Flipping The Narrative On Doubt In Faith
Ive experienced my share of doubt in my faith throughout my life. For much of my life, it was manageable, minimal. I could just kind of ignore it. Focus on my faith and not my doubt.
But a few years ago I experienced a level of doubt that was just too big to ignore. And for a while, it sent me into a faith crisis. What do I do with this doubt in faith? Those cheap answers of just have more faith didnt work or answer the questions I had.
After floundering for a while I realized doubt isnt the opposite of faith, its a part of it. And when I embraced that my doubt became something that actually helped my faith grow.
You can read more about the process that brought me to where I am here: My Faith Deconstruction and REconstruction
Faith is often seen as the opposite of doubt. But that perspective needs to be flipped. The opposite of faith is certainty where there is certainty there is no room for faith.
Paul Tillich puts it this way, Doubt is not the opposite of faith it is one element of faith.
Anne Lamott builds on Tillichs quote, The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.
Doubt is not the enemy and not something that needs to be fought. It needs to be understood, expressed, and used. Thats what I want to do in this article, I want to explore the relationship between faith and doubt.
Remember Gods Great Promises In The Past
Read Jeremiah 15:20 with 1:18, 19.) God had spoken some greatwords to Jeremiah. He did this at the beginning of the *prophets work.Jeremiahs job was going to be very hard. But God encouraged him. Later,Jeremiah had doubts. He was suffering very much. Then God spoke the same wordsto him again.
You may have forgotten a great promise of God. It helpedyou very much in the past. So, listen to the same Bible words again. Trust hisgreat promises. He will give you strength and protection. Best of all, Godhimself will always be with you.
When we have doubts, we should do something else too. We should:
You Cant Have Faith Without Questions
This is true for the simple reason that God has chosen to keep many secrets. The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children . There are certain things God has revealed: Thats what makes faith possible. There are certain things God has kept secret: Thats what makes faith necessary.
Paul says, Now I know in part . We know in part, and that is why we walk by faith and not by sight. Faith lives with unanswered questions. You cannot live in this world without asking, Why? We live with the mysteries of evil and suffering.
Just as its part of Christian faith to say we know what God has revealed, it is part of Christian humility to say we do not know what God has kept secret.
When massive suffering comes close to home as it did on September 11, 2001, the world will say to us, How do you explain this? as if faith depended on having all the answers. But if you had all the answers, then you would have no need of faith.
The day will come when we will know fully, even as we are fully known. But on that day faith will no longer be necessary. Faith will be turned to sight, and we will behold him! Until then, we will have faith with questions, and that will be a normal experience of the Christian life.
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Overcoming The Spirit Of Doubt
One major thing that kills faith in every Christians is doubt. Doubt simply means a lack of faith. No matter the level of determination one has to do something if doubt enters, it reduces the zeal and the optimism in that person. The best way to get things done or to have a miracle is not by praying alone or by acting alone but by killing the spirit of doubt in us. If faith stands and doubt is absent, everything will become possible miracles will abound and success will be present. One more thing is that killing doubt will make God be pleased with us.
James 1:6-8 NIV But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
One thing that is responsible for doubt is fear. Jesus was walking on water, He was walking towards his disciples they were afraid when they saw Him and Peter ask Jesus to command him to join Him walking on water. Peter started walking on water but at a point, the sound of the storm and the waves of the sea brought fear into him and he doubted he could go longer. When doubt entered into Peter, he began to sink. Peter, realizing that he couldnt go any longer, cried out to Jesus for help and Jesus told Him in Matthew 14:30 NIV Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. You of little faith, he said, why did you doubt?
We Should Reject Fear Because Of Gods Person
Not only was God referring to his resources, as he would protect and provide for Abraham, but primarily he was referring to himself. I am your shield and your great reward. The reality is that if we have God, we have everything.
Hebrews 13:7 says, Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, Never will I leave you never will I forsake you. Essentially, the author says, Dont be anxious about money and possessions because you already have God. Christians who are anxious for this and for that are Christians who dont know Gods person as they should.
First Timothy 6:68 says, But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Why should we be content? We should be content because we have God. Its like a married man who doesnt look lustfully at other ladies because of contentment with his wife.
