What to Do with Your Doubt
I guess it's past time for me to fess up. I'm a doubter. I always have been. I've been a Christian since I was 15 years old. In the 16 years that I've known Jesus as Savior, I've experienced many seasons of doubt. There have been times when I've doubted if my salvation was genuine, if God is really good, if Jesus is the only way, and if He will keep the promises made in His Word. I'm not proud of my doubt. I've always wanted to trust God with more ease and steadfastness, but through the years I've learned what to do (and what not to do) with my doubt and I've come to see my doubting heart as more of a blessing than a curse.
If you read yesterday's post, you know that those of us who doubt are in good company. John the Baptist, Abraham and Sarah, and Jesus' disciple John all had moments of doubt. King David, Jonah, Job, Elijah, and Peter could be accurately labeled doubters, too. And yet, these are the superstars of our faith. Why? Because of what they didn't do with their doubt.
They didn't use big questions as an excuse to walk away from the faith. They didn't demand answers from God and then defy Him if He didn't respond on their terms. They didn't dwell on their doubt. They didn't whine about it. (Well, actually a couple of them did, but we won't hold that against them). They didn't say, "This part of my life isn't going like I want it to, so God must not be real, His love must be a lie, and my relationship with Him must be an illusion." They didn't surf the Internet (or the ancient equivalent) for answers to their doubt either. They went to the source. They cried out to God. They did their homework. Then ... they paid attention when the confirmation they were looking for arrived.
Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite doubters. This guy gives us the formula for exactly what to do when we have questions about our faith. Maybe you already know him. His name is Nicodemus.
You can find part of Nicodemus' story in John 3:1–21. I will give you the short version. Nicodemus was an important Pharisee. He knew Jewish law. He was a very religious man. And yet, Jesus left him with more questions than answers. What did he do with those questions? He knocked on Jesus' door and asked them.
In fact he and Jesus have a theology discussion in the middle of the night. Nicodemus asked a question. Jesus answered. Nicodemus asked a question. Jesus answered. If an answer didn't make sense, Nicodemus asked for clarification. Jesus didn't brush Nicodemus off because he dared to doubt His divinity. He got out of bed and took the time to help Nicodemus understand some deep, spiritual truths.
In fact, Jesus was talking to Nicodemus when He said one of the most treasured sentences of all times: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Jesus wasn't mad at Nicodemus for having doubts and questions. While He answered Nicodemus' questions, Jesus expressed His supernatural love.
Was Nicodemus' faith strengthened? We can assume so. Our last picture of Nicodemus in the Bible shows him joining Joseph in asking for Jesus' body in order to provide for its burial. This was a risky choice for Nicodemus because of his position, but he was remarkably bold because he had had faced his doubts by taking them directly to Jesus. Only then did he find the answers he was looking for.
There are constructive and destructive ways to deal with doubt. You can dwell on it, look to unwise sources for affirmation, choose to ignore them, or walk away from your faith entirely simply because you have some big questions. That is the destructive path. Or you can own up to your doubts and think critically about what questions you're really asking. (For a list of potential questions read yesterday's post). More importantly, you can take your doubts to Jesus. That is the constructive path.
It's true that we can't physically go to Jesus like Nicodemus was privileged to do. But we can always go to Him in prayer. He gives us special permission to ask for insight into spiritual issues. That's called wisdom.
James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
We also have something Nicodemus didn't have, at least not in its current form—the Bible. God probably isn't just going to zap those doubts out of your brain. You can't blink three times and make them go away. That's because God's intention is that those doubts motivate us to dig deeper into the Word for answers. Are you doubting if God is good? Read Psalm 25:7–8 and Psalm 40:4. Are you unsure about who Jesus claimed to be? Read the Gospels. Do you wonder if you really grasp what it takes to be saved? Read Ephesians 2:8–9, Romans 10:9–10, Acts 20:21, 2 Corinthians 5:17.
God never calls us to a blind faith, but He doesn't call us to a lazy one either. If you have doubts, search for answers. Talk to God about it. Ask Him to give your mind wisdom and your heart understanding. Dig in His Word for truth, and back it up with other reputable sources like well-known theologians or your parents or pastor.
Our faith is built on some very radical principles. Plus, life is tough and God's hand isn't always as easy to see as we would like it to be. All of that is compounded by the fact that our enemy Satan is always looking for new ways to deceive us. You may experience seasons of doubt. That doesn't mean you're a bad Christian, a non-Christian, or a weirdo. But let me encourage you to use that doubt as motivation to move you closer to God through prayer and His Word.
It worked for Nicodemus. He moved from doubter to sold-out disciple. How will taking your doubts straight to Jesus change you?
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