Three Kinds of Doubt (and seeking Jesus in it)
Disclaimer: In this blog, we will be diving into the concept of doubt and struggle. This blog is in no way meant to settle people’s doubts completely, nor is this a case of apologetics. Doubt is a deeply personal thing. We all have different things we question, and we all have different areas of hurt in our lives. I wholeheartedly wish I could speak with every single person who doubts the existence and goodness of God. I wish I could pray with them, listen to them, and help them. However none of this can be done in a simple blog post. So if you find this article is lacking the answers you are looking for, feel free to reach out to me (Pastor Zak) through the church website.
It may surprise you to hear that even the strongest men and women of faith have struggled with doubt. We have this polished image of perfect Christians who never wavered in their faith - not even once. However that simply isn’t the case. Many faithful believers have wrestled with God’s existence, goodness, plan, and purpose. The question is, will we seek Jesus in the doubt?
Let’s take John The Baptist for example. While he was rotting in a prison cell, he sent messengers to Jesus asking,
“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3).
John was going through an intense trial. He was imprisoned for speaking out against the corrupt king, and now he was facing certain death. In the midst of that trial, John doubted. He doubted the goodness of Jesus and whether he was truly the Messiah. So he reached out to Jesus. He was probably feeling forgotten and alone, and it was hard to see the goodness of Jesus while he was confined to chains.
Doubt takes many forms. The enemy loves to sow seeds of doubt in our minds to turn us from Christ. Luckily, we have a patient God who is willing to walk through doubt with us. There are at least three different kinds of doubt that can creep up behind us. They can crawl into our headspace and cause a great deal of suffering. Recognizing them is the first step to confronting them.
1 - Doubt in God’s Existence
One of the most common forms of doubt is doubt in God’s existence. This doesn’t come as a surprise to any of us obviously. Books, movies, and documentaries have been dedicated to dismantling or defending the existence of God. It can be a struggle for people to wrap their heads around an all-knowing, benevolent, and eternal creator.
This isn’t going to be a blog dedicated to proving the existence of God. That would be way too long. Rather, I want to speak about pressing through the doubt and drawing near to God. Even as a Christian you can wrestle with the practicality of creation, the virgin birth, and miracles. These are perfectly understandable things to struggle with.
However we must concede to one thing… If we think we can wrap our minds around an all-knowing, omnipresent, transcendent, and omnipotent creator of space and time then we are sorely overestimating our capacity for understanding. Take heart, though, for God has not left us completely in the dark.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)
Although God is profoundly mysterious, he is also relational. That means he wants to be known, and has made ways for us to know him. The main way is through Jesus Christ. He is the “image of the invisible God”. So although God would be completely in his right to remain a distant theistic being, he chose to show himself through the character of Christ. Jesus is the key. Knowing him, following him, and immersing yourself in his character. Know Jesus and you will know God.
Will this answer all your questions about the age of the universe, the origin of man, or evolution of species? Maybe not. However it will answer the deeper questions, and make the tougher ones easier to pursue with a joyful heart.
2 - Doubt in God’s Goodness
I have been a part of many apologetics conferences and classes. I have taught through many apologetics courses and attended many debates. However, when you speak with people, they are rarely concerned with the ontological argument for the existence of God. No, they are concerned with deeper things than that. They have greater questions like, “If God is good, then why did my dad leave me when I was five?” or “If God is good, then why doesn’t he heal my mom’s cancer?”
Those are the hard-hitting questions. Those are the questions not easily explained away with an argument. Those are questions rooted in suffering.
This was truly the heart of John the Baptist when he was lying awake in his prison cell. He was suffering, depressed, and facing death. When life doesn’t meet our expectations, it forces us to take a step back and re-evaluate our beliefs. Often times, this causes us to question things we have always accepted to be true. Perhaps we have been used to singing and believing “God is good!” while sitting comfortably in a church. Yet how easy is it to declare when a spouse has left you, a loved-one has passed, or a job has been lost?
The answer here is similar to the first… The answer to this doubt is found in the character of Jesus. When a good friend of Jesus passed, he did not react in an expected manner. He did not raise his voice and call lightning from the sky to revive him. Nor was he apathetic to the plight of man. No, when Lazarus died, Jesus wept. He cried. Jesus looked at death and shed tears of sorrow. Behind those tears, there seemed to be this tone of “This isn’t supposed to happen.” Suffering and death was never God’s plan. It is the state of a broken world littered with sin.
Yet there is hope. Hope that we have a God who understands and empathizes with our suffering. A God who walks with us as we stumble through the pain of life. A God who is present with us in the fiery trials of life (see Daniel 3). God’s goodness is revealed in his nearness. We are not promised a life without suffering. However, we are promised a life of joy in the midst of suffering.
3 - Doubt in Self
This is the doubt that lingers. In the back of our minds, there is the voice of the enemy whispering, “You’re not good enough.” or “You’ll just fail.” Many great heroes of the faith dealt with self-doubt - Moses, Gideon, and Peter to name a few. However there is one consistency in their lives - God worked through their weakness. When Moses doubted his ability to lead, God sent him aid. When Gideon doubted his strength to fight, God provided an army. When Peter doubted his worthiness, God provided his Spirit.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
A motivational speaker or prosperity preacher would tell you something like, “You have all the potential in the world to make change. You just have to unlock your potential!” I’m not going to say that. In fact, the bible tells us the opposite is true.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9-10)
I doubt my own abilities all the time. The answer to those doubts is not to convince myself I am better than I think I am. Rather, I must remind myself that I am loved and called by a powerful God who is able to work despite my weakness. As he calls us to do great things, he will supply great power.
Perhaps you have noticed a theme to all these. The solution to doubt is rarely explaining away negative thoughts or providing compelling arguments. It is pressing into the character of Christ and allowing him to show his goodness, power, and presence.