It is a universal experience.
Eyes closed in prayer, the all too familiar words rolling off her tongue, but in her heart she wonders if she's just talking to herself...
It's the middle of Sunday service, he listens as the preacher relates a popular story from the Bible and cannot help but ask if something like that really could have happened...
You've been a faithful Christian for years and, yet, your life is falling apart. Finally, you begin to question whether God is really there...
Doubt: “a feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality, or nature of something”.
Doubts are a human experience. Everyone, from the youngest babe in Christ to the oldest saint, has experienced doubts.
Because of this, knowing how to handle doubts and unanswered questions about the Faith is necessary for keeping those doubts and questions from dissolving our faith altogether.
While it is also critical to know the reasons behind why we believe what we believe, if we don't know how to live with some measure of uncertainty, we will never been sure of our faith, left in a perpetual cycle of spiritual “crisis” until we get the cherished “answer” to our question, only to repeat the cycle again when another question surfaces.
Improper cycle: unanswered question –> doubt –> answer –> renewed faith –> unanswered question –> doubt –> answer –> renewed faith > unanswered question –>....
However, when we combine our knowledge of the Faith with our ability to deal with doubts honestly and adequately, our spiritual life will not be left in stasis until we receive an answer to our question.
So, what are some of the ways we can deal with doubts?
1. Be honest. One of the worst things you can do when experiencing doubt is to deny or mentally dissociate yourself from this normal, human experience.
Firstly, doubt is nothing to be ashamed about. Great men and women of God like John the Baptist, Moses, Sarah, Abraham, and more had doubts.
In addition, contrary to what our minds may tell us, acknowledging doubt doesn't lend credence to whatever we're doubting. So, if I'm doubting that God hears my prayers, that does not, in fact, mean God does not hear my prayers, only that I am experiencing some degree of uncertainty about it at this moment.
Finally, by being honest about your doubts, you are in a better place to address them and seek encouragement from those have had similar kinds of doubts.
2. Talk with God. This applies even if you are doubting something related to the existence of God. Talk to Him anyways. It is important that doubting does not halt the flow of communication between you and God or it may stop completely.
Your doubts must not have veto power over your walk with Christ.
Furthermore, when you talk to God, be specific about whatever you're questioning. For example: “God, I saw an Internet video today claiming to show the Bible is myth and right now I am really struggling with whether or not I can trust the Bible”. I also recommend saying your prayer out loud.
By taking our questions to the Lord with boldness, we keep insecurity from festering and open ourselves up to His leading.
3. Don't not fear. Allowing doubts to send you into panic mode only inhibits your ability to critically examine the issue at hand. Keep a cool head and keep a proper perspective.
4. Continuing on, Christian philosopher and theologian Dr. William lane Craig gives these three great tips on how Christians can deal with doubts:
A. Understand that the primary way we as Christians know our faith to be true is the witness of God's Holy Spirit, which gives us a personal, “self-authenticating” basis for believing in Jesus.
With this in mind, doubts are simply the absence of answer in certain instances of time that, given the time, resources, or understanding, could be given a proper answer.
Proper cycle: unanswered question –> faith through it all –> answer/no answer –> (increased) faith –> unanswered question –> faith through it all –> answer/no answer –> (increased) faith –>...
B. Understand that doubt is never simply an intellectual problem.
We face a real enemy who hates us and wants to destroy our faith in God. We must, then, be on our guard, be honest about our questions, and go to God with them (as discussed above).
C. Understand that, if only for lack of time, we will never have all of our questions answered in this life. Therefore, “the key to victory in the Christian life is not having all of our questions answered, but learning to live with unanswered questions”.
We do this, Dr. Craig says, by exercising a healthy spiritual life (spiritual disciplines, prayer, Christian music, Bible reading, sharing your faith, fellowshipping with other believers, being involved in Christian service, etc.)
As God becomes more and more of a living reality in our lives, we prevent unanswered questions from becoming destructive doubts.
D. Finally, as you have the opportunity, take a specific question you have about the faith and “pursue it into the ground” until you come to intellectual satisfaction. This will surely help to increase your faith in Christ and help you to encourage the faith of others, as well.
So, do you have doubts? Don't sweat it. I have them, you have them, and they should never mean the end of our faith.
If you have a nagging doubt about the Christian faith, a story of victory over doubt, or another tip for dealing with doubt, leave it in the comment box below!