Doubt

The thought that God doesn’t exist enters my mind periodically.

In fact, there have been periods in my twenties, even as I worked for the church, where questions like “Does God exist?” “Is He Good?” and “Am I really saved?” went through my head.

Perhaps you’ve found your faith has ebbed and flowed or you’ve often wondered, “when was the last time I felt the presence of God?”

Maybe like me, you’ve felt deeply ashamed of your lack of confidence in God.

I don’t have all the answers to how we should respond to doubt, but as the reservoir in my head and heart has begun to spill over with doubt I’ve found some of the ideas below helpful.

Doubt is part of our humanity

Experiencing doubt is not just a Christian problem. It’s a very human one.

I’ve often found comfort in opening my bible and finding men and women full of questions; the Psalmist asks difficult ones (Psalm 10) and the writer of Ecclesiastes disturbing ones (Ecclesiastes 6). Even John the Baptist, whom Jesus called the greatest man ever born, doubted if Jesus was the Messiah (Matthew 11).

Consider also that the important questions in life; “is this the right career?”, “is this the right person to marry?” rarely come without doubt.  Similarly, God has chosen to reveal himself in such a way that spurs questions rather than settles them. Search for answers, ask questions of those you trust, read widely, and know it’s human to do so.

Doubt is not the enemy of faith

A mature faith is much more than the absence of doubt.

In fact doubt is often a critical step on the path towards a deeper faith.

In his book My Bright Abyss Christian Wiman writes “Doubt is painful…but its pain is active rather than passive, purifying rather than stultifying. Far beneath it, no matter how severe its drought, how thoroughly your skepticism seems to have salted the ground of your soul, faith, durable faith, is steadily taking root.”

Similar to Wiman, there have been periods where my questions have been met with silence and I’ve had to sit in the uneasiness of the unknown. We live in the world that both points us towards God and at the same time calls His existence into question. Although in those times I’ve struggled to perceive what is going on below the surface, my experience is God is growing and maturing my faith in a profound way.

In the years I’ve followed Jesus, doubt has taken me to some deeply uncomfortable places; I’ve stood at the funerals of loved ones unsure if I can believe in an all-powerful God, seen relational breakdown unsure if I can believe in a loving God and have seen friends walk away from Jesus and been unsure if I can believe in a missional God. But these times have also presented me with an opportunity to explore more deeply who God really is, to acknowledge my insufficiency, to practise humility, and to embrace mystery.

Doubt is not our God.

Although we should be careful to not demonize doubt we must be equally careful not to glamourize it. It is part of our humanity and can be a path towards a deeper faith, but ultimately, doubt is not our God.

In moments where you lack confidence in God remind yourself that His love towards you does not depend on the absence of doubt, failure or fear.

In fact, our relationship with God doesn’t depend on us at all!

The 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon, who struggled deeply with doubt, puts it well, “Our life is found in looking unto Jesus, not in looking to our own faith…the power is not in the faith but in the God in whom faith relies”

The liberating truth Spurgeon had stumbled upon was that it is the object of your faith, not the fervency of your faith that matters. Your empty hands and shaky knees are the only qualifications you have.

When lacking confidence and doubt begins to enter your mind, let your weak faith cling to our mighty God. Ask Him for faith, and consider like the man in Mark 9 who cries oud “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” that in your asking, you have already received.

Robin Nelson

Robin is a key part of the young adults ministry at Central and has led in so many ways all across the church for several years. You may also spot him playing the cello on a Sunday as part of the worship team!