I know I’ve gone through bouts of doubt that felt like they could be lethal to my faith. How about you?
Perhaps you’ve questioned whether God has really forgiven you or whether He can keep forgiving you when, as a Christian, you’ve failed to do what you knew He was telling you to do. Or you’ve wondered whether the Bible can be trusted. Or you can’t reconcile the world’s suffering with a loving God. Or you’ve read an article by a skeptical scientist or liberal theologian that kicked the legs of your faith right out from under you.
The issue isn’t whether you will catch the doubt virus; we’re all infected to some degree. The real question is this: How can we prevent that virus from turning into a virulent disease that ultimately ravages our faith? Or perhaps this is a better question: How can we respond to our doubts in ways that will help us emerge even stronger as a result?
As incredible as it sounds, a bout of doubt may turn out to be one of the healthiest and most hope-inspiring experiences you’ll ever go through.
Let’s put the doubt virus under the microscope where we can expose it to scrutiny and destroy some of our misconceptions that give it undue strength.
First Misunderstanding: What Doubt Really Is
Many Christians think that doubt is the opposite of faith, but it isn’t. The opposite of faith is unbelief, and that’s an extremely important distinction to understand.
In his book In Two Minds, Os Guinness said, “Doubt comes from a word meaning ‘two.’ To believe is to be ‘in one mind’ about accepting something as true; to disbelieve is to be ‘in one mind’ about rejecting it. To doubt is to waver between the two, to believe and disbelieve at once and so to be ‘in two minds.’”
Guinness also pointed out that in the Bible, unbelief refers to a willful refusal to believe or a deliberate decision to disobey God. But doubt is different. When we doubt, we’re being indecisive or ambivalent about an issue. We haven’t come down squarely on the side of disbelief or belief; we’re simply stuck over some questions or concerns.
So go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief. Those words might be just what you needed to hear to begin neutralizing the anxiety that the doubt virus has been generating inside you, robbing you of the hope your Christian faith ought to give you.
Second Misunderstanding: Doubt Is a Sin to Be Forgiven
Not only is doubt different from disbelief, but, contrary to popular opinion, doubt is not a sinful offense. God doesn’t condemn us when we ask Him questions.
Don’t you think God would rather have you be honest with Him about your doubts than have you profess a phony faith? He knows what’s going on inside us anyway; it’s absurd to think we can mask our doubts from Him. An authentic relationship means telling the truth about how we feel, and that’s the kind of relationship God wants with us.
Third Misunderstanding: Doubt Inevitably Does Damage
Another common misconception is that the doubt virus is always detrimental to our spiritual health. However, the truth is that God can use our doubts to produce positive side effects.