Wrestling with doubt: Round Two!
Identifying the two main types of doubt, and beating them!
In Part 1 of this series we looked at three myths about doubt. In this article we’re going to consider two kinds of doubt:
- Fact-based doubt
- Emotion-based doubt.
We’re also going to look at ways to deal with each kind of doubt.
1. Fact-based Doubt
While there are various kinds of doubt, people generally struggle with two basic kinds. The first has to do with facts or the intellect. People who struggle with fact-based doubt often have questions concerning their beliefs. For example, they might ask questions such as:
- Does God exist?
- How can Jesus be both God and man at the same time?
- Can the Bible be trusted?
Sometimes people struggling with fact-based doubt are often puzzled over some issue. Maybe they’ve heard a friend raise a good question about their beliefs and don’t know how to answer it. So, how do we deal with fact-based doubt?
Get answers: Generally, people struggling with fact-based doubt need to find answers to their questions. Once those questions have been satisfied, the doubt tends to go away. Perhaps you’re struggling with a fact-based doubt. If that’s the case, it’s ok! It’s alright to ask questions and to figure things out. Perhaps you need to speak to your parents about it or a friend, or maybe you could go to your pastor or youth leader in order to try to find answers to those questions. Or can you send a question to Fervr, and we can help answer it!
Get involved in apologetics: People struggling with fact-based questions often get involved in Christian apologetics. Apologetics doesn’t mean that we apologize for our faith; rather, apologetics has to do with giving reasons for our faith (1 Peter 3:15). But doing apologetics can also help us to overcome our doubts (read this article to find out more!)
The key is not to give up. There are many good answers to our questions. It’s also important to remember that you are not alone in wrestling through fact-based doubt.
Type 2: Emotion-based Doubt
The second kind of doubt is emotion-based doubt. Emotion-based doubt is often caused by emotional pain, but sometimes it masks itself as factual. So, an emotional doubter may pose a question and get a perfectly good answer, but for some reason the doubt remains. How, then, do we deal with doubt that is emotion-based?
There are several steps to take when wrestling through emotion-based doubt.
Identify the Lie: Our emotions are powerful, God-given gifts. Sometimes emotions help us to act in bold ways. Other times they keep us shriveled up in fear. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that our emotions are connected to our beliefs. For example, why is it that we get angry over things that seem outrageous to us, such as child abuse or murder? We get angry and upset because we have the belief that such actions are wrong.
Sometimes, though, we form wrong beliefs about things, even without recognizing it. These wrong beliefs also attach to our emotions, becoming the basis for our emotional doubt. Sometimes we form wrong beliefs about what God is like or about ourselves.
As I shared in Part 1, one doubt I wrestled with was whether or not I was truly saved. For me, I had the false belief that even though I confessed my sins, God could never forgive me. This brought about a lot of pain and hurt in my life. In order to overcome this doubt, I first had to identify the lie.
Replace Lies with Truth: Not only do we have to locate the lie, but we also have to replace the lie with the truth. For me, it was a matter of recognizing that I had a false belief about God. I had to come to the realization that God would forgive me, despite my sin. I had to recognize that God’s grace is greater than my weaknesses. Salvation is a gift and not something I had to earn (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Sometimes we tell ourselves things like “I’m worthless” or “no one cares about me.” As Christians, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. We need to remind ourselves of the truth - God loves us so much that He gave His Son for us (John 3:16). All humans have worth and dignity because they were created in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-28; Genesis 9:6; James 3:9).
Recognizing and telling ourselves the truth sets us free from the lies that we tell ourselves.
Change Our Thinking: Many of our emotion-based doubts come from fear, worry, and anxiety. The apostle Paul gives some practical advice on how to deal with worry and anxiety. If anyone had room to worry, it was Paul. Here was a man who had been shipwrecked, beaten, stoned, and imprisoned on more than one occasion. He gave up everything to follow Jesus. Yet, Paul tells the Philippians not to worry or to be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6). What was Paul’s formula? To change the way we think! He gives the following steps:
- Always rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 4:6)
- Take our requests to God (Philippians 4:6)
- Give thanks (Philippians 4:6-7)
- Replace our negative thoughts with positive ones (Philippians 4:8)
- Be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12)
- Realize that our strength comes from Christ (Philippians 4:13)
Paul realized that we may not be able to change our circumstances, but we can change our beliefs about those circumstances. Have you ever noticed how different you feel after being genuinely thankful for something? When we worry, generally our worries are connected to a belief that we have about our circumstances. Changing our beliefs about our circumstances helps us to see things differently.
Before we close, it’s important to keep in mind that there are times when we need to turn for help. Never be ashamed to ask for help from your parents or your youth worker. If emotional pain causes you to have thoughts of suicide or severe depression, that’s a good indication that something else might be going on. In those cases, seek professional help.