choosing to believe”. It takes an encounter with the Lord.

Maybe all of this brings us the crux of what I see happening in the church: that “correct doctrine” and “truth” have become more important than relationships with God and others. People hold certain beliefs without considering how those beliefs and doctrines affect real people. It’s got to be a heart thing, not just a mental game.

Angela Conley
Angela Conley
1 month ago
Reply to  Joel Horst

Yes!

Jane
1 month ago

Doesn’t “choosing to believe” honor God maybe even more than when it’s easy to believe? Don’t all Christians go through times when believing comes hard? That’s when we have to “choose to believe.” …when our emotions aren’t in it. Isn’t God more interested in our ‘will’ than our emotions… although emotions are important too. Jane

Terra Edwards
Terra Edwards
1 month ago

Yes!!! Jesus removes the “muster.” He throws muster mountains into the sea.

Lauren
Lauren
1 month ago

We will not die, but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done! Praise God for His healing and HOPE that Mary is experiencing!

Belinda Colyer
Belinda Colyer
1 month ago

We can believe something without experiencing it – but it is not satisfying. Then, when we experience what we ‘know’ – it is sweet and deep and real. I have known and believed that God loves me. But recently, I sat outside just listening to Ephesians 1 and God granted me an experience of his love. It was something that I can’t explain. A taste of heaven? I don’t think my experience helped me to believe that God loves me more deeply. I did believe it. What was different is that I felt it. It has not forever eradicated all moments of doubt about God’s love. But is sure is a little treasure stored up in my heart.

Believing God loves me without the experience was real belief. It was not merely something I chose to believe. (As if I believed that despite evidence to the contrary). I believed that based on the conviction that God does not lie. He has evidenced his statement of love with deeds of love. My faith was rooted in that.

carmen appleby
carmen appleby
1 month ago

I really.was.encouraged by this as I relate.to Mary’s struggle so much . Thanks so much for writng

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Fiona Pimperton
Fiona Pimperton
7 days ago

The poem written by your friend Mary about hope being slippery is one that I would like to quote on my FaceBook page. Is it ok to do that and, if so, can you let me know how to credit the writer with these words of her journey.
It’s powerful to read someone else’s words of a journey I don’t know how to express the feelings about at all. It’s all just a catch-22 with emotional abuse. Mary’s poem captured the stuck-ness of it, the impossibility of getting away from the despair. I love that it contains glimpses of the way forward though and her second message showing how she came up to breath and see again. Hope is “slippery”. What a very sharp and accurate word in the world we live in.

Lila
Lila
7 days ago

Yes, this is true. It’s hard to “Choose to Believe” when your own heart has been so hurt, and the reality you experience is so different than what God’s Word says can be a challenge. Once again, “connecting that 18” between your head and your heart.