An Essay on Doubting God

The Broken Arm. One Saturday my church held a "family day" picnic at a beach park.

  • The teen-agers soon had a volley ball game going.
  • One of the teens (I'll call him Fred) leaped sideways to return a volley. In the process, Fred fell and broke his arm.
  • That evening I called to see how Fred was doing. His Mom answered and refused to let me speak to Fred.
  • "I'm fed up with all this church nonsense," she said. "How could God let this happen to my son? If He won't protect my kids, even at a church picnic, why should I trust Him?"
  Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.''
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "
Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!'' Mk 9.23-24
A Niggling Finger. Worse things than broken arms happen to Christians. Much worse.

At those bad times in our lives, some of us find ourselves doubting God. We still believe but we also have a niggling finger of doubt.

Faith mixed with doubt -- it's a paradox, isn't it?
  (The event in the following verses took place after Jesus was resurrected from the dead.)

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him:
but some doubted. Mt 28.16-17
World of Tribulation. When I received Jesus as my Savior, I thought I had instantly achieved an end to all of life's uncertainties and misfortunes. Far from it.

I have faced many difficult times since becoming a Christian. We all have.

I don't know about you but I have had many doubts at those times of tribulation. Sometimes I wondered if God really cared what happened to me, and to those I love.
  (Jesus said:) "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they (Christians) may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." John 10.10

Jesus said:)"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.'' John 16.33
Miserable Comforters. In the early days of my Christianity I often sought encouragement from my friends in church whenever doubts troubled me. But I received little support or counsel from God's people.

It's almost as if we Christians are afraid to admit the possibility of doubt, much less confront it head on.
  (Job's children all died, and he was afflicted by boils. His friends gave him "advice" which amounted to no more than platitudes. Here is how Job replied...)

Then Job answered and said: "I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all! Job 16.1-2
Tiny Fingers. Maybe you have read Hans Christian Anderson's tale of the little boy who put his finger in a hole in the dike, thereby saving many people from being drowned by the sea.

Sometimes I think Christians are like that -- me included -- the tiny fingers of their faith seeking to hold back a great sea of doubt.
  ...he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. Jam 1.6b
Help? When I told my Christian friends I was struggling with doubts, many of them responded by criticizing me for being weak in the faith. What kind of help is that? In answer to my problem, they merely told me I had a problem.

It's kind of like a fellow who visits his doctor and says, "Doc, it hurts real bad when I swallow." Nodding sagely, the doctor replies, "You have a sore throat," then grabs his golf clubs and departs.
  (Bildad said to Job:) "How long will you say such things? Your words are a blustering wind." Job 8.2

Doubting Thomas.

  • It encourages me that Jesus didn't rebuke Thomas for doubting. Instead, Jesus offered him evidence of the truth.
  • Fact is, Jesus never rebuked anyone for doubting, only for refusing to consider the evidence.
  • Why did God include the record of "doubting Thomas" in His Bible? He did it for me. Perhaps for you as well?
  Then Jesus said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

Thomas said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"

Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed;
blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20.27-29

Three Big Questions

As stated above, sometimes I have my doubts about God.
Having said that, follow along with me while I dig into my own skull in an attempt to answer three questions...
(1) What do I NOT doubt?
(2) What then is it that I DO doubt?
(3) Is doubting an altogether bad thing?

(1) What do I NOT doubt?
I do NOT doubt God's existence.

The overwhelming evidence of God does not go away even when I have hard times.

(2) What then is it that I DO doubt?
What I DO doubt is my understanding of God.

It's difficult to be really comfortable with any person, including God, who doesn't act in predictable ways. And God can be very unpredictable at times, as seen from the viewpoint of a mere mortal.

Bear with me on this -- it's difficult to explain. Let me try by using an illustration.

  • Suppose I'm walking in the woods with my good friend Joe.
  • Joe warns me, "Be careful. Don't trip over this tree root."
  • Later on, Joe calmly watches while I handle a plant then tells me, "That's poison ivy. Here's some ointment to reduce the itching."
  • I'm glad for the ointment, but I wonder why Joe didn't warn me BEFORE I touched the poison ivy.
  • Later on I fall down a deep hole and can't get out. I look up and see Joe calmly standing there. No matter how many times I ask Joe for help, he just watches and does nothing.

That's how it often seems to me about God.

  • Sometimes God warns me about the stumbling points in my life. He protects me ahead of time.
  • Sometimes God lets me get enmeshed in life's poison ivy, then gives me ointment to heal the stings.
  • And sometimes God just sits and watches, leaving me totally on my own to escape one of life's deep pits of despair.
  • In short, I never know WHICH way God is going to deal with my needs, or when, or even if. Not knowing -- uncertainty -- therein is the source of my doubt.

