Dealing with Doubt as a Christian
Somewhere along the lines, many Christians have been made to feel ashamed for having doubts about their faith.
If this sounds familiar, keep reading.
Many Christians struggle with doubts.
According to a study by Barna:
- 52% of U.S. adults and teens have experienced religious doubts in the past few years.
- Similarly, exactly half of those who are Christian or who have some Christian background or experience (50%) say they have gone through a “prolonged” period of doubt at some point in their life.
It is natural, normal, and acceptable to have doubts from time to time.
In fact, many would call it healthy.
Focus on the Family explains, “Every Christian needs to wrestle with doubt and disbelief. A faith unquestioned and untested is no faith at all.”
But knowing that doesn’t help shake the feelings of shame associated with doubting your faith.
Read on to gain a better understanding of what doubt is and how to deal with it.
Recognize What Doubt Is
The first thing to know is that doubt is not unbelief.
According to Christianity, “It is not the opposite of faith. It is like being in two minds – the word doubt comes from the Latin word ‘dubitare’ and has its roots in the word for ‘two.’ Someone who has doubts about their faith is not betraying it but raising questions about it.”
Instead, try to think of doubt as the gap between your faith today and complete and perfect faith.
You may be experiencing intellectual doubt, such as wanting evidence or proof of God, or emotional doubt, such as when you are questioning why God allows things to happen.
Doubts can arise from misunderstanding, incorrect teaching, or feelings.
See Doubt as a Growth Opportunity
Instead of being ashamed of your doubts, think of these doubts as an opportunity to grow your faith.
Your doubts are forcing you to question things and find evidence. This is a good thing!
Cru explains, “Doubt is often painful because it’s questioning a deeply held belief or hope. This kind of doubt engages the world. It takes the assertion of ‘God’s not good’ and forms it into the question, ‘Is God good?’ The doubt that dismisses truth is stagnant, entrenched and, frankly, boring. The doubt of the question is interested, curious and engaging. This doubt takes humility.”
Accept You Won’t Ever Know Everything
Often, doubt arises because we don’t have the answer.
The Bible tells us that “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
There are going to be a lot of things we do not see while we are living our lives here on earth.
If you struggle to know everything, you are going to live a life full of doubt.
However, if you can accept the mystery of God and understand that there many things that are beyond our comprehension, you can battle your doubts more easily.
Know You are in Good Company
Christianity.org explains, “Doubt is a common feature in the Bible. Several key figures in Christianity experience doubts about God and his promises, and also about Jesus Christ. These included Abraham, Moses and one of Jesus’ closest followers, Thomas. He is even remembered as ‘Doubting Thomas’.”
This is just one small list of doubting people representing in the Bible.
Our biblical heroes often ask God big questions, so should we.
Keep Living as a Christian
One of the concerns of doubts is that if you lean into the doubt more than the questions, you run the risk of living life apart from God.
The Gospel Coalition suggests, “It’s important for those struggling with doubt to not let their doubt influence their lives such that they start living like unbelievers. Encourage doubters to continue to live as Christians, repenting and believing the gospel, even if they don’t always feel like Christians.”
Study the Bible
Speaking of living as a Christian even when you have doubts, keep reading your Bible.
It’s hard to trust a stranger. You’ll naturally have doubts about someone you don’t know.
So, make every effort to read your Bible to get to know God. Look for evidence to answer your big questions.
Confide in Christian Friends
When you have doubts about your faith, it can feel very isolating.
Again, this goes back to the mistaken idea that having doubts is something to be ashamed of.
Don’t give into shame.
Share your doubts with trustworthy Christian friends that are further along in their walk with God then you.
Schedule a meeting with your pastor to discuss the big questions with which you are struggling.
Don’t let doubt turn to isolation, which creates a whole different struggle itself.
Philip Yancey writes, “I encourage people not to doubt alone, rather to find some people who are safe “doubt companions,” and also to doubt their doubts as much as their faith. But it doesn’t help simply to deny doubts or to feel guilty about them.”
Go to God with Your Doubts
Finally, go to God with your doubts. He can handle it. He welcomes our questions. He loves spending time with us.
When you pray, acknowledge these doubts. We see this all through the Psalms and Lamentations.
Philip Yancey shares, “When I speak to college students, I challenge them to find a single argument against God in the older agnostics (Bertrand Russell, Voltaire, David Hume) or the newer ones (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) that is not already included in books like Psalms, Job, Habakkuk, and Lamentations. I have respect for a God who not only gives us the freedom to reject him, but also includes the arguments we can use in the Bible. God seems rather doubt-tolerant, actually.”
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8–9)