What Should You Do with Doubt?
Do you ever experience doubt? Do you ever feel an uncertainty or lack of conviction when it comes to your faith? If you’re being honest, you do. Doubt affects the lives of many, if not all, believers at some stage. Perhaps especially during times of uncertainty such as we are navigating at the moment. Indeed, the journey of faith is not a straight-line trending upwards, it is a journey marked by peaks and valleys, seasons of joy and struggle.
The reasons for our doubt are multi-faceted. Doubt can be brought on by a personal crisis, a painful experience, a traumatic memory, a medical diagnosis, a difficult question, a theological misunderstanding, a sinful compromise, or more. Similarly, the nature of our doubt can vary. Sometimes we doubt our salvation, other times we doubt God’s care and concern. We might wrestle with doubts about the reliability of Scripture, the existence of God, or the identity of Christ.
The Bible is not ignorant about the reality of doubt, nor are the lives of those in the Bible unfamiliar with it. John the Baptist, whom Jesus called the greatest man ever born (Matt. 11:11), once expressed doubt about the identity of Christ (Matt. 11:3). Even Jesus’ disciples—those who knew him best, lived alongside him, saw him heal diseases, raise the dead, walk on water, turn water into wine, silence a storm, feed thousands with only a few pieces of bread and fish—even they would experience doubt. Even though Jesus had told them ahead of time that on the third day he would rise from the dead, when it actually happened they doubted (Matt. 28:17).
So, what should we do when doubt darkens our door? There are, of course, many steps we can and should take (for example: ‘7 Ways to Deal with Doubt’ by Michael Patton). But let me share with you the story of Lore Ferguson Wilbert, and what it was that enabled her to move forward through her crippling doubts and questions.
She writes: “Doubt wrecked me a few years ago because, as the old adage goes, curiosity killed the cat. Gratefully, this cat has two lives, but resurrection was not found in answers to my questions. Some of those questions still arrest my soul. The rebirth of my life was found in many small things, one of which was a wall in the children’s ministry room at my church.
I was taking a class that met in there once a week, nothing to do with children or ministry. I don’t remember a lot of what was said from the front of the room. I do remember the foam-boards placed in succession on one wall, though. All of the boards list an attribute of God and how he displays it. Four of those boards say these words:
Wise: God knows what is best.
Generous: God gives what is best.
Loving: God does what is best.
Good: God is what is best.
The answer to doubt is God. The answer to our questions about tithing, membership, gender roles, politics, sin, and any other aspect in life that gives us pause is God. The blight of our generation is that we believe we are god.
In Dante’s Divine Comedy, it is said the root of every sin is a disordered love. We are the most disordered, ill-prioritized generation yet—it should be no surprise that we laud doubt, loathe decision, and critique certainty. We can’t abide anyone who knows what is best, gives what is best, does what is best, and is what is best because it illumines the reality that we are not best. Meditating on those attributes of God for 16 weeks put my doubts almost completely to rest.
I still wrestle with whether what God is doing feels best, but I do not wrestle with whether it is best. My constant prayer for my own doubt-prone heart and my generation is that our loves would be upset, turned upside down, that we would know, give, do, and be what is best in God’s eyes: his children serving others in grateful worship to our great God knowing he is only what is best.”
Further reading on understanding and navigating doubt:
Doubt in Perspective: God is Bigger Than You Think by Alister McGrath
Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith by Barnabas Piper