When we started Christ Church, one of the things I sought intentionally to build into our church culture is the importance of being honest about our doubts. I did this because, throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus allowing people to express their doubts and Him meeting them in their doubts. There is the desperate father in Mark 9 who cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”. This simple, heartfelt prayer Jesus immediately answers by healing his son. There is John the Baptist who declares that Jesus was the Messiah, but then is imprisoned and begins to doubt that Jesus really could be the promised Savior. He sends people to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?”. (Matt. 11:3). Jesus immediately answers him and provides evidence that He is all who John had hoped He would be. There is “Doubting” Thomas, who does not believe the disciples when they tell him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus comes and has Thomas feel His scarred hands and side. Time after time, when people had honest doubts, we see Jesus meet them in those doubts.
But we need to notice that while Jesus meets people in their doubts, he does not leave people in their doubts. In our postmodern culture that questions everything, having doubts is almost celebrated as a badge of honor of progressive thinking. However, Jesus never saw doubt as an end unto itself. Doubt is only a good thing when it motivates us to take action and seek to find answers for our doubts. A book on healthy diets might make you question your current food choices, but if all you do is read books on healthy diets, talk to others about healthy diets, obsess about a healthy diet without actually starting to eat a healthy diet- then what good is all that reading, talking, and obsessing? Doubts are meant to be motivation to get more information. They are not meant to be objects of our continual fascination that lead us to become stuck in our fixation on them.
We all can experience various doubts about our faith at different times in life. If we want to deal with these doubts in a healthy way, we should allow our doubts to motivate us to do at least three things: Be honest, learn more, doubt your doubts.
First, we should be honest about our doubts. Whatever we keep to ourselves, we give greater power over ourselves. If we are too scared to be honest about our doubts, then we are effectively telling ourselves that there are no answers to our doubts, and so we are better off not saying anything. And so, doubt left unaddressed will act as an acid slowly eating away and eroding our faith. If God is the God of truth (and He is!), then there should be no doubt that we are scared to be honest about because there is nothing that His truth can’t address.
Second, we should learn more about our doubts. Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but very rarely is there is an original question. You might be thinking about a particular doubt for the first time, but it is highly unlikely that in over 2,000 years of people thinking about matters of the Christian faith that your doubt has never been thought about before. There are so many rich resources in the forms of books, discussions, debates, lectures, and sermons that can speak to the various doubts that we can have. However, I often see people go into isolation mode with their doubts. They try to think and reason through their doubts by themselves without interacting with what anyone else has to say about it. When this is the course of action, then one becomes immediately limited. If you have a doubt that comes from within yourself, then doesn’t it stand to reason that you should look for the answer outside of yourself? The best thing to do with our doubts is to try to find resolve for our doubts, and as we do, God promises to meet us through that process if we have an open and willing heart.
Third, we should doubt our doubts. Unfortunately, I often see people have questions about Christianity and then stop there. There is nothing wrong with having questions about Christianity. I think questions are a good thing! But I think when we have questions, what we need is to have more questions. In other words, when we have doubts, we need to have even more doubts. What we should do is take our doubts and ask ourselves a lot of questions about these doubts. For example, if we have doubts about the goodness of God-maybe expressed by thinking something like “How could a good God allow…?”- we should ask ourselves questions about that question. Who determines goodness? From where does our sense of goodness come? Could it be that the ways in which I’m judging the lack of goodness in God come from categories that I only have if I believe in God? Where is this doubt coming from? Do I have this doubt because of some behavior or choice that I want to justify to myself? The list goes on and on. As we ask questions about our questions, as we express doubts about our doubts, that’s often the path God leads us on to find more robust truth about Him.
Doubts are not a bad thing. But what we do with our doubts can be. May our doubts lead us to a robust process of seeking God, who is, and always will be, the word of truth.