Let’s Talk About Doubt
’ve been thinking a lot recently about doubt. Well, to be honest, it hasn’t just been recently. I’ve been thinking about doubt for most, if not all, of my adult life… and before then too!
I have a lot of doubts about God, faith, prayer, the Bible, and a whole host of other things. Sometimes my doubt is so intense and debilitating that I don’t know what I believe or how to move forward. If you’ve faced this, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Doubt is an uncomfortable thing to experience, and it can bleed over into all the other areas of life, leaving us confused, disoriented, afraid, overwhelmed, and unsure about who or what we can really trust.
Doubt can also be difficult to talk about. Maybe we’re afraid that if we start pulling at that thread the whole thing might come undone. Maybe we’re afraid that other people will be disappointed with us if they knew about our doubts. Maybe we’re afraid we’ll ruin someone else’s faith if we’re open about our questions. Maybe we’re afraid we’ll be shamed, disregarded, or hushed by people who can’t or won’t understand. Or maybe we’re afraid we’ll make God angry. With all that in mind, it’s no wonder that candid conversations about doubt can be few and far between.
In all my questions and in my doubt, here are a few things I’ve learned.
1. Doubt can be a good thing.
This may surprise you, but doubt can actually be a friend to faith, not an enemy. It can lead to discomfort and disorientation, but it can also lead to growth. The author George MacDonald made this observation about doubt:
“A man may be haunted with doubts and only grow thereby in faith. Doubts are the messengers of the Living One to the honest. They are the first knock at our door of things that are not yet, but have to be, understood.”
2. Faith is not the absence of doubt.
I tell my kids often: being brave doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. It means that you do the right thing even when you’re afraid. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the same way with faith and doubt. Having faith doesn’t mean not doubting. It means choosing to trust and live faithfully right there in the midst of doubt. The doubt and the questions may not go away. But even if they never go away, you can still find a way forward.
3. You can’t face doubt alone.
Doubt can lead to isolation, especially when it seems like you’re the only one who has questions, and everyone else is getting along just fine. But it is not good to struggle with doubt alone. You’ve got to talk about your questions and your doubts with people you trust that will listen without judgment, affirm your questions, love you no matter what, and offer hope and encouragement.
I have so much more to say about doubt, but for now, I’ll just leave you with a couple encouragements for doubters and those who love them:
If you struggle with doubt, hear this: You’re not crazy and you’re not alone! There’s nothing wrong with you. You don’t have to hide. You don’t have to pretend. You can be honest. You can be yourself.
Find a friend or group of friends that you can trust, and be vulnerable and honest about your questions and doubts. It will be difficult, but it will be worth it!
And if you know someone who struggles with doubt, create a safe space where they can be open and honest. James 1:22 says “have mercy on those who doubt.” Be merciful. Be compassionate. Be quick to hear and slow to speak. Don’t shame them. Listen to them. Really listen! You may be an answer to their prayers. And who knows, you might even learn something about God and yourself in the process.