Can Doubt Be a Gift?
During a West Virginia ski trip in 2003, my friend Rick’s 10-year-old daughter, Emily, broke her leg on the slopes. On the way home, he gently placed her in the back of their SUV so she could lie down during the drive. Joni, Rick’s wife, joined Emily to keep her company, and they allowed their toddler, Gabriel, to ride in the back with them for the final stretch.
A half-hour from home, Rick daydreamed about sending his children to a Christian camp when they were older. That’s the last thing he remembers. Approximately eight hours later when he woke up in the hospital, he didn’t know he had driven into a tree. He also didn’t know that Joni, Emily and Gabriel had massive head injuries—all were in critical condition.
The Sunday morning following the accident, Gabriel went home to be with Christ. Within the next day, both Joni and Emily followed Gabriel to heaven.
When I asked Rick if he ever struggled with doubts about God’s love or his faith after the accident, he said, “I didn’t doubt God’s sovereignty, but I did wrestle with doubts about why He kept me alive.”
Have you ever doubted your faith, God’s plans, or His love for you? Have you ever wondered if anything good can come from your questions? Contrary to popular opinion, doubt can actually usher in positive changes for faith.
Though doubt can feel like a bully that presses us into a corner, it can be a friend when we allow it to drive us deeper into the arms of God for the answers to our questions.
In his book, The Gift of Doubt, Gary Parker writes, “If faith never encounters doubt, if truth never struggles with error, if good never battles with evil, how can faith know its own power? In my own pilgrimage, if I have to choose between a faith that has stared doubt in the eye and made it blink, or a naive faith that has never known the firing line of doubt, I will choose the former every time.”
Giving way to faith
During different periods of my life I have struggled with doubt. And, in early relationship with God, hardly a day passed in which I didn’t struggle with some insecurity of faith. I am thankful that rather than drive me away from God, these doubts sent me running to the bookstore to find wisdom from others who had experienced the same woes, to the Bible for truth, and to church for a mature mentor. In retrospect, I wonder how my own faith would—or wouldn’t have—developed if I hadn’t experienced deep doubts.
Christ has often allowed me to feel just enough emotional discomfort from my doubts that I have looked to Him for relief. If you often ask God questions—not to prove God wrong, but to prove Him right—your questions can lead you to greater faith.
Granted, doubt that is not surrendered to God can be detrimental. For doubt to be beneficial, it must always give way to faith. This means we must look to Christ for answers. It also means that if He does not provide the specific answers we are looking for, we will trust Him with what we can’t understand, whether we lose our family—like my friend Rick—or face other painful situations.
*Originally printed in Focus on the Family’s flagship magazine in 2008 as "The Gift of Doubt."