Wrestling with Doubt: What to Do When It’s Hard to Believe
It’s not fun to feel desperate.
I've had a long, dark struggle with doubt. During the darkest times, I felt like I would do anything just to make it stop. It’s not completely gone now, but God has lightened the load, and I hope to encourage you with some simple disciplines He is still using to quiet my soul.
One of the characters in Scripture I think about when I think of wrestling with doubts is John the Baptist in Luke 7. This is the miracle child who prepared the way for the Savior and heard the voice of God confirm Jesus’ identity (Matt. 3:17). Yet, while awaiting certain death in jail, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:19).
Jesus’ response pricks my heart. “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Luke 7:23).
Our circumstances can seemingly contradict what we know of our Savior. Much like a pilot who’s trained to avoid spatial disorientation, I had to learn to rely on the instruments God has given so I wouldn’t give in to the kind of offense that ultimately walks away from Him.
Stay in His Word.
Staying in God’s Word seems simple enough, but it can be one of the first things to go and the hardest to maintain when you’re wrestling with doubts. When the desires of my heart, the bent of my emotions, and the thoughts of my mind betray me, God’s Word is where I must continually go if I’m to be transformed (Rom. 12:1).
God is teaching me to fight my fickle feelings with the firm fact of His Word. The problem is not with God and His Word. The problem is my own heart. I had to learn to cry out, “God, don’t let me seek to conform Your Word to me, but conform me to Your Word.”
Many in my generation think the answer to doubting biblical Christianity is to submit to an evolving and changing faith. While it may seem more appealing and easy to digest during a difficult season, diluting the Truth and tampering with the gospel will lead to a weak, waning, and, eventually, unbiblical faith. Clinging to His Word is the only guarantee of a confirmed, strengthened, and established faith in the end (1 Peter 5:10).
It’s easy to feel alone in the midst of doubts and unbelief. I was afraid if I told many people, they would think less of me, question me extensively (when I didn’t have many answers), and ditch me because I was too “needy.” I was too prideful to admit I really was needy. The few friends I eventually shared this with were a source of great encouragement and strength. Just knowing that someone was praying for me, waiting on the other end of the phone if I needed to talk, and committed to being my friend was like fresh wind in my sails.
I also fled to biographies and autobiographies of those who walked with and loved the Lord, yet faced times of turmoil and doubt. I was desperate to know that others made it through and that I wasn’t crazy! God used these stories to somehow restore a quiet confidence, knowing that God’s grace was much bigger and stronger than the doubts and the sin of unbelief I was battling.
Part of my problem was I was almost completely fixated on myself and what I was going through. As a result, I had a skewed perspective. Everything was hard and no one understood. I’d gotten so inward focused that I forgot to follow my Savior in obedient service (Mark 10:42–45). During that time, I saw a friend’s tweet that went something like this, “One way to clear up spiritual confusion is through obedience.” I can attest that, somehow, when I put someone else’s interests above my own, the fog would lift for a short while, and I could see a little better.
Get a physical checkup.
During this time, I genuinely longed to see God’s Word work powerfully in my life, but I just didn’t perceive any fruit. It wasn’t plausible to me that physical limitations could hinder my spiritual fight. But come to find out, I do have a minor health struggle that explains a lot. I’m no less of God’s child or no more excused from my sin because of it, but it’s still helpful to know. It might take me a little longer to run a spiritual mile, but by God’s grace, I will still cross the finish line.
Remember the gospel. Rest in the gospel. Repeat.
Over the long haul, the Lord showed me how much hope I had been putting in myself—my external performance and my internal feelings. I had to learn that nothing I could do or say would make me a worthy recipient of God’s grace and love. No amount of passion or work on my part would sustain me. It has been in this crucible that I’ve learned my most important lesson—the discipline of clinging to Christ alone as all my hope. At the end of the day, Jesus will be the One who keeps me from continuing in sin and protects me from the evil one (1 John 5:18).
Hindsight is 20/20.
It’s true. At the time, I couldn’t have imagined saying anything positive about my struggles. I don’t think I would have chosen for it to be a part of my testimony, but I’m grateful that God won’t hold back what will be used to conform me to Christ.
Cling to the ultimate answer.
Ultimately, the answer in the midst of desperate, tumultuous seasons of doubt and unbelief is not to find a new way. We must cling to our God and walk in the ancient paths (Jer. 6:16). His Word will be our guide, His Spirit will be our power, His people will hold up our arms, His Son will be our anchor—and He will be faithful. May we be found faithful as well.
This article is by Lindsay Swartz.