It's Okay to have Doubts

By Denise M. Kohlmeyer

It's okay to have doubts. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

Having doubts is not the same as having unbelief, as some purport and thus lay undo and harmful guilt on those who truly and sincerely have questions, concerns, and, well, doubts: doubts about God, doubts about His goodness, about His love, His forgiveness, even about certain doctrines of the Bible (i.e. predestination, God's sovereignty, etc.).

It's okay to doubt. To question. To explore. To implore! All good things. After all, we are called to be disciples of Christ, and the definition of disciple (mathétés) is "learner, pupil." Pupils are supposed to ask that they can learn! Doubts are an integral part of our spiritual learning, part of our lifelong learning curve. As pastor and author Timothy Keller says:
A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person's faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.
There is just one caveat: doubters need to exercise caution — great caution! — regarding the direction their doubts take. If towards God, then their doubts will eventually turn into lasting convictions, stronger faith, a more mature faith. If away from God, however, their doubts will eventually lead them towards the dangerous precipice of unbelief.

And the latter, dear readers, is what I hope and pray this article helps you avoid.

Unbelief vs. Doubt To understand the difference between the two, it's helpful to start with the words' definitions in the original Greek (how God intended them to be understood).

Doubt (distazo)
"to waver, vacillate, hesitate; going two ways, shifting between positions (views, beliefs)"

Unbelief (apistia)
"(the negative form of pistos, faithful); unfaithful, want of faith; properly, without faith; distrust

Unbelief, then, describes those who are "without faith." In Scriptural terms, those without faith are called "unsaved," "heathens," "pagans," "foreigners," depending on the translation. In the words of Jesus Himself, they are the ones who are "not among my sheep" (John 10:26).

Unbelief is the complete absence of belief (trust, faith) in God as Sovereign Creator and Ruler and in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as Savior and Lord. It is also, according the Hebrews 4:2, the absence of belief in the Word; the Good News:
For indeed we have had Good News preached to us, just as they also; but the Word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.
In practical terms, unbelief is hard-heartedness. It shakes its proverbial fist at the Ruler of the universe, saying, "You will not rule me!" Unbelief will neither bow the knee to nor come under the authority of God. It refuses to submit because it distrusts God; and, sadly, in that respect, unbelief is sin. And sin — if not repented of — leads to eternal death. Hell.

Doubt, on the other hand, is not a matter of distrust and, therefore, it is not considered sin. Doubters typically want to know, they yearn to know. They tend to seek out the answers to their questions and earnestly search the Scriptures. They scour books and talk to knowledgeable experts. They want to submit, they just have a hard time understanding why and how, and thus hesitate to make a decision. So they persist in asking questions — lots of questions:

Is God real? Does He exist?
Does God truly care about me? Do I mean anything to Him?
What is my purpose here on this earth? Why did God make me?
Does God love me, especially with all the sins I've committed in the past — and those I still commit?
Will He ever forgive my sin of _______?
Can God use me even though I'm inadequate and feel like a failure?
Why is there so much evil in this world? Why doesn't God do something about it?
Why does God save some people? Why not everybody?

Yes, doubters ask questions. Good questions. Deep questions. Heart-wrenching questions.

And, then, they wrestle with the answers. Wavering. Hesitating. But undergirding their inquiring heart is belief — even if it's as tiny as a mustard seed. In the end, though — after searching and scouring for a time — they decide, many times on faith alone, that:

• Yes, even though I can't see Him, God exists and is real. Very real! The evidence is all around me in the cacophony of His creation (Isaiah 42:5);

• Yes, Father God cares deeply about me. Very deeply! The evidence of His love for me is in the dawning of each new day as I awake with the breath of life in my body and face a day fresh with new mercies. (Isaiah 42:5);

• Yes, God can, and will, forgive my repentant heart, no matter how grievous my sin. For His forgiveness is ever-unfailing (1 John 1:9);

• Yes, God will use me, even though I am inadequate and fail at times. For HE is my strength and my adequacy (2 Corinthians 12:9);

• Yes, even though there is great evil in this world, Almighty God remains in control, sovereignly ruling over this sphere (Psalm 103:19; Proverbs 11:21);

• Yes, God does desire that everyone be saved. He wishes that none should perish, but that all come to repent and secure eternal life. But, sadly, not everyone desires to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).

These particular questions have answers. But there are others that don't. There are some things that are unknowable. Our minds are just too finite to understand. And then there are those things which God, in His sovereignty and wisdom — chooses not to reveal, for they are the secret things of the Sacred (Deuteronomy 29:29).

In those instances, we must lay down our need to know and trust by faith and not by sight. For that is the truest test of trust in our God: still believing without having to know all the answers (Hebrews 11:1). And being content, at rest and at peace, in the unknowable. Doubters come to understand and embrace 1 Corinthians 13:12, "For now we see in a mirror dimly…now I know in part; then [in heaven] I shall know fully…."

A doubter's faith is able to "remain in the dark" on certain things and wait patiently until that Day when God will bring all things to light, when their knowledge will finally be complete.

And, ironically, they probably won't even care anymore. Because they will be too busy worshipping, banqueting, and basking in the wonderful presence of the all-knowing One.

Image Credit: Pixoman; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | God-Father

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Published on 1-10-17