Doubt is a universal human experience. Regardless of your faith, or your lack of faith, certainty is hard to come by. This is true not only in matters of religion but also in life. I often doubt my skills, but I still use them. I wonder if my health and safety will be in jeopardy if I travel to faraway places, but I still go.
Doubt Doesn’t Equal Unbelief
Many Christians experience doubt about aspects of their faith at some point. But doubt is not the same as unbelief. It is not the opposite of faith. It is like being in two minds – the word doubt comes from the Latin word ‘dubitare’ and has its roots in the word for ‘two’. Someone who has doubts about their faith is not betraying it but raising questions about it.
Crisis in Faith
Doubt can arise from various causes: misunderstanding the Bible or Christian teaching; confusion because of incorrect Christian teaching or relying on feelings rather than facts. In questions of whether there is a God or not—we can expect a measure of uncertainty. We are all going to have periods of doubt when our faith seems ridiculous, and we have more questions than answers. Uncertainties may lead to a crisis point, a place where all we thought we knew has been called into question, and our religious, philosophical, and moral foundations are shaken.
Our doubts can become particularly pronounced in the face of adversity, or when encountering persons who see the world differently than we do. Some periods of time in our lives leave us searching, questioning, and wrestling with our beliefs. The late teen and early college years is such a time for many.
Reactions to Doubt
These crises commonly produce one of three responses.
1 Some reject everything they learned about faith when growing up and turn away from God altogether.
2 Others suppress their questions, and retreat to an intractable faith — faith that is immune to questions. Often this is a fundamentalism that offers certainties, an inerrant Bible, and lots of reassurance that what one believes is absolutely true. Some fear that doubt might be just the tip of the iceberg, and that if they allow themselves to doubt, they might very well fall away from God or displease God.
3 But there is a third option, one that faces doubt head on, and that carefully examines the presuppositions and assumptions of the faith that we’ve held up to this point. It accepts that there may well be truth in the faith we are raised with, while recognizing that not all we were taught may be true. Struggling with faith is a good thing that allows us to discover more about our faith and spurs us to further reflection and search for what is true. Our struggles ultimately lead to a faith that is richer and deeper than one simply accepted without question.
The Bible is filled with stories of people who had their doubts about whether God was there, or if God had actually called them to do what they had been told, or that God would be with them. In the Psalms, for example, you see the Psalmist yelling, shouting and struggling, but bringing doubts to God. Abraham, Moses, Gideon, and David all knew doubts.
So did Peter and John even after seeing the empty tomb! And Thomas, though he had heard from his friends that they had all seen Jesus raised, refused to believe until he touched Jesus with his own hands. A Christian who experiences doubt is in good company! The Bible makes it clear that we don’t have 20/20 vision right now, so we don’t see with total clarity, but it promises that one day we will.
And how grateful I am for the prayer of the father of Mark 9, whose son is plagued with seizures. The man says to Jesus, “if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus replies, “if you can? Everything is possible for the one who believes.” and the boy’s father exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9: 23-24). This has been my prayer on many occasions as well.
There is one last word about doubt that I think is important. It is possible to be paralyzed by doubt and uncertainty. This is not God’s will for our lives. We are to face our doubts and allow them to lead us to a greater search for answers and a more examined faith. But sometimes we get stuck in doubt and we never act. If I hung onto my doubt, and allowed it to paralyze me, I would never have married. I would never have taken my first airplane ride. I would never have moved away to college.
Christians facing doubt can seek answers from a vast range of teaching resources in print and online. They can also speak to other Christians who are more experienced in the faith and will take seriously and listen with care and compassion so that the root of the doubt can be discovered.
At some point you look at the evidence you have, you weigh the testimony of others, including the witness of the Bible itself, you consider your own personal experience, you weigh your options, and you decide to trust. And sometimes the only prayer you have is, “Lord, I believe; Help my unbelief.”
So, don’t think that doubts are abnormal; in fact, doubt is a sign that you’re taking your faith seriously, and not just accepting a hand-me-down faith or swallowing a load of slogans. You’re wrestling it into something substantial and robust. I would say keep going; be honest and keep asking questions.
If you found this post interesting, inspiring, informative, or useful, please follow us and share. Many more posts to feed your soul can be found on the Navigation Menu. God bless you.
Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first,because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.
When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. (Luke 2:41-46)
Jeff Lucas interview by Carey Lodge
Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White by Adam Hamilton
Image by GraphicMama-Team