Doubting God

In the church today, we are always told to have faith. I know I’m not the only one who thinks this is infuriating. Having faith is hard, especially in a culture which teaches us to be skeptical of anything and everything — especially of the things we can’t see.

In other words, doubt is easy and faith is tough.

Whether we are 20 or more years along in our faith, or barely straddling month one of trusting Jesus, doubt is something that, as humans, we will never be able to escape. I don’t say that to discourage, but to be realistic. Just as a brief recap, let me explain our faith: Christians believe a Jewish carpenter was actually God who came to earth to die for our sins; that death and our subsequent acceptance of Jesus’ role as Messiah and Lord of our lives lets us live forever in the presence of Holiness and be forgiven for a centuries-past rejection of Him.

Let’s be honest here. It’s a little wacky to believe that. Yet we do. I believe it with every ounce and fiber of my being. But let me be honest again: I’m a former atheist, and I fall back into those old questions of faith easily. Why should I believe that Jesus is God? What makes God faithful? How do I know He will fulfill His promises?

I’m not going to get into those existential questions right now. Those answers can come at a different time in a different conversation. But what is common between all of those questions is two things: doubt is at the core of the questions, and faith is at the core of the answers of each and every one.

I like to think of faith as the opposite of doubt. This isn’t because doubt can’t exist in the middle of faith, but because faith denies doubt its power. It’s saying, “My brain/culture/experiences are telling me this, but I am choosing to believe this.” A quick internet search can reveal that faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. We can be confident that a friend will answer our call, but still have doubt that they actually will. We can trust our dog really loves us, but still have doubt that it actually is just reliant on us for food. Likewise, we can trust and be confident that God is good, that He loves us, and that He will move in and through us—but still have doubts that He actually will. The test of our faith isn’t whether we have doubt; rather, it is whether or not we persevere through that doubt. That perseverance includes during times when our experiences say our faith is wrong. That looks like being intentional one more time, even though your best friend has flaked every time for the past month. That looks like going through with that one interview, even though you’ve been turned down for every job you’ve ever applied for. That looks like praying for your mom to be healed miraculously, even though praying has never seemed to work before. Our doubt can be a very real stumbling block to persevering in faith, but it isn’t impossible to overcome.

In the Bible, there are several accounts of faith in spite of doubt. In Daniel 3:16-18, the author describes the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. If you’re not familiar with the story, the TLDR of the account is that the King of Babylon was requiring everyone to worship idols, but these three men refused because they knew Yahweh was God. Yet even in their confidence, they were not 100% sure God would save them when King Nebuchadnezzar threatened to throw them into the blazing furnace: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18 NIV, emphasis added).

Even the disciples doubted Jesus’ sovereignty after He rose. In Matthew 28, just before Jesus gives the Great Commission, it says, “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17 NIV, emphasis added). Jesus had risen from the dead, He was in front of the (now) 11 disciples, and the disciples worshiped Him; but some still doubted. The world’s largest religion was built on the backs of 11 men who still doubted the Lord when He stood in front of them, resurrected. It should be reassuring for us, then, when we doubt knowing the men who actually lived with Jesus doubted Him.  

We’re not called to be perfect in our denial of doubt. Having faith, according to Hebrews 11, is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). We’re called to trust God’s heart and intentions for our life, and to follow Him wholeheartedly even when we don’t think He’ll respond to our faithfulness. The heart of God is to be faithful, so He will always be faithful even when our human nature calls His Faithfulness into doubt. God knows we will fail, and He doesn’t punish us for that. He called Peter onto the water knowing he was going to doubt Jesus—but Jesus still came to Peter’s rescue. He does the same for us: even when we doubt, He will be faithful to us and the promises He’s made.

“‘…for I assure you and most solemnly say to you, if you have [living] faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,and [if it is God’s will] it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you’” (Matthew 17:20 AMP). Jesus says this after His disciples were discouraged that they couldn’t drive a demon out of a suffering boy. Sometimes we will fall flat on our face when it comes to faith; something we pray for won’t come to pass, or we’ll just flat out doubt. But when we have just an inkling of trust and/or confidence in the power of God—even when we have the smallest faith in Him and His power—even mountains can move.

To sum this up, we believers have two opportunities. We can trust God’s faithfulness and step out in faith even if we doubt, or we can give our doubt power and let our disbelief rule our belief. It’s okay to not be perfect with our faith, but to deny the power of faith is to deny the power of Christ.  We always have the ability to follow Christ, even when we don’t know if it will work out in our favor.  But here’s a fun spoiler: it will.

Author | Alex Hinton

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