Patricia Hofer

Self-doubting Christians

Even when Hannah Whitall Smith was a leader in the 19th century Holiness Movement, she was continually burdened by self-doubt. Its constant focus on “the outward law of righteousness,” relying too much on dutiful and righteous actions, became a huge burden for her. And it kept her Christian believing in bondage to “self-effort and self-dependence” (The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life 175). We Christians may not admit it, but, when trials come, trusting isn’t easy for us either. We immediately wonder, Did we do enough? Are we good enough?

And yet, as Paul tells us, being a Christian isn’t about following a list of outward, righteous behaviors. “The Spirit of the living God” is, instead, written on “human hearts.” And the living Lord, alone, does the writing. We need only to offer a yielding heart. Our “sufficiency” or “confidence,” all we need to know and all we need to be, come to us “through Christ” (NRSV 2 Cor. 3:3-5). Those are the terms of self-surrender.

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