doubt

Is it okay to doubt God?  That’s a question many people wonder about… especially because everyone doubts God at one point or another.  We struggle as humans to completely trust anyone, including God.  At times we’re not sure God really is watching out for our best interest.  At other times, life is falling apart and we don’t really think God is near or that God cares.  At other times, we think God is trying to trick us.  At other times, we don’t think God will really judge us, so we decide to sin.  We wonder why God allows sickness and tragedy.  We wonder why he seems to put up with evil.  We are disappointed that God doesn’t seem more present or real to us.  At other times we wonder if God is really at work in all these bumbling Christians that we know.  I think that everyone, no matter what the strength of the relationship with God is, struggles with doubt.

But is that okay?

It’s interesting that the Psalms are filled with doubt.  Cries of bewilderment and despair echo through the Psalms.  Elsewhere in the Bible, "heroes" of faith appear to have serious trust issues.  Gideon, for one, is a pessimist when it comes to God being active in his life.  Peter and the disciples fail miserably on a few occasions.  Martha was disappointed that Jesus didn’t arrive in time to keep Lazarus from dying.  Doubt is expressed frequently even within the pages of the Bible.

But is it okay to doubt God?

In a moment of pain, is it okay to doubt?  In a moment of sin, is it okay to doubt?  In a prolonged illness, is it okay to doubt?  In the routine of everyday, is it okay to doubt God’s dynamic activity?

Or are we missing something?

14 Comments

  1. A time limit on faith? That’s a wild idea… and a good one. I bet there are certain things God asks of us… and he gives us a window of response. If we fail to respond, we miss the window of opportunity. Our lifetime could be a big window… the chance we have to respond to Jesus. But there are a myriad of other moments in our life when we have the chance to respond in faith… How many of these have I missed?!

  2. Well, the thing that I most remember about those is that the faith of ther person not only wavered but quailed in the face of whatever was being asked. Faith seems to overarch it all somehow and it is only disobedience that actuall ruins that process. Something like love is opposite to apathy. At least with hate your attention is still on the right target. Maybe faith is a response against disobedience. An act of good faith, if you will, is any act done at the discretion of another, even if it means that there was some serious consideration. Is there, however, a time limit on faith? Maybe there is a response time in which you have to consider, doubt and moan, but after that you just have to do it and get it over with? hows that sound?

  3. Great thoughts Andrew… I’ve been hit by the same thing this morning. Have I been too hard on Gideon? After all, he did respond… even with his doubt… he still did follow (even if it was fractured faith).
    But I don’t think Jesus is totally satisfied with a one time followership… or a fractured followership either. What do you make of Jesus’ “Oh you of little faith” statements?

  4. I dont know how well this might help the train of thought, but it occurred to me that there were a number of ties when Jesus called people to do things with and for him. Follow me’s and get out of those tree’s. In many cases the people had lived lives of horrible pessimism and nearly gave up on what their nation and people had proven to be. Sounds like a fair share of doubt to me. Then Jesus calls them and they ‘immediately’ get up and follow him. Again, I am not sure how helpful that is, but it does throw a loop into my train of thought. When Jesus calls, people respond immediately in faith. Though they live their life in doubt up to that point.
    How, then, do we characterize someone like Gideon, called by God, and yet took so much time to respond and test God before being content with the call, and he is the one who made it into Hebrews 11?
    I suppose Grace is enough, but that sounds like a cheesy cop out.

  5. Paul, thanks for joining this huge stream of thought! It’s got to come down to a simple faith in Jesus, doesn’t it? That’s what I think you’re getting at. All the religious rigor in the world amounts to nothing if it isn’t through Jesus. I like your reference to Peter… To whom shall we go? It echoes the Psalms, “Where does my help come from?” It echoes Job, “Who put the stars into place?” Ultimately, there is only one answer: Jesus.
    I love trying to figure things out in deep intricate patterns. I’ve enjoyed this discussion because of that. What begins as a wonder… usually ends up with more wonder. In this case, the wonder was whether it’s okay to doubt God. And I’ve struggled to determine how people filled with so much doubt could be called faithful. In the end, I think the answer is Jesus. That again fills me with wonder. An awe really. He is the answer I keep coming back to. He is the answer that holds all my questions together!

