Doubt Need Not Be Disastrous

Doubt Need Not Be Disastrous

Certainty “is grounded in the promises of God, not in changing experiences or imperfect good works.” We never overcome doubt by looking at ourselves, but only by looking away from ourselves to Christ, who is the sole pledge of God’s love to us.

Apologetics requires certainty and confidence. Its basic purpose is conquering doubts cast on the Christian faith. But what about the doubts of Christians? How do we defend a faith that we are not always certain of?

Doubt is not a virtue; it is a serious problem. Doubt is dishonorable. God wants us to trust him, to have faith in everything he has revealed. “Faith, by its very nature, is opposed to all doubt.”[1] In a fallen world we should expect unbelief. But it doesn’t glorify God. Doubt is also uncomfortable. Doubt makes us unstable “like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). If left untreated doubt can keep us from trusting in Jesus who is the only lifeline for lost sinners. And doubt is paralyzing. It can prevent disciples from doing great things for God (Matt. 21:21). Doubt can be like a blindfold on our soul. If we can’t see God’s integrity, we won’t dare follow the hard path Jesus blazed.

Doubt is a problem. But it need not be disastrous if we understand it and face it according to the rule of Scripture.

We Need to Understand Doubt

“Doubt is a form of wavering; it’s to be of ‘two minds’ about something” (1 Kings 18:21).[2] Doubt is ambivalence about who God is or what he has said. It is like the first sin, and a sign that we are not yet completely remade in the knowledge of God. Doubt is so troublesome that God could use it as a threat to warn covenant breakers: “Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day you shall be in dread and have no assurance of your life” (Deut. 28:66). In the restored cosmos doubt will be no more.

But for now, doubt will always be a counterpart of faith. Living by faith simply means that we trust what we cannot see. It is a reasonable hope for what we do not yet fully have. The very nature of faith leaves room for uncertainty. God’s thoughts are too lofty for us to comprehend (Ps. 139:6). “God is infinite, beyond our understanding, and He chose to reveal Himself to us in a way that sparks questions rather than settles all of them.”[3] God does us a favor by not telling us everything he knows; we couldn’t handle it! Imperfect knowledge is not the enemy of faith.

And doubt can be a healthy challenge to thoughtless acceptance of revealed truth. Doubt humbled Peter’s arrogant claims that he would always follow Jesus. And as we grow older it is natural and good to scrutinize the way we had believed certain truths. If you were taught that unbelievers are monsters, that every church member can be trusted, or that Christianity is easy, doubt can be a helpful corrective. In fact, sometimes our faith falters because we have been expecting easy answers our whole lives. “It is more dangerous to live in a safe little world refusing to acknowledge the wild, scary world of unbelief than it is to prepare well and engage it.”[4] Doubt forces us to venture “outside the fabricated safety of an untested faith.”[5]

But doubt can also be a result of excessive self-reliance. We might seek confidence in the quality of our faith and panic when we realize that it is small. If we make our understanding the standard for our security we will worry about how little we know. If we equate our value with our obedience to the works of the law we will doubt the gift of justifying grace. Doubt, even for Christians, is the result of believing that God is too small to be 100% what we need.

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