When we are not content with God, we find ourselves anxious for all the things in the world. Again, this is probably part of Abrahams concerns. He is concerned about all the wealth he just rejected, and God says to him, Abraham, I am enough. I am your reward.
If we are going to battle fear, doubt, and discouragement, we must reject fear and worry. We must be anxious for nothing. We do this by recognizing our resources in God and enjoying his person.
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They Worshiped Him But Some Doubted
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him but some doubted.
These two verses come immediately before Jesus gives the disciples the Great Commission. These 11 men had spent a little over three years with Jesus. They’d seen miracles happen. Their Messiah was crucified and buried, and a couple of days later, they were dining with Him. If there was ever a good reason to believe in the unbelievable, the disciples had experienced it.
And yet, here they were with their previously deceased King, and some of them were still harboring doubts. What kind of doubts? Matthew doesnt tell us. Doubts that He was the Messiah? Doubts in His divinity? Doubts in the mission? Maybe a mixture of all these things.
What we do know is that Jesus doesn’t chastise them. He doesn’t tell them, “I was going to give you guys some critical information, but since you still dont fully believe, I’m not going to.” Instead, He meets them where they are. He confides in them and charges them with their new responsibilities.
Why? Because their faith isnt defined by any specific moment of doubt. Almost every one of these men will be martyred for their faith. Their faith is much bigger than these momentary questions and fears might suggest.
What Does The Bible Say About Pornography
The Bible isnt shy about sexuality, but it seems to steer a healthy course between the worship of sex and ignorance of it.
Although access to it may be easier than ever, porn itself is not new. It even shows up in the Bible.
You might be surprised to learn that archaeologists have unearthed pornographic figurines from biblical times. Some of these come from the Baal cult, which for several centuries was the main rival for the hearts and minds of the ancient Israelites. In this context, much of the Old Testament calls the worshipers of Israels God to be different, to keep themselves pure from the sex-obsession of Baalism.
The Bible doesnt shy away from sexuality. It openly discusses sexual matters, describing scenes of love, lust, temptation, even sexual violence. Frankly, some parts of the Bible might be considered borderline pornographic. Yet it seems to steer a course between the worship of sex and ignorance of it.
The New Testament adds a focus on the concept of lustunhealthy desire. One apostle writes about the lust of the eyes, and Jesus equates a lustful look with adultery. Another passage describes how unhealthy desire gives birth to bad actions, with deadly results. This might be our closest biblical connection to the modern use of pornography. Isnt it, essentially, the cultivating of sexual desire?
For more on how the Bible can lead to a fuller life, Look Inside.
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Bible Verses About A Lack Of Faith
Hebrews 11:6And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
He said to them, Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?
Matthew 8:26And he said to them, Why are you afraid, O you of little faith? Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
Doubt is one area that we all struggle with at times. Doubt seems to be part of faith though. Paul Tillich once said, Doubt isnt the opposite of faith it is an element of faith. I think Tillich is right. If we never have any doubts, then maybe we are not being stretched in our faith in any ways. God never asks us to put all reason aside to follow him. Today, if you are going through a trial or temptation that is causing you to doubt God, cry out to God. He is faithful. He will never leave or forsake you.
Without Faith It’s Impossible To Please God
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
This is a critical verse. But what does it mean? When we think of faith as a synonym for belief, we will interpret it to mean that having the right ideas and never doubting them is the key to pleasing God.
Jesus was clear that faithful followers would be recognized by their fruit . But without faith, we cannot bear fruit.
It takes faith to pray.
It takes faith to serve.
It takes faith to embrace a kingdom view of the world.
It takes faith to put others first.
It takes faith to make sacrifices.
Without faith it’s impossible to please God. Why? Because faith is necessary for us to live as children of God.
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What Does The Bible Say About Doubt
Doubt is one of Satan’s favorite ways to turn people away from God. He used it on Adam and Eve , and he uses it against us all the time. One sneaky trick Satan knows is that if he plants a single seed of doubt in a person, that individual can allow it to grow without the Devil lifting a finger. Because of that, doubt really comes from two sourcesSatan and ourselves.
