First, let me confess something. I have doubted my faith. I have doubted what is said in the Bible. I have doubted God. Not only have I doubted, but I DO doubt.
Have you ever doubted God? My guess is, you already do.
Though all of us probably doubt God at some point, it is rarely talked about openly. And when it is, often I hear doubt talked about negatively. You shouldn’t doubt. You can’t question that. You know what the Bible says is true.
Are faith and doubt opposites?
Faith and doubt seem like two opposites that cannot coexist. But that’s a misconception — faith and doubt are a package deal. Wrestling with doubt is part of the process of building faith. In other words, doubt is often the labour pains accompanying the birth of faith, new or renewed. Paul Tillich, who was an influential 20th-century German-American theologian and philosopher, put it this way, “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith.”
The antithesis of faith is not doubt but indifference. Put differently, the danger is not in doubting, but in the movement toward apathy. Doubting enters the ‘danger zone’ when its effect diminishes your desire to engage with God. As such, you may allow doubt to visit your mind but be sure to ban it from becoming its ruler.
Where should we bring our doubts to?
The place to which we carry our unresolved doubts is more important than whether or not we have doubts. You have the choice to take your doubts to the world or to God. God’s love will embrace our doubts, but the world only tends to multiply doubts and misguide us. Our God is not insecure. He’s not scared or shocked by our questions or misconceptions.
I want to encourage you to confess to God all your doubts in prayer, journalling or conversations with your trusted Christian friends. Write them all down or say them out loud, then wait. God will find clever ways to slowly, or maybe rapidly, use life to answer your questions and doubts. He will use Scripture that jumps out on the page, a passing comment from a friend, the content in your pastor’s sermon, or a signpost you see on the train to school. Also, God will work through logic and reason as you may find answers in history, science or apologetics books.
Thomas: the doubting saint
The story of Thomas, also known as the Doubting Saint, is a great example of how God engages with our doubts. A few days after Jesus’ death and burial, the disciples were gathered together when their resurrected teacher showed up. But Thomas was not present to witness it. When the others recounted the event, Thomas baulked: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). A week later, the disciples were again gathered together, only this time Thomas was with them. The doors of their house were shut, but somehow Jesus appeared to them a second time. He invited Thomas to put his fingers to his wounds, and the doubting disciple finally believed that Jesus was alive — his Lord and his God.
Do you notice how Jesus responded to Thomas’s doubts? He met Thomas and showed him more than enough evidence to put his doubts to rest. God will meet you in the chaos and confusion of your doubts if you ask. He will provide an opportunity for your doubts to be addressed through the truth of who He is. We do not get to see Jesus as Thomas did (and Jesus said we are blessed because we have not seen Him yet we believe! (see John 20:29)). However, just as Thomas touched the wounds of Jesus, it is in intimacy with the very real love and truth of God as seen in the marks of His resurrection that we find a resolution.
As a practical step, observe what Thomas did with his doubts — he admitted his disbelief to his close Christian friends who had real encounters with God. Thomas’s story teaches us to express, not deny, hide or fear, our doubts, and to do so with trustworthy followers of Christ.
If wrestling with doubt is inevitable, sometimes even beneficial, in our faith journeys, then what we do with our doubts is one of the most influential factors in deepening our faith. My hope is that you take your doubt to God. With open hands, He will receive and respond to them with truth and love.