Dealing With Doubts?
5 Faith-Building Keys in Times of Questioning
For those who have known the gift of faith, doubts can be extremely painful. It may feel like we’re losing our faith, but it isn’t necessarily so, for doubts also have potential to increase it. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to overcome it. What if the same thing applied to faith and doubts? Putting faith in God’s Word doesn’t mean all questions come to an end. It means handling them in a way that can lift faith to new heights. Rather than running from doubts, walk through them prayerfully and patiently. It can lead to a far more mature, tested faith.
Changing Your Perspective
Believers who struggle with doubt may condemn themselves for feeling weak, but again, not necessarily so. Doubts can also signal a healthy faith. Letting beliefs sit comfortably unchallenged may leave you in the realm of the superficial, whereas to struggle with doubts is to care enough to take faith seriously.
Letting beliefs sit comfortably unchallenged may leave you in the realm of the superficial, whereas to struggle with doubts is to care enough to take faith seriously.
A fighter may train his whole life, but if he’s never been in the ring with an actual opponent, he is not strong. If you never put your doctrine to the test of questioning, you’ll be unprepared for real dialogue or for the challenge of others’ beliefs or criticism. Doubts can do you good, if you handle them as tests that way.
Eyes On Christ
It is not well to let doubts grow out of proportion, though. Looming doubts can appear like a dark clouds, ready to smother your waning faith. You can end up struggling more with the anxiety that doubts bring than with the questions they pose. If you deal with the anxiety through prayer, through counsel, and by getting in touch with God’s peace, you may find the intellectual difficulties resolving themselves practically on their own.
The more you look at the problem, on the other hand, the bigger it may appear. If you feed your doubts with fear and anxiety, you might just turn them into a monster. So keep your eyes on Christ. He’s not afraid of your questions. Do what contributes to your relationship with Him.
And avoid exaggerated conclusions or falling prey to every skeptical argument. Paul says mature believers aren’t “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). Keep your eyes on Him no matter what wind and waves may be storming around you.
Scientists today have a hard time trying to comprehend things they know are real. Physicists know that light is both a particle and wave. In ordinary experience that’s a contradiction, but that doesn’t mean they doubt the existence of light. In the same way, theological mysteries such as the Trinity, predestination or free will may not be immediately understandable, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t factual. Isaiah the prophet said, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘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). Humility helps us to approach His revelation with reverence, not confusion.
One of the greatest of all Christian thinkers, Augustine of Hippo, struggled to comprehend doctrines like the Trinity. One tradition says that he was walking along the beach one day, and spotted a boy scooping up ocean water and putting it in a hole in the sand. Augustine asked what he was doing. The boy replied that he was putting the ocean in his hole. Augustine told him what he was doing was absurd. The boy answered by telling Augustine he was equally absurd for trying to contain God’s mysteries in his human mind. The story may be a legend, but it highlights the difference between God’s thoughts and ours.
Our first response to doubt should always be to turn to God in prayer. In Scripture we hear the man asking Jesus to “help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). But God calls us to equip ourselves with answers, too. There are entire fields of research that focus on questions about Christian doctrine and truth. The discipline that’s focused on Christianity’s truth is called apologetics. It isn’t about apologizing: the term comes from the Greek word for defense 1 Peter 3:15, which tells us to be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks.”
Christianity has been around a very long time. Whatever question you have, you can be sure it’s been asked before, and answered, too. Different thinkers may offer different answers, but reading what they have to say can still equip you for an informed response.
Sometimes you will want or need to look outside theology and apologetics, and find out what other disciplines may have to say. Augustine also taught that “all truth is God’s truth.”
All knowledge is meant for God’s glory. Just like the Israelites used Egyptian treasures during the Exodus, so we should use the world’s knowledge to share the gospel. This calls for careful learning and critical thinking, as non-Christian literature is often hostile to the Bible. But genuine truth will always support God’s Word.
Talk It Out
Finally, godly counsel is an amazing resource. Talk to people you trust. Sharing your doubts can alleviate the stress that doubts bring. Dark things fester when we don’t expose them to the light.
Also, there are times when friends or mentors can help address our thoughts in ways that we can’t. It could be that the doubt is rooted in something that you can’t easily see in yourself. Or they may have already asked the same questions, and know some good answers.
Never doubt the potential of a brother or sister in Christ to help you, especially if they’re older and have more experience.
The Bible tells us to love God with all our minds. That means not neglecting the intellectual nature of our faith. It’s no a crime to ask questions, or to study a topic we’re curious about. In fact, that’s what we’re called to do. The Bible praised the Bereans as “noble-minded” for questioning and researching what Paul taught (Acts 17:11). It showed they had integrity.
Doubts and questions don’t have to drive us into despair. They can actually bring us closer to God instead.
Angelos Kyriakides loves to write about current events, apologetics, spiritual healing and theology. He holds an M.A. In Theological Studies from Regent College and currently serves as a Youth and Young Adult Pastor in Southern Ontario, Canada. He is also blessed with a loving family in his wife and two children.