When it comes to faith, “having doubt” is not the same as “having questions.” Everyone runs into moments when things dont make sense. Even the most faithful person will sometimes look at the Bible, or life, or their own experience, and say, “I dont get it. How can that be true?”
“Questions” are a good thing, since they help us prove that God’s Word is true. Some people questioned the apostle Paul, and the Bible congratulated them for it ! We’re actually supposed to have questions about faith issues . It’s the only way we can tell the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong . The Bible allows uscommands us, actuallyto test and examine our faith to see if it’s the truth .
“Questioning” is fine, but “doubt” is not. We need to trust that God’s going to provide an answer, and look for it. When we doubt, we’re being unreasonable! We’re saying, “If I dont understand, right now, then there can’t be an explanation.” Since were not all-knowing, that’s a pretty bold attitude!
This is why we’d say that “questions” are a part of faith, but “doubt” is something that comes from Satan.
You Must Believe And Do Not Doubt
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
James’ words have often felt like a dagger for struggling people. Some people have prayed for sick loved ones, and when those loved ones didn’t get better, these words echoed in their head: “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”
But it’s vital that we don’t pull these words out of their context. This passage specifically concerns praying for wisdom. James tells us that if we feel like we lack wisdom, we should pray for it. God wants to give us understanding, but it doesn’t do us any good to pray for wisdom if we dont believe God can give it to us.
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Fear Doubt And Discouragement Are Often Rooted In Physical Issues
No doubt, Abraham had just come off a spiritual and physical high, as he and his allies defeated the four kings of the east. He would have just gained a new level of respect from his Canaanite neighbors, and he had just seen Gods miraculous provision. A common physical response to an emotional high is an emotional low. When we are running on an adrenaline high, the next step is a crash that hits right before our bodies go back to a state of equilibrium. This is how our body chemistry works.
No doubt, this was the reason that Elijah struggled with fear, depression, and a desire to die after defeating Ahab and his prophets . He ran in fear, asking for God to take his life . His response didnt make any sense. If he really wanted to die, why not just let Jezebel kill him instead of running away?
However, God does not even correct him he simply gives him a good meal and rest . Elijah needed to eat and sleep. Many times its the same for us we have been running on adrenaline to meet deadlines and finally we complete them. Then soon after, we crash. With our inhibitions down, we are now more open to irrational thoughts, fear, anxiety, and discouragement.
Sometimes, we just need to take a rest and eat good food. In order to battle fear, doubt, and discouragement, we need to know the root of it.
Bible Verses That Use The Word Doubt
Genesis 37:33 And he identified it and said, It is my sons robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is withoutdoubt torn to pieces.
Deuteronomy 28:66 Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day you shall be in dread and have no assurance of your life.
Job 12:2 No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you.
Acts 28:4When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.
Jude 1:22And have mercy on those who doubt
Today, if you are going through a trial or temptation that is causing you to doubt God, cry out to God. He is faithful.
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S To Take When You Begin To Have Doubts:
Whenever you have doubts, ask God for His help. Be specific with the doubt you are having. God will increase your faith, and give you the peace He promises that guards our hearts and minds from future doubts. Philippians 4:6-7 1 Peter 5:7.
2. Change your thinking
2 Corinthians 10:5. Much of our doubt comes from how we feel, not what we know. I dont feel saved I dont feel loved I dont feel God has forgiven me. Your faith should never be based on how you feel but on what you know! We must remind ourselves what is true regardless of how we feel.
John 17:17 says your word is truth, and Romans 10:17 says So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Faith is the opposite of doubt therefore the way to get rid of doubt is to replace your doubts with truth.
Find answers to your questions in Gods Word and Apologetic material such as Who Moved The Stone, The Case for Christ, and The Case for Faith. Our faith isnt a blind faith. We can know by evidences that Jesus is from God, that His teachings are true, and that He really is who He claimed to be. In John 7:17 Jesus says, If anyone chooses to do Gods will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.
The greek word for find out is ginosko, and it means to be taking in knowledge, to come to know, recognize, understand. This taking in knowledge of who God is comes from studying the evidences.
So the keys to overcoming doubts are: