I wrote a blog at the very end of 2020 basically explaining why 2020 was a difficult year for me. It all boiled down to one word – doubt. Doubt in the Christian world is one of those taboo words. We talk about it with an arrogant sneer as though we are too devout a follower of Christ to ever doubt him. Think about the most famous biblical doubter of all time. We literally call him “Doubting Thomas” and laugh at how silly he was to literally need to place his hand in Jesus’ pierced side to believe in the resurrection. It’s no wonder Christians feel alone in their struggle with doubt, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
It’s Natural to Doubt
Doubt isn’t something that is exclusive to the weak-minded or weak-spirited. Doubt is natural for all of us. Adam and Eve doubted what God had said about the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 3:6). Sarah and Abraham laughed at God’s promise to give them a son (Gen. 17:17, Gen. 18:12). Gideon tested God twice before he’d believe that God would use him to save Israel from its oppressors (Jud. 6:36). Peter took his eyes off of Christ as he walked on water and Jesus asked him “why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31).
Doubt runs rampant through our humanity. We doubt just about everything at some point. We have to stop making doubt out to be the worst thing a Christian can ever encounter and call it out for what it is. Jude 1:22 calls us to be merciful to those who doubt, not to mock and sneer at them. If we can’t name our struggles first to ourselves and to other believers, then we won’t be able to face it and fight it. It’s okay to have doubts, it’s what we do after that that makes all the difference.
Is it Good to Doubt? A Distinction
A quick distinction I want to make on this topic is the difference between doubts and questions. In my research on this topic, I saw several people asserting that it is good to doubt because it draws us into a deeper understanding and relationship with God. I see what they’re saying but disagree with their terminology. We know that God is in the business of taking what was meant for evil and using it for good (Gen 50:20). While I believe it is “okay” to doubt I don’t think it is good to doubt. I believe what most of these writers were getting at is that it is good to have questions because they make us dig deeper into our faith.
While on the surface these two words seem to be synonyms, I would assert that in our faith they are distinct in one keyway. To question something is to subject it to analysis. This is good. We’re supposed to test everything against scripture. This means that you might hear something in a sermon that doesn’t sit right with you and it needs to be questioned, or maybe you read a section of scripture and interpret it in one way, but it makes you question how it fits with the rest of scripture.
Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37) and that means growing in “grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Asking questions even of God is at its core a quest for understanding.
To doubt on the other hand is to lack confidence in something. In this case, to doubt is to lack confidence in God. I know that sounds harsh and scary, but we can’t fight what we don’t call out. When I question something from scripture or something that I’ve heard about God, the object of the questioning is myself. I question the way I interpreted the scripture, or I question how one truth works together with another one. The whole time my confidence in God is not shaken. He is the rock. I am the one in question. When doubts rear their ugly heads, the object becomes God.
Scripture paints a picture of doubt as being destructive. Peter doubts and sinks into the water (only to be saved by Jesus). James 1 tells us that those who doubt are like waves tossed about like the wind. So, we can’t allow ourselves to stay in a place of doubt. We have to make a decision and fight doubt with faith. What do we do when we begin to doubt?
Do What You Know to Do
One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given is this: when you don’t know what to do, do what you know to do until you know what to do. Sounds a bit convoluted, but what it means is when you’re confused and lost don’t just sit in defeat with your head down. Circle back to the things you know to do. Keep the faith and God will show you what to do next.
What are the things that we know to do? Well, we know to pray in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We know to read, study, and meditate on God’s word (Matt 4:4; Psalm 119:11; Psalm 1:2). We also know to meet together with fellow believers and confess our sins (Heb. 10:25; James 5:16). We know that we’re called to set our minds on things above and to think on things that are good, holy, pure, etc. (Col. 3:2; Phil. 4:8).
If you’re like me then this probably seems incredibly silly, especially if you’re wrapped up in the depths of doubt, but I promise you the best way to fight doubt is with faith. By doing all these things that you already know to do you’re inherently going to learn more about God. You’re going to grow in your relationships with Him. You’re going to grow in your understanding of Him and maybe even in your acceptance of the things you can’t understand.
One of the most dangerous places to be when fighting doubt is to be too afraid to do anything. That’s where I found myself in 2020. I was too scared to look for answers or to tell anyone I was struggling because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone or have someone look down on me and worse, I was afraid that if I looked for an answer to my doubts that there might not be one and then what would I do?
If you’re finding yourself in that place right now, I encourage you to just take one step forward. Even if when you pray it feels like you’re praying into the void, do it anyway. Then take another step. Even if it feels like reading scripture is pointless, do it anyway. Then take another step. Even if it feels impossible to share your struggles with someone else, do it anyway. I promise, if you are genuinely seeking the Lord and searching for truth, it will help!
Doubt doesn’t have to be the end of your faith. It can be the beginning of a deeper more beautiful walk with God. You’re not alone. You’re not a second-class Christian. You’re not a disappointment to God or anyone else. You’re just a human who needs to rely on their savior. Talk to the Lord and tell Him, “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:34).