Dealing With Doubt
Doubt is part of a healthy Christian existence. And I know some people would argue against that statement. They would proclaim they have never—since the day they believed—had a doubt concerning the legitimacy of their faith. If that’s true, great! But, for the most part, almost all believers have had seasons where they have wrestled with doubt and the inner turmoil it creates.
I believe the Apostle Paul experienced this wrestling and it is well documented that Thomas doubted the resurrection of Jesus.
Many early church fathers and well-known preachers throughout Christian history have openly talked about their struggles with doubt and the difficulty to persevere in faith. And you can probably add your own name to this list. But I don’t think the reality of the existence of doubts is the primary issue; they will come. But what is of upmost importance is how we as believers handle them.
Have you ever considered how strange it is that the God who made us (and our minds/intellects) has given us the ability to question Him? He could have designed us like common animals who operate and live instinctually. But God gave us the ability to reason, to love, to experience pain, and to express free will. The human experience is truly remarkable. God has uniquely designed our minds to experience His goodness. And He has left the room and ability to doubt as a part of our lives.
This means there must be some good that can come as a result of wrestling with our doubts.
Before moving on, I need to make one quick caveat. Our ability to doubt can be taken to extreme and critical places. Although our wrestling and doubts often draw us closer to Christ—the good that ultimately comes from the ability to doubt—some handle their doubts in a way that makes them tailspin and question the goodness of their Creator. They look for rabbit trails to go down and spend unwise amounts of time trying to answer questions that may be important but are not critical. The possibility of this happening is real and is precisely why we need to better understand how to deal with our personal doubts.
Help in the Wrestling
Take a breath. When doubts arise, there is a huge opportunity and temptation to overreact that comes with them. Never make decisions that will shape you and your family’s faith from a place of doubt and overreaction. Calm down, persevere, understand that having doubts is completely normal, and don’t take any drastic steps. For example, I know some who have stopped being faithful to corporate worship simply because some doubts have surfaced in their heart and mind. They feel guilty for having them and feel uneasy being around those who seem to be full of faith and belief. They plan to return when said doubts have been dealt with, but fail to understand that is unlikely to happen while apart from God’s people. So, don’t stop praying, reading God’s Word, attending church, or worshiping God simply because you are wrestling with doubt. Remember, at the end of the day, you are not alone and you are not the first follower of Jesus to ever wrestle with doubt.
Find safe and helpful spaces. Not everyone needs to know what you are wrestling with, but it is helpful to open up to someone you trust. This opens the door for others to pray for you, encourage you, and help you along as you seek to stay faithful during your time of wrestling.
Beware of spiritual drifting. When doubt enters the picture, we can easily find ourselves drifting away from the Lord. Doubt can have such a profound effect on us that we refrain from putting effort into our relationship with the Lord. Before we know it, there seems to be some significant distance between us and Christ. The distance is not because we don’t care anymore, but rather because our doubt has caused us to become distracted and has kept us from putting in the effort to grow. Make sure your regular routines of spiritual growth and disciplines stay the same during your season of doubting.
Don’t forget that others exist. Doubt can become extremely crippling when we allow it to change the way we view others. During seasons of doubt, we can often become so inwardly and self-focused that we fail to love and serve others. Any life that is solely focused on self will quickly spiral towards pride, defeat, or a myriad of other emotional problems. Don’t forget to serve others as you wrestle with doubt. It will help you keep growing and may help prevent your particular doubt from taking over your life and wrecking your faith.
Lean into the gospel. Often our doubts are concerning peripheral issues; issues that are important but not critical. In short, most of our doubts are about things that won’t affect our salvation. So, when the season of doubt comes, be sure to remind yourself daily of the gospel and the truth that first (and continues to) change you. It will help you stay solid as you wrestle with peripheral issues. It will also remind you that, even though the doubt you feel is real, it should not be the cause of you abandoning your faith. Preaching the gospel to yourself helps put things in the proper perspective.