I'll never forget sitting in my rocking chair in the darkness, holding my daughter close to me, with quiet tears streaming down my face. I realized in that moment that my faith had become paralyzed. It wasn't gone....but it was damaged.
I know but I don't know. This is the best way I can describe the profound period of doubt I experienced after my faith was challenged by a clever agnostic. I knew God existed. I knew Jesus died and was resurrected. I knew Christianity was true. But I didn't....know.
One vivid memory I have during this season is when my daughter, a toddler at the time, fell down a flight of stairs. The second her feet slipped out from under her, I cried out, "Jesus! Jesus!"
And I felt foolish.
For the first time in my life, I felt foolish—for praying. She tumbled down the stairs and stood up without a scratch. She didn't have even one bruise to show for this incredibly scary fall. Did Jesus hear my prayer and protect her? Did I dare believe it? I felt silly for believing it. And yet I did.
Tim Keller wrote:
I realize now that one of the reasons I was so vulnerable to this intellectual attack on my faith was that I didn't doubt enough in my younger years. I simply didn't have enough antibodies.
Whenever I heard a skeptical claim against the Bible or Christianity, I dismissed it immediately, assuming that the skeptic's eyes were simply blinded to belief, or that they "just didn't get it yet." However, as an adult—faced with what seemed to be compelling intellectual arguments—I could no longer dismiss these challenges so conveniently.
Yet by God's grace and incredible mercy toward me, my faith began to rebuild and reconstruct from ground zero. And I discovered something wonderful...many great saints in the Bible were doubters. There is so much we can learn from them, and here are 4 quick points:
1. We can be honest with God about our doubt.
One of the great doubter-saints was the prophet Habakkuk. When he looked around, all he saw was the rebellion, unrepentant sin, and violence of his own people, the Israelites. He began to doubt God's faithfulness to step in and put an end to all this wickedness. He cried out, "O Lord, how long shall I cry and you will not hear? Even cry out to You, "Violence!" and you will not save." (Habakkuk 1:2)
These words would make any good church girl uncomfortable. Who does Habakkuk think he is scolding God like that? And yet....God didn't smite him or chastise him or even scold him back.
He assured Habakkuk that He would indeed deal with the sin of the Israelites, by raising up the Babylonians to bring them into captivity. This, of course, sent Habakkuk into an even more deeply layered and complicated round of doubts and questions.
Habakkuk's doubt was honest. It wasn't fueled by skepticism, immorality, or anger at God. God honored his doubt by answering him, leading to one of the most powerful statements of faith in the whole Bible, "The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills." (Habakkuk 3:19)
2. We can ask God for help with our doubt.
One day, Jesus found His disciples arguing with the religious leaders in the midst of a large crowd. When He asked what was going on, a man spoke up and said that his son was possessed by an evil spirit that not only made him mute, but would often throw him on the ground, or into fire or water, trying to kill him.
As a parent, I cannot IMAGINE this father's anguish....the sheer exhaustion and terror of watching your precious child suffer like this since he was a little boy. Maybe this man heard of this miracle-worker from Nazareth and thought, "Maybe this will work. Maybe this time?"
This desperate father asked Jesus to have mercy, and heal his son. Then those beautiful doubt-filled words came out: "If you can." Jesus responded by asking, "What do you mean, if I can? Anything is possible to those who believe."
Then the man prayed a prayer I have prayed many times:
I believe. Help my unbelief.
His faith wasn't perfect...but he was trying. Jesus honored his prayer and healed his son.
This man's faith was imperfect. He wasn't quite there yet...but he was sincere in asking for help, and Jesus met him where he was.
3. We can ask for evidence to back up our faith.
One of the most famous doubters in the Bible was actually more of a skeptic than a doubter. "Doubting Thomas," as he is often called, was skeptical when his friends told him that Jesus had risen from the dead. He said that unless he saw and touched the nail marks in Jesus' hands, and the wound in His side, he would not believe.
When the time came for his face to face meeting with Jesus, Jesus didn't scold him for doubting, or shame him into some kind of blind faith. Instead, He offered evidence to back up what Thomas had been told. Only after offering His hands and side to Thomas as evidence of His resurrection did He say, "Stop doubting and believe!"
Thomas' doubt was rational and cerebral. Jesus answered his intellectual doubt with evidence.
4. It's okay to double-check our beliefs.
"Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" These words were forged in the fires of doubt. They came from a man who had personally baptized the Son of God, witnessed the Holy Spirit descending like a dove, and heard the audible voice of God the Father. How many of us can say we had such confirmation for our faith?!
And yet....as John the Baptist sat rotting in Herod's prison cell, isolated with nothing but his own thoughts—he began to doubt. This was the deep, soul-searching doubt that can only be experienced by someone who has truly tasted and seen....someone who was filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother's womb. Someone who knows.
This is perhaps the most painful kind of doubt, because you stand to lose everything if your suspicion wins out in the end.
John sent his disciples to double check with Jesus....are you the one? Jesus didn't send John's disciples back with a reprimand for doubting. He didn't scold John for not having enough faith. Instead, He invited John's disciples to witness Him perform some miracles. Then He said,
Referencing a prophecy about Himself from Isaiah 35, Jesus not only offered evidence for John's faith (miracles), but demonstrated the fulfillment of prophecy, which John would understand. John's doubt just needed a reconfirmation, and Jesus was happy to oblige.
The next time you experience doubt—whether it's intellectual, emotional, or spiritual, whether it's a small and nagging doubt about God's character or even a deeper doubt about His actual existence—I pray these 4 points will help you work through it. It's overwhelmingly clear....God deals tenderly with honest doubters and will meet us right where we are at.
If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to have my weekly blog posts delivered directly to your inbox.
*Keller, Timothy (2008-02-14). The Reason for God . Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, location 192.