Redefining Doubt

Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared even doubt to be sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land… is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful.
— Friedrich Nietzsche

Some of the most faith-building and defining times in my walk with Christ have been the seasons when I was “struggling” to believe something I had read, or was taught, or had previously believed. One example might be my attempt to reconcile God’s heart as a loving father with what I often read in the old testament in the midst of what can only be called violence and bloodshed. Or taking that a step further and reconciling that with what I have learned about what a father looks like based on the flawed representation of several father figures in my life. Reading Psalm 18 brought me face to face with these doubts. As I prayed: “God, if you are really loving, then why would a description that is so violent and scary be written in your word? Either, your word has it wrong, or my faith has it wrong somewhere…” As God revealed to me an omnipotent father who would move all of heaven and earth and the depths of hell to destroy anything that stood in the way of him having a relationship with his beloved, the questions faded. What was left in their place was a concrete assurance of the father’s love, at all costs.

I could share many examples with you, both from my personal life and from bible itself. The reason I share this at all is because far more often than not, our willingness to wrestle with our doubts will reveal areas in the foundation that are insecure and unstable. This allows God to speak truth, repair the foundation and bring healing to those places in our lives so that we then stand secure on the solid rock that is Christ. It is similar to when Jacob wrestled with God in Genesis 32. God allowed Jacob to wrestle with him because it would not only strengthen him, but provided an opportunity to bless him. God touched Jacob's hip socket and created a limp so that he would forever lean on God and not his own strength, abilities or understanding alone.

I recall talking with a close friend of mine a few months ago about some of his doubts (there I said it) with some of what he has been taught throughout his christian walk. He brought up the passage in James 1:5-6, which states: “If any of you lack wisdom, you should ask of God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” It goes on to say in verse 8: “such a man is double-minded and unstable in all he does” (emphasis mine). I know it’s the classic passage that teaches us to not ask questions about theology or to shame us into thinking we are somehow less of a christian because we are in a season of wrestling with God on such matters. I could tell even as he asked “what about that passage?” that he felt guilty for not just taking something at face value. Honestly, I believe that we are rarely ever to take things at face value. If we did that all the time, we would miss out on the amazing things inside of people and a great number of other things as well. God himself is a mystery to be searched out, as is written all throughout scripture, like Proverbs 25:2 for example. That being said, I told my friend to look at James 1 in context and understand that it’s talking about the testing of our faith that causes us as believers to be “whole and complete, lacking nothing.” Not only does it refer to the testing of our faith, in context the doubt is not the absence of questions, but rather the hope and trust that God has the answers if we seek him. 

Ultimately, yes, God wants his children to be so full of trust in him and so secure and confident in his love for us that any fear or doubts would disappear completely. But surely “we do not have a great high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness” (Hebrews 4:15). As I was talking with my friend about the passage in James, I pointed out that it is not so much whether or not we question God’s word, or certain teachings, or even that we doubt. Relationships were made for discover and communication, for asking questions. God is no different. In fact he is the model. Our fate in these matters hinges on what we choose to do with these doubts and questions. The real danger is if we choose to camp out and dwell in our doubts, or if we choose to take our doubts and ask the hard questions about our faith and our lives, with the confidence that God will meet us in our weakness and reveal his truth and his faithfulness.

Just as Nietzsche pointed out in the quote presented at the beginning, if doubt leads us to examine the origins of our faith, or lack thereof, then we can see what we are building the foundations of our faith upon. Is it in fact the truth of God’s word and his character, or something else entirely? I challenge you to take a risk and allow yourself to stop thinking of doubt as inherently sinful or negative and let those doubts surface. Wrestle with God, ask the hard questions and see how your faith is strengthened in the midst of it all.