  6. I wonder if we’ve sometimes made faith to be more than it is…kind of like we’ve tended to do with being a disciple?
    Even though a disciple is someone who is following after Jesus, with all their baggage and crap and mistakes and doubts and fears and struggles, we’ve tended toward making discipleship more about being a better person than simply following after Jesus. Although we should see fruit and change in our lives because of Jesus, we cannot measure how good of a disciple we are based solely on fruit (if fruit is how good we are), because some people have come to Christ after a life of poor decisions and bad habbits and may need more time to look like a good disciple. However, if a disciple is as I’ve simply described above, then we can all say we’re in this together, crap and all…the main thing is that we’re all following the Master.
    When it comes to faith, then, perhaps we’ve made it out to be more than it needs to be as well? Perhaps faith is as simple as putting our trust in the Giver of New Life…who chooses to indwell us with his Spirit even when we make poor decisions or doubt or fail or struggle…but in the end, as in so many before us, and as Peter said to Christ himself, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
    I had a few young gentlemen dressed in nice suites come by my place today…in the end they said they believed in Jesus, but it was only through the book of Mormon that they got to know Jesus better. I asked them what would happen to their faith, their belief in God, if Joseph Smith and his interpreted message (the book of Mormon) was proved to be a sham. They attempted to tell me that they could not know Jesus as well with just the Scriptures of Old and New Testaments. What of their faith? What of their good deeds? What of their desires to be obedient? Something has drawn them to give up two years of their lives to travel around and tell people about Joseph Smith’s book, and outside of religious duty I think they were pretty sincere guys.
    If only they knew how rich the Scriptures are (indeed beyond one persons ability to ever comprehend) in showing and telling us about Jesus and the Trinity…that they would realize there needn’t be any reason for some guy to write a better testament of who Jesus is 1800 years after the fact.
    Don’t know how or why I just said all that in regards to the post at hand…sorry.

  7. Great again, Andrew. You’ve helped clarify some things for me… and realign my brain a bit.
    Hebrews 11…. I’ve always been intrigued that Samson is included in the faith list. That fact should bother any hard-nosed religious person… or totally relieve everyone else. If Samson can be considered faithful, then everyone has a shot.
    That makes me think that faith is not as glamorous as I’m trying to make it. Faith is simple. It’s when a person, full of doubts and wrestling and sin and joys and pains and fears and experiences and opinions and loves, chooses to believe God. Samson, even with all his stumbles, chose God.
    That makes me think that doubt doesn’t bother God too much. If it did, none of us would merit heaven. In fact, none of us can merit heaven. It is through faith… and only because of God’s grace is it through faith… that someone like Samson or you or me could be allowed in God’s presence. That, I do not doubt at all.

  8. I dont think that it implies one being the end of the other actually. First, faith is revealed by action, but faith is not necessarily action, so there is the possibility that faith begins within that scenario long before or melded into some other aspect of that progression.
    Second, I am not entirely sure that I think that it is a reversible progression. Having doubts should not create any type of options. Doubts are generally present due to the presence of alternatives that appear favorable.
    I wonder if Hebrews 11 would be of any use to us here? The chapter points out all of Israel’s ‘greats’ who proved themselves to be faithful before the eyes of God. These people were not just proved faithful, but were regarded as rightesou in the eyes of the Lord due to their actions. It is quite true that their actions followed from their faith, but it says that they believed the Lord and then acted. The faith part encompasses both the moments of belief and then the resultant action. Doubt, then, could be within the realm of faith wherein the one who must act first must believe and first must question, doubt and struggle to find the proper way. For the best example of this, Jesus prayed that he would not have to die on the cross and that some other way would present itself. I know that we present this in a one sentence caricature, but I am pretty sure that there must be something more to it than that as Jesus spent the whole night up there and reprimanded his disciples 3 times for their lack of wakefulness. I can imagine some big doubts standing out in that time. However, when the time came, he acted as he was supposed to.

