When my children were young they liked to ask a lot of questions. After asking a question and receiving an answer they would invariably ask, “why?” I would further explain and answer the question only to hear them say, “why?” again … and again … and again!
We encourage children to ask questions. It’s a part of the learning process. When it comes to God, however, we are often afraid to ask questions. It’s as if asking a question of God equates to a lack of faith.
Doubt and unbelief are very different. The word doubt comes from the Latin word dubium, which means “to hesitate.” Unbelief is a wholesale rejection of an idea or principle. Plenty of men and women in the Bible hesitated and had doubts. This includes Abraham (Genesis 16), David (Psalm 13), and John the Baptist (Matthew 14).
Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus, was unwilling to believe in the risen Christ without physical proof. Jesus didn’t reject Thomas or even scold him. Instead, he allowed Thomas to have doubts and then invited him to feel the nail scars on his hands and to touch the spear wound on his side (John 20:24–29).
Doubt is not a spiritual crime – it’s the effect of being human. Author Philip Yancey states that, “the invisibility of God guarantees doubt.” As long as we are breathing we will be subject to doubts. It’s natural and normal. But it doesn’t have to be faith-shattering.
If you’re struggling with doubt here are some suggestions:
Share your doubts …
Share your struggles with a trusted friend. Don’t keep them hidden. You might feel shame because you have doubts but finding out that other people might have the same doubts is empowering. You’re not alone!
Look for God at work around you …
If you watch the news too much it seems like God is not working at all. However, look for stories of hope and redemption. They are everywhere! When John the Baptist doubted Christ, Jesus sent word to him: “The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them.” He quoted a passage in Isaiah to affirm that God is at work. That was true then and it is true now.
Ask for help …
Don’t be afraid to pray an honest prayer to God and ask for help. Ask God to reveal Himself to you more clearly and to help you with your doubt. In Mark 9 Jesus meets a man who has a son that is demon-possessed. The man is lacking in faith but soon realizes his error and says plainly, “Lord, I believe … help me in my unbelief!” What a great prayer for us to pray whenever the doubts creep in.