Doubt. When I say the word, thoughts immediately come to your mind. For some, the reality of doubt hurts you. It is a legitimate struggle. And this struggle leaves you on an island. For others, doubt is the absence of faith. There is no place for doubt in the life of a Christian. There are others who embrace doubt. They see doubt as a product of their enlightened minds.
And I want to speak to all sides here. Doubting God can be healthy. It can be necessary. It can also be very unhealthy and detrimental. So, where is the line? This line is hard to draw. And my goal is not to paint a complete picture of doubt. I want to address those struggling with doubt, embracing doubt, and writing off doubt. Ultimately, I believe God has something to say to all these groups.
So, let’s dive in. Here are 7 important things to understand about doubt.
1.) Doubt is not the absence of faith.
This is a lie people are going to tell you. It is also a lie Satan is going to make you believe. Actually, the opposite is true. The fact you doubt means faith is present in your life. Think about it.
If your faith were non-existent, why would doubt exist? Doubting God, the Bible, and traditional thinking are often necessary steps in the maturation of faith. Not to say doubt is easy. Not at all. Doubt is really hard. It forces you to re-think everything you believe. Everything you hold dear. A season of doubt can certainly feel like a crisis. But doubt is not the absence of faith.
Doubt and faith aren’t always at odds. Sometimes they play together. Maybe best friends is going too far. But they can play on the same team.
In other words, doubt and faith are not mutually exclusive. Rest in this truth.
2.) Examples of doubt are littered throughout the Bible.
Throughout the Bible, there is a trail of men and women who struggled with doubt. Job immediately comes to mind. Talk about being dealt a bad hand. Job was described as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). Yet Job lost it all. Wife. Children. Land. Livestock. Health. Wouldn’t you have some questions? If I were Job, I would be looking around for a hidden camera. Surely this is all fake. But it wasn’t.
The Bible reveals that doubt happens. It happens to people we view as warriors and heroes of faith. Moses. Abraham. Sarah. Peter. Thomas. So, as you wade through the difficulties of doubt, understand many men and women before you wrestled with the problems you currently face.
3.) God can handle doubts.
This is something the Christian community has handled poorly. Our mission has been to defend God. To stand up for God. But God doesn’t need anybody to defend Him. He is a big boy. He can handle some doubt and criticism.
God is not like us. He doesn’t freak out because Frank questions a few things. “Holy Spirit…Holy Spirit. Can you believe Frank doesn’t understand suffering? This is unreal. What are we going to do? C’mon Holy Spirit, give me some ideas.” Can you imagine how depressed and anxious God would be if he freaked out like us? Good thing he doesn’t.
Buried inside the gospel of Mark is a story about a man whose son is possessed by a demon. What is interesting about this story is the way Jesus frames the conversation with the boy’s father. In Mark 9:23 Jesus says, “If you can, all things are possible for him who believes.”
If you can?! What kind of statement is that Jesus?
But watch how the father responds. “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Everyone cover your eyes. This man is about to be put in his place for doubting the power of Jesus. And it could get ugly.
But Jesus doesn’t rebuke the man’s unbelief. He doesn’t put a verbal beatdown on the man for doubting. So, what does Jesus do? He heals the boy.
In this story, Jesus affirms doubt doesn’t reveal an absence of faith.
Maybe this man’s faith was actually shown through his acknowledgement of unbelief. Maybe faith in God is as much about a humble heart as it is about refusing to doubt God. Maybe God isn’t in the heavenly realms shaking his head every time we have questions about his power or nature.
4.) Not having doubts about God is unhealthy.
“God says it. I believe it. That settles it.” Ever heard that from the pulpit? Yeah, me too. And while I get it, this statement presents an enormous problem. It implies doubting has no place in Christianity. And that doesn’t line up with the Bible.
But here is my bigger problem. What about the stuff God doesn’t say?
I went through seasons of my life where I struggled with doubt. How do I grasp eternity? What about all the suffering in the world? Why would God make this so hard? God didn’t explicitly tell me why I have cancer at the age of 25. So…what settles all the hard questions God doesn’t answer?
You see, I struggle with how someone could never have doubts about God. I struggle to see how an authentic faith comes apart from doubt. My seasons of doubt were often a catalyst for a deeper level of faith.
Doubting God isn’t a result of fickle faith. It is a realization that a dichotomy exists between the finiteness of man and the infiniteness of God.
And doubt often provides the doorway to understand God on a deeper level.
5.) Don’t try to expedite a season of doubt.
One of the greatest man-made inventions is the microwave. How else would you get to enjoy a bag of popcorn in 2 minutes or a Hot Pocket in a minute and a half? Who cares if flavor or quality are sacrificed? If the food gets to our plates faster, that’s a win. #winning.
And this is what we try to do with everything in life. We microwave it. Especially those difficult seasons. But some things can’t be microwaved. A season of doubt is one of those.
I understand the struggle is real. But don’t expedite the process by suppressing your thoughts, walking away from God, or finding a quick answer to a deep problem. Endure. Persevere. Struggle. But don’t microwave.
God doesn’t give us a timeframe for hard seasons. Some last for an extended period of time. Continue to ride the wave. Don’t take the easy route. You will miss everything God is trying to show you.
Hot Pockets can be microwaved. God can’t.
6.) Doubt is not something to be celebrated or pursued.
Some doubt is healthy. But there is an unhealthy side of doubt. Even though doubt is everywhere in the Bible, doubt is never applauded or celebrated by God. We don’t see a God who celebrates Thomas when he refused to believe. We don’t see God applauding Job for wondering why awful things were happening.
You see, doubt is not a noble virtue. Sometimes it is necessary. But it is not something to celebrate. And many “enlightened” people believe doubting God is a must for spiritual maturity. Or maturity in general. And they would be wrong.
Doubting God is not a destination for us to arrive. It is a season for us to endure and learn. Think of doubting God as a truck stop on the highway to our home. Truck stops can be good. Bathroom breaks. Gas for the car. Snickers ice cream bars. And while we need truck stops on the journey to our home, truck stops should never be confused with our home. The same is true with doubting and faith.
Doubting God is not a destination for us to arrive. It is a season for us to endure and learn.Click to tweet
In a world that celebrates free thinking, the Christian community must have convictions. Convictions that no cultural shift will change.
It is important not to equate doubt with an absence of faith. But it is equally as important not to make doubt a primary component of faith.
7.) Knowledge does not eliminate doubt.
Sure, apologetics are good. Physical evidence for God is helpful. But finding a solution to the deep questions in your heart does not come through an increase in knowledge. Being in seminary, I realize the difficulty an increase in knowledge creates. And many look to knowledge for the solution to the deep questions about God and life.
But Hebrews tells us without faith pleasing God is impossible (Heb. 11:6). An element of faith must exist for knowledge to be of any value. Otherwise, knowledge will only serve to increase doubt.
Look for the answers to the deep questions. God has nothing to hide. But don’t seek those answers apart from faith. You won’t find them. Don’t ground your faith in something other than God. Knowledge is good. It is not ultimate. If you put your faith in something other than Jesus, you will never find the answers you are seeking.
Doubt is a very broad topic. This is where I need your input. What important points did I miss? What does the world need to know about doubt? Leave a comment below.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!