Wrestling with doubt: Round One!
Is it ok for Christians to have doubts about God?
Have you ever struggled with doubt? Good news, you’re not alone! In this series we’re going to look at doubt from a biblical perspective. Part 1 will consider 3 myths that Christians often have about doubt. Then, in part 2, we’re going to consider two major kinds of doubt and how to deal with each. So, let's get started!
Myth #1: Real Christians never struggle with doubt
The truth of the matter is everyone doubts from time-to-time, whether one is a Christian or not. We have doubts about all sorts of things. Some doubts are trivial in nature, whereas other doubts are about our most cherished beliefs. Many of us have asked questions like these:
- Does God exist?
- Is this Christian thing for real?
- Am I just buying into my parents’ faith?
- Does God really love me?
When I was a new college student, I found myself wrestling with all kinds of questions. One doubt, in particular, plagued me more than others—whether or not I had truly been saved. As I began working through my doubts, one thing that encouraged me was the fact that I was not alone in this struggle with doubt. I had grown up thinking that doubt was something that real Christians never struggle with. But as I look through the pages of the Bible, I see all kinds of doubters. Job, Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, John the Baptist, Peter, Thomas, and Paul all struggled with doubt in some way or another.
Myth #2: Only people with weak faith have doubts
Doesn’t having doubt mean that a person has a weak faith? Not necessarily. There are quite a few people in the Bible who grew stronger from their time of doubt, and whom God used in big ways.
Abraham, who is considered to be the “Father of Faith,” had all kinds of doubts. When God established His covenant with Abraham, He told Abraham that he and Sarah were to have a child. Rather than trusting God and taking Him at His word, Abraham laughed at the news (Genesis 17:17). No wonder he was a bit skeptical. Abraham was an old man. The Bible tells us he was ninety-nine years old when God reaffirmed that promise to him (Genesis 17:1). Despite his doubts, God used Abraham and gave him a son, Isaac, through his wife Sarah—who also doubted (Genesis 18:10-12).
When Jesus was on trial before His crucifixion, one of His followers, Peter, denied that he even knew Jesus (Mark 14:66-72). But after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter became an outspoken witness for Him (Acts 2:14-36; Acts 3-4:31). According to church tradition, Peter was martyred because of his faith in Christ.
Thomas, another follower of Jesus, doubted that God had raised Jesus from the dead. He wouldn’t believe it until he saw it for himself. But when confronted with the resurrected Jesus, Thomas worshiped (John 20:24-29). Church tradition tells us that Thomas went as far as India telling others about the good news of Jesus. Like Peter, Thomas was eventually killed for his faith.
Given the prominence of science in our culture today, I’m sure that there are a lot of people out there like Thomas who need to see the evidence. That’s ok. Jesus understood Thomas’ heart and knew what he needed in order to strengthen his faith.
So, rather than weakening it, wrestling through doubt often strengthens our faith.
Myth #3: God sees doubters as inferior to people who have it all together
Are Christians who doubt inferior in God’s eyes? Again, the answer is “no”.
In the Bible, we’re told that John the Baptist was in prison for speaking out against King Herod. John heard about Jesus’ ministry and wanted to make sure that Jesus was the Messiah. When John’s disciples asked Jesus if He was the one who was to come, Jesus told them to go back to John and report all that He was doing—the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cured, the dead are raised, and the gospel is being preached to the poor. When John’s disciples left to report to him all that Jesus had been doing, Jesus told the crowd that no person who had ever been born of a woman was as great as John the Baptist (Matt 11:1-11).
A message for doubters
Everyone doubts from time to time. Sometimes, even the strongest among us have doubts. Having doubts doesn’t make us any less important in God’s eyes. God works through us despite our weaknesses. He loves us despite our failures. Even when we have doubts and are faithless, God remains faithful because He remains true to Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).