“Christ never failed to distinguish between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is can’t believe. Unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is honesty. Unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light. Unbelief is content with darkness.” – Henry Drummond.
Experiencing spiritual doubt can be a lonely experience, but according to a new study from Barna, it’s more common than you think. Most Christians have at some point experienced a time of spiritual doubt when they questioned what they believed about their religion or God. We desperately want answers to our questions, but we are afraid to ask. God actually wants us to come to Him with our doubts and questions.
Consider the people listed in Hebrews 11 specifically for their faith. We are told that by faith Noah built an ark, Abraham traveled to a distant land, Sarah had a son in old age, Moses left a life of royalty to lead God’s people to freedom, and Samson defeated the Philistines. Many of the people who are praised for their faith also had moments of doubt recorded in Scripture. Jesus wouldn’t have had a single disciple if doubt disqualified anyone from following Him. In fact, If we removed from the Bible every person who doubted God, it would be a very short book.
Jesus was no stranger to doubt. And even after His resurrection, Jesus had doubters amongst His followers. Matthew’s Gospel records how even after seeing Jesus resurrected from the dead, some of His first followers doubted while others worshipped: “When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!” (Matthew 28:17). Then there was Thomas. Jesus appears and convinces the others He is alive. Does Thomas believe their story? No. He had his doubts.
We should not be embarrassed by our doubts. We should embrace it as a regular part of the faith life and journey. Timothy Keller said, “Honest doubts, then, are open to belief. If you are really asking for information and good arguments, you might get some.” Doubt is an invitation to journey into a deeper understanding as we “ask, seek, and knock.”
The Bible shows us that not only is it okay to cry out to God with our questions but that God longs for us to do so. While we may want to seek other people and sources to answer the questions that plague us, God wants us to seek Him first. God knows that even in a place of doubt and disbelief if we bring our questions to Him, He can do for us what He did for many other heroes of the faith.
Whenever they come and whatever form they take, we must each deal honestly with our doubts. To ignore them is to court spiritual disaster. But facing them can lead ultimately to a deeper faith. A faith that’s challenged by adversity or tough questions . . . is often a stronger faith in the end.
- Why do you think it’s difficult for some to admit they have spiritual doubts? What prevents you from speaking out about your doubts? What makes you feel safe and unafraid to honestly open up with others about your spiritual questions?
- How would it change things if you saw your doubts as opportunities to grow deeper in your relationship with Christ, and not a reason for alarm?