When it comes to beliefs and worldviews, some people haven’t struggled with doubt. Others are at least honest with themselves. I’m not one for blind faith; I’ve always had a little of the skeptic and the cynic in me. I don’t mean to say that faith has no basis, rather that faith can look at the tough questions of life for what they are and eventually still come to the conclusion that the most reasonable answer to any of these questions is found in God. Is faith that never thinks, but only believes what it is told really the kind of faith God wants from us?
It’s not that I think doubt as a state of being is healthy. But in my case, doubt has meant that I was coming to grips with what the Christian faith actually meant to me. It isn’t supposed to be the end of the journey, but it can be a defining point (or more likely, many points) along the way. Since my early teens, you name it and I’ve questioned or rejected it at some point along the way: the Bible’s accuracy, the goodness, plan, and even existence of God, etc. Sometimes it’s taken me to some pretty dark, futile places while I questioned things just for the sake of questioning. But each time I’ve come back around to the conclusion that nothing else explains life close to as well as God and His Word do.
(By the way, when I speak of it as in the past, I don’t think that means I will never have doubts about my faith ever again. I’m just telling my story.)
I’ve known some church people who seem to think that if they were Peter in the story about walking on water, that their faith wouldn’t have failed, that fear and doubt wouldn’t have taken over. In some Christian circles, people don’t know how to be gracious to people who doubt, because apparently admitting a current struggle means that you think that what you’re struggling against isn’t actually wrong. Except that it doesn’t.
There have been times when I’ve been a “wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind,” (James 1:6) and I’ve been like Peter, sinking in the raging seas, about to drown. When you’re there, the people who think that they could have walked on water are in fact stepping all over you, pushing you even further underwater. Jesus didn’t kick Peter down below the surface because he had failed. He pulled Peter out. Graciously discussing and answering questions is not the same as getting defensive or shaming the one who is doubting. One can be a hand reaching out to save, while the other can be a boot to kick them while they’re down.
And isn’t it true that being told essentially, “Be quiet and believe it already!” gives the impression that there aren’t good reasons or that it’s all made up? By thus blindly insisting on the credibility of Christianity, we undermine it.
Fortunately for me, encouragement has taken unlikely forms. One of my favorite Biblical characters is Thomas- yes, I know, “Doubting Thomas,” the same one who is a close second to Judas in many people’s “Worst Disciple Ranking”. But Thomas’ story is so encouraging to me as a recovering doubter. He was naturally skeptical that a dead person could come back to life (as I would have been), and Jesus met him right at the point of his doubt. Jesus did not shame Thomas for doubting, but gently, indisputably proved Himself to be alive.
There are too many other examples in the Bible about “heroes of the faith” who had times of doubting or questioning God to get into each of them, but Moses, Abraham, David and many of the prophets are in that category. Those of God’s people who doubt are still God’s people, and there is no second tier for those with certain struggles. All who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb are forgiven, no matter what came before or comes after.
The conclusion? It’s okay to admit it if you’re having doubts. All of us have been there at some point, but we don’t like to admit it for some reason. We need to do away with this whole pretending we’re fine when we’re not thing. The only way that can happen is when we change our response to others admitting struggles from judgement to grace.