I think if we are being honest with ourselves, a lot of us as Christians, are afraid of questions. How often do we shy away from our duty to evangelise under the guise of “What if someone asks questions I can’t answer?”. In some instances, we can even be afraid of the questions we ask ourselves. We are afraid that under interrogation, our doubt may cause our faith may falter.
When I became a Christian, I used to think I’d have to leave my brain and the door when I entered Church. I found the way we treat doubt and doubters quite worrying. Questions always seemed like the enemy of faith. “Just focus on God and the questions will go away”, or “Take God as His word” or “God’s ways are simply a mystery to us”. Phrases like these were ones I often heard when I would raise my doubts. These are sentiments which are I understand and are sincere but often leads to a mass of nominal Christians unaware as to why they believe what they claim to believe. Fortunate for us, we serve a God who isn’t afraid of our questions but instead invites us to ask them. God isn’t threatened by your doubt, nor does he get mad at you for asking questions. When we read the Bible, we find a God who is far more comfortable with our doubt than the Church is today. A God who doesn’t want our mindless obedience but rather our thoughtful Worship.
To have doubts is not unusual to experience for the Christians. The Bible is filled with stories of men and women of God who wrestled with their doubt. It is inescapable. The important thing isn’t to ignore our doubt but rather, how do we deal with it? Here are four ways which have greatly helped me.
Acknowledge your doubts
What separates Christianity from every other world religion is that we serve a God who knows what it’s like to feel. There is not a facet of life which anyone reading this article has experienced, which Jesus in His thirty-three short years on Earth did not Himself experience. If you feel abandoned? Jesus was abandoned. If you feel rejected? He experienced that also. If you face temptation? Jesus was tempted in every way. Do you have doubts? Jesus knows what that feels like. As the writer of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus knows how we feel and have a unique understanding of our weakness (Hebrews 2:18). God already knows that we have doubts. The Christian is not called to pretend as if they don’t exist, but to instead trust Jesus with our doubts. We do ourselves a huge disservice when we try and brush our questions under the carpet in the name of faith. Once we acknowledge them, Jesus deals with our doubts as he did with dealt with the disciple Thomas’ doubt in John 20, He reaches out to us. The Christian shouldn’t run from their doubts or deny them, but like the man who sought Jesus’ healing for his suffering son in Mark’s Gospel we ask, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
“Doubting God is painful and frightening because we think we are leaving God behind, but we are only leaving behind the idea of God we like to surround ourselves with—the small God, the God we control, the God who agrees with us. Doubt forces us to look at who we think God is.”- Pete Enns
Doubt your doubts
When we have doubts, we should start by questioning them. As Graham Ryken once said, “Some believers spend too much time doubting their faith, and not enough time doubting their doubts.” Very rarely do our doubts occur in a vacuum. More often than not, there are external pressures that fuel our doubts. The doubts we hold are typically tied to false beliefs we may have, misconceptions or wrong expectations. As Christians, at some point or another, we will face doubts. However, there some questions we should raise about those doubts.
- Have I been compromising with sin in ways that make it harder for me to see God and hear his voice? (Matthew 5:8)
- Are there any books or teachings that you have recently been consuming that might have contributed to your wavering faith?
- Have there been some changes in circumstances in your life that have caused you to doubt God?
- How does my expectation compare to what the Bible says I should expect?
Don’t doubt alone
You are not alone in your doubt. There is nothing new under the sun. The same questions and doubts we have today regarding faith, are the same questions and doubts fellow profession Christians have had in 2000 years worth of Chruch history. More often than not, there is someone in your Church, small group or fellowship who is wrestling with the same questions that you are. It is vital to find a Christian community which nurtures and helps us through our questions and doesn’t shut them down in the name of faith. Find those you trust and are grounded in their faith and share your questions with them. When faced with doubt, our response shouldn’t be to wallow in self-pity but invite someone in to help us bear it. Find those who won’t just give you short and quick answers, but those who will do life and walk with us through these difficult times (Galatians 6:2).
Doubt to the Glory of God
God is not offended by our doubt. God designed us to seek truth, that we might grow in our knowledge of Him – Sheri Bell
There are God-glorifying ways to deal with our doubts. When everything makes sense and life seems to be going our way, faith comes easy. But in those moments when life is challenging, trusting God, and having faith is all the more difficult. It is in these moments when God is most glorified. I have found that the periods of doubt in my life have actually played a significant role in the strengthening of my faith. This is because when we have doubts, the deficiency is in you, not in God. This deficiency isn’t meant to discourage you, but rather encourage you to seek the answers in the God of truth. God doesn’t run away from our questions but invites us to ask then to him. When David had his doubts, and there were numerous of them, he always spoke to God about them in prayer. When the doubting father in Mark 9 questioned whether or not his son would be he healed, he went to Jesus and prayed for the gift of triumphant faith. When the Psalmist Asaph had his doubts, he ran to the temple and worshipped God. When he did so, he then perceived correctly (Psalms 73:16–28). Our doubts should make us run closer to God as opposed to away from him.
So dear struggling Christian, acknowledge your doubt. But that isn’t enough. Doubt your doubts, tell others about your doubts and most importantly, tell God about your doubts. As you ask for His help remember, God “will deliver the needy when he cries” (Psalms 72:12).