  9. Good depth there, Andrew. (Thanks for the dialogue too, by the way.) So you’re asking: Can rationale and child-like go together? That is a line of thought I’m not sure I’ve ever explored too much.
    I suppose that the true-child-like faith that Jesus talked about does not mean the end of rationale. Like your first comment… I can’t imagine that God would require us to turn off our thinking process in order to fully trust him. Faith is ultimately revealed in our action. Action must involve fore thought. Fore-thought must involve the possibility of multiple options to explore. And options inevitably would include levels of doubt about each possibility. ~~~Reversely~~~ levels of doubt produce options, options produce fore-thought, fore-thought produces action. Action reveals faith. But in this line of reasoning, does this imply that faith the end of doubt?

  10. Man Ken, awesome! So succinct. I think that I do not like where your conclusion arrives at though. It has an indication that faith and doubt run parallel and you must choose between them. I suppose that I pretty much said that same thing, but is it possible for them to work together in some way? I was taugt that faith is a reasoned out belief in something which requires an action, not just an intellectual assent. Within the framework of that definition, what is intended to be childlike and what is possible for doubt? I think that there is an answer to being child-like and yet rational, I just don’t know, yet, what it is. Good chatting with you though.

  11. “Faith and doubt, are they truly opposed?” Great question. I’m not sure you can have one without the other. Faith I believe requires a level of choice. Choice requires option. Option means that there is more than one way of action. Perhaps faith is produced as we look at our doubt and chose faith?
    I suppose faith and doubt can both be practiced. The more you chose faith over doubt… or doubt over faith, the more habitual the one will become. So I wonder if child-like faith, which I’m assuming is a faith of no-doubt, pure trust, is one that we can attain to?

  12. It is funny you bring that up because it is one of the things a lot of good skeptics will never appreciate. They claim that we can never truly know anything, but then never fathom the fact that they have just made a statement about the world that should not be makeable based on its own assumption. To “doubt” doubt is probably one of the wiser things in the world.
    There must be some point when you stop questioning. It is possible to ask why until the end of time if for no reason other than to annoy the person you are talking to. Eventually I am certain God wants us to do something with what He is telling us so we must choose to act. In other words, at some point we must move beyond our doubts and fears and into the world as it stands before us. To do so reveals that we have overcome any lingering doubts and that whether they have been answered or not we are moving in faith with the decision we have reached towards a goal set before us.
    At what point is child-like faith the doing what it is meant to? That question has always bothered me because I was never able to figure out how it fit together with a rational and honest use of adult mental capacity. If we do onoly because God told us to, perhaps we have reached a level of spiritual enlightenment from which we recognize the deeper truth of God’s mercy, justice and wisdom so that to question it would be feeble at best, but maybe it is just one other way of expressing a commitment to God. I honestly do not know Ken. Faith and Doubt, are they truly opposed?

  13. Andrew. Great comment- a very well crafted line of thought. Thanks! I agree with what you’re saying. I think God truly does enjoy the interaction with our doubt… because it can lead to discovery of Him.
    Maybe you can interact with me on this question related to this topic- Is it okay to “doubt” doubt? 🙂 I think your statements are true… but do you think that God could also delight in simple-minded faith? A faith that doesn’t doubt… a child-like faith… a simple trust. Is it possible to be human and to have that kind of faith? Should we strive for a no-doubt faith?
    The interesting thing here is that I doubt a life of doubt, and I also doubt a life of no-doubt.

  14. Doubt is one of those things that comes naturally to humanity. It was even present in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, as the ‘Good’ creation of God who doubted his decision to tell them not to eat of the tree. What does it really mean to doubt God though?
    Well, I think that it has to do with a desire to live rightly. We try to decide what course of action would be best suited to life. There is clearly the possibility of choosing wrongly, but I do not believe that is the necessity of doubt. To be afraid of doing something is only natural, to not doubt it and act completely without any thought as to its morality, necessity and thoughtful impact means that you are carelessly, and robotically, acting in accord with something you have been told. If we didn’t doubt God at times we would have no need of conversing with him as it would simply be a onesided conversation from Him giving us directions much like I am typing on this keyboard now and the screen is imputting the words onto the page. It has no capacity to doubt my actions, thoughts or words, it simply acts as I tell it to. I belive it is quite natural to doubt God and that he takes it as a good thing. I do not think that it is right to make the wrong decision based on your doubt and disbelieve God’s word, but to talk to Him and question things is what he wants. After all, he did make a huge world and galaxy for us to learn and explore with our curious minds.

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