(3) Is doubting an altogether bad thing?
Sometimes I almost think God WANTS me to have room for doubt.

He has never made Himself visible to me. He has never changed water into wine or been resurrected from the dead in my presence. He has never spoken audibly to me. He has never walked on water where I could watch Him.

I wonder ... does God see some value in my occasional struggles with doubt? Here are three possible answers...
  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
Rom 8.24-26

#1 - Doubt tests the perseverance of my faith. If I had no doubt, then stepping out in faith would be less valuable to me, and to God.
#2 - Doubt strengthens my faith. If my faith in God never struggles with my doubts, how can my faith grow stronger?

  • Lifting weights strengthens muscles. Doubts are the barbells that faith must lift to grow strong.
  • Indeed, that is the very lesson of Jam 1.2-4 -- "No pain, no gain! No guts, no glory!"
  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Jam 1.2-4

#3 - Doubt raises the level of my faith above mere feelings.
Faith that is based merely on emotional feelings is a fair weather friend. Feelings go sour when life turns sour.

  • For this reason, Jesus commands me to love God with all my heart, soul, MIND, and strength (Mk 12.30).
  • On those days when I am "in a deep hole" and God seems not to care, my feelings say "God? What God?"
  • But my mind, bad feelings or not, says, "Shut up fool! You can't deny the evidences. You can't deny all you have learned from the Bible. God is there. Trust Him!"
  (Jesus said:) "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." Mk 12.30

The Three Sources of Doubt

Source #1 - Worldly wisdom
Worldly wisdom creates doubt by such methods as the constant advocacy of evolution theory in schools, TV programs, etc., under the guise of science (falsely so called).
  Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 1 Cor 1.20
Source #2 - Satan
From the beginning Satan has attempted to raise doubts about the honesty and goodness of God. Daily, he still whispers in our ears, "Yea, hath God said?"
  And he said unto the woman, "Yea, hath God said...?" Gen 3.1b

Source #3 - The flesh
Perhaps the greatest source of Christian doubt is the weakness of our own flesh. To wit...

  • "We have met the enemy and he is us."
  • "Too much analysis leads to paralysis."
  • "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mt 26.41b)
  • As with Peter, we too often take our eyes off the Lord, to gawk in alarm at the raging storms around us. When we do, we sink into the sea of our own doubts.
  (The disciples were on the Sea of Galilee amidst a raging storm. Suddenly they saw Jesus coming toward them, walking on the water. Peter left the boat and he too walked on water, going to meet the Lord. And then...)

When Peter saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!''
And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?''
Mt 14.30-31

Three Remedies for Christian Doubt

Remedy #1 - Study Christian evidence
The cure for doubt is a strong dose of faith.

  • Christianity is not based on "a blind leap of faith," but upon specific evidences of the truth. Evidences such as the empty tomb, the eye-witness testimony of over 500 witnesses to the resurrected Jesus Christ, and much more.
  • Check HERE to find links to several lists of Christian apologetics and evidences. Visit these sites and study them. Doing so not only will help arm you against times of doubt, it will also make you a better witness to your unsaved friends.
  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb 11.1

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and
always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 1 Pet 3.15

Remedy #2 - Study the Bible
The opposite of doubt is faith, and faith gains strength by hearing or reading the Bible.

  • Check HERE if you feel you cannot understand the Bible, or apply it to your life.
  • Can't understand God's word? Oh YES you can!
  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Rom 10.17
Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim 2.15, KJV)

Remedy #3 - Talk to God

  • In Lk 22.31-32, notice that Jesus did not say He had prayed that Simon Peter would be exempt from Satan's attack. No, Jesus prayed that Simon's faith would not fail during that attack.
  • And remember, God didn't keep Daniel out of the den of lions. Instead, God protected him while he was among the lions (Dan 6.16-22).
  • When I confronted dire circumstances in the past, I always asked God to make the problem go away. Now I know better how to pray.
  • Oh yes, I still ask God to eliminate my problems, but now I also ask Him to sustain my faith if He decides I must go through those problems.
  • Based on Lk 22.31-32, I KNOW Jesus prays right along with me, that my faith should not fail.
  • Ask God to sustain your faith. Jesus will pray right along with you. Does it work? Oh yes! God never fails!!!
  And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.'' Lk 22.31.32

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and
the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philip 4.6-7

To read visitor Glen's comments about doubt...
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To read visitor Charles' comments about doubt...
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