Doubt is a universal problem that Christians in every generation face. Have you noticed how our suffering and difficult circumstances today lead us to identify with the desperate prayers of King David 3,000 years ago? Psalm 13 asks, “How long will you hide away from me? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” Or what about Psalm 10 which starts with, “Why, oh Lord, do you stand far away?” Being weighed down with spiritual insecurity is more common than you might think.
Does God Even Care?
Sometimes chaos, sickness, evil and brokenness suggest we are victims of forces and fate outside our control. In these moments it’s hard to believe in a loving, all-powerful, all-seeing God. Does this God who we believe in, but cannot see with our eyes, really care for his children?
The God of the Bible doesn’t promise a life of certainty, comfort, health, wealth or prosperity.
It’s often a struggle to put our trust fully in the God of the Bible who doesn’t promise a life of certainty, comfort, health, wealth or prosperity. Instead, he actually warns us bluntly that anyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted! (See 2 Timothy 3:12). It was as difficult for Thomas to believe in the power of the risen Christ as it is for any Christian disciple today.
Two Conflicting Worldviews
Although doubt is a common experience of every honest Christian, African converts face a unique challenge of spiritual insecurity. This is due to our traditional worldview, which inextricably links physical health and wellbeing to spiritual powers.
The African Spiritual Codes
There are two spiritual codes underlying the traditional African worldview – and these cannot be flouted. The first is that one’s health and life depends on the happiness of the Supreme Being, lesser divinities, the ancestors and spirits. The second code affirms that the ancestors and magic protect us against evil powers, witchcraft and sorcerers.
The African traditional worldview, inextricably links physical health and wellbeing to spiritual powers.
Thus, traditionally, Africans are raised from birth to appease spiritual powers and balance life forces to ensure prosperity in this world. It is understandable that when an African believer places his faith in the person of Jesus Christ as his Saviour, spiritual insecurity and fear may continue to cling to his heart.
Conversion To Christianity Is A Big Shift
Sickness, confusion and uncertainty may present a special form of temptation to doubt. This may not be experienced to the same extent by a new believer with a western worldview which affirms only the material world and denies the supernatural.
Conversion requires a painful wrenching from the African worldview, upbringing and experiences.
The African and Christian worldview stand in stark contrast to one another. And conversion usually requires a painful wrenching from the African worldview, upbringing and experiences. For instance, the African Christian can no longer consult with diviners to find the causes and solutions to life issues. He must now accept that people cannot always be certain about why bad things happen; he must instead entrust himself to the care and protection of God.
Spiritual Insecurity Leads To Mixing Traditions
The tension between these two worldviews creates fear and spiritual insecurity. On a practical level, this often results in the African believer attending Church on Sundays, while consulting with a traditional healer during the week. In addition, he might make an offering or sacrifice to the lesser spiritual divinities to ensure their blessing. He may confess Christ as Lord, but may also visit a diviner to obtain traditional medicines, a neck amulet or hand rope to protect him from malicious spirits.
The greatest challenge is to relinquish the veneration and fear of the ancestors.
The greatest challenge is to relinquish the veneration and fear of the ancestors. Ancestors are believed to be deceased blood-related members of the family or clan who supposedly acquire supernatural powers to guard, protect or bring misfortune to their living descendants.
The Ancestors Are Not The Answer
Syncretism, or the mixing of two contrasting religions, is not an option for an African Christian. It is false teaching. Why? Because it implies that Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection are insufficient to address real world problems that humans face.
An antidote to spiritual fear and insecurity cannot be found in mixing the worship of Jesus as King with veneration of the ancestors and appeasement of spiritual powers. Nor can spiritual insecurity be combatted by likening Jesus to the ancestors. For this undermines the uniqueness and supremacy of Christ over the universe; over the living and the dead.
Jesus tells us he is the one and only mediator between us and God the Father.
Jesus tells us he is the one and only mediator between us and God the Father (John 14:6). If any form of teaching denies that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life it is idolatry.
The Only Antidote To Spiritual Insecurity
Release from an idol always requires a new focus. It’s true that Christianity does not provide clear answers or solutions to every problem you will ever encounter. However, the gospel does address our material and spiritual realities, our deepest fears and insecurities.
Through faith in Jesus, we come under the care and protection of God as Father. Throughout the Bible we are urged to trust in God who is eternally good, sovereign, faithful, merciful, compassionate and just. The Church community is designed to provide an alternative system of care to replace the abandoned one. Indeed, Christian leaders have a responsibility to firmly attach followers to the unchanging truth of the Gospel.