I still vividly remember one weekend-long men’s conference I attended in high school. The first evening session shook my faith. Being a relatively new believer, I did not know how to understand what I was seeing and hearing around me. I was in an auditorium filled with men speaking in tongues, falling over in the Spirit, and laughing uncontrollably. I was scared. My first thought—the thought I couldn’t shake the rest of the weekend—was: “Maybe my faith is not genuine because I was not having the same experiences.” During that weekend, I did not know if I was truly saved. I did not know if my faith was real.
Perhaps like me, you have had your own set of doubts. Maybe you have questioned the genuineness of your faith, the existence of God, or the resurrection of Jesus. Everyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus has had doubts at some point in their lives. I think it is probably the default of our hearts to doubt. But how should we handle a dubious approach to faith? What does Scripture say about how we should respond?
There are many who want to see doubt in a positive light. They might argue that it is part of the faith journey, a natural response in the pursuit of truth, or evidence of a living faith. I have had these thoughts in the past. But the more I examine Scripture, I have concluded that Scripture never casts doubt in a positive light.
If doubt is this serious, then we need to know how to respond when doubts begin to simmer.
Almost always, doubt is contrasted with faith. For instance, James 1:6 says that the one who prays is supposed to pray with a posture of faith and not with doubt. In fact, he describes the doubter as “double-minded” and “unstable” (James 1:7 ESV). Jesus also contrasts faith with doubt. As Peter was sinking into the watery abyss, Jesus grabs him by the hand and says, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt” (Matthew 14:31 ESV). Although these are only two examples, they illustrate how faith is contrasted with doubt. In both of these examples, doubt is not merely just a set of intellectual questions, but it is very much related to one’s view of God. This means that doubt is not synonymous with questions or challenges at the cerebral level. It is much more than that. I think the word “distrust” better captures a biblical understanding of doubt. To doubt is to distrust God and his character. This kind of distrust gives birth to instability. Harboring distrust is catastrophic.
If doubt is this serious, then we need to know how to respond when doubts begin to simmer. Here are three things we can do to get our bearings amid doubt.
Regain Perspective on Reality
First, when we are tempted to doubt, we need to remind ourselves of what is truly real—to be grounded in reality. Paul reminds the Roman church, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31 ESV). We need to remind ourselves of this truth daily. This verse evokes God’s power and goodness. There is no diagnosis, job loss, or marital challenge that impacts God’s love for us in Christ or determines his goodness. In difficult times we need to revisit the truth of God’s character in Scripture. If you are looking for a place to begin, I recommend Hebrews 11. Note the challenges that our heroes of faith experienced. During the challenges they faced, their faith kept them grounded. They had confidence in God and his promises despite the circumstances.
Gaze Upon Christ
The second remedy is to gaze upon Christ. You are in a better position than Abraham, Moses, David, and the other heroes. You have the benefit of being on this side of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Romans 8:24 reminds us,
“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Romans 8:34 ESV
Paul reminds us that no matter how severe the heat, no matter how acute the trial, Christ Jesus died, was raised, and intercedes. There is no more profound truth for our doubt-prone hearts. When you sense you are leaning toward distrust, remind yourself of his incredible love and commitment toward you in the person of Jesus Christ. Tune your heart to hear and savor his incredible love.
Connect into Community
Finally, be connected to community. Christianity is a corporate faith, not a privatized religion. Christ is interceding for “us.” This one little pronoun reminds us that we are not meant to do the Christian life alone. We are meant to be connected into community. In my own wrestling with doubts, my encouragement has usually come from other brothers and sisters reminding me of the truth of Scripture. Aloneness breeds distrust because we don’t have the encouragement and challenge of community.
When I came home from the men’s conference, I sought out mentors, those who were more seasoned in the faith. They reminded me that my salvation is not based on the measure of my faith, but on the object of my faith. My salvation is based on God’s goodness and Christ’s righteousness. Christ is worthy of our complete trust. There is no need to doubt!
Tucker Anderson has served at Calvary Church since 2015. He is a graduate of Bethel Seminary and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His passion is helping people develop a biblical worldview by understanding the relationship between the Old Testament and New Testament.