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Dealing With Doubt About God

Why do people doubt God? Some doubt God exists, others doubt he cares all that much about us, and some question his very goodness. If you have doubts about God, you’re in good company. Everyone from the disciples of Jesus to 20th century saints have had their doubts about God in one way or another.

In fact, if you’ve never had doubts, you probably haven’t thought all that much about your faith. Even more importantly, if you’ve never doubted God, you probably haven’t grown all that much as a Christian.

Fuller Theological Seminary conducted a study of young adults who left church after high school. The researchers came to this conclusion: “The more college students felt they had the opportunity to express their doubt while they were in high school, the higher [their] level of faith maturity and spiritual maturity” (www.fulleryouthinstitute.org/college-transition).

Still, not all doubt is productive, so you have to know the difference between doubt that will help you grow spiritually and doubt that will hold you back.

It’s a good thing when you doubt or question something you hear or read about God that just doesn’t seem right. When the apostle Paul and his ministry partner came to the region of Berea to do some teaching, the people “received the message with great eagerness.” But they had some doubts, so they “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). Rather than take offense, Paul commended them.

Just because someone claims to have the truth doesn’t mean they do. Doubt motivates you to sort truth from error. That’s the essence of productive doubt. But doubt can also play a negative role in your life. If the Bereans had simply said to Paul, “We don’t believe you,” and then failed to do their due diligence, their doubt would have been uninformed and counterproductive.

Bottom line: if your doubts about God drive you to find the truth, then it’s a very good thing. But if your doubts are immobilizing you and keeping from God, that’s not good.

So how do you deal with doubt in a productive and life-changing way? Here are some suggestions:

  • If the issue is a lack of information or knowledge, you need to do some study. There’s more to faith than knowledge, but without knowledge, your faith will be overly dependent on your feelings.
  • If the issue is a lack of understanding, ask God to give you wisdom. And guess what? He will do it (James 1:5). Spiritual understanding is a little different than knowledge in that you don’t get it by doing research. It comes through the Holy Spirit, and that means we have to ask for it (1 Corinthians 1:9).
  • If your issue with doubt is unbelief, then you need to ask God for help. Once a man brought his son to Jesus for healing, but he struggled to believe it was possible. “Everything is possible for one who believes,” Jesus told him. And the man replied, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24).
  • If the issue is disillusionment, fear, or discouragement, you may need spiritual refreshment. Often a spiritual retreat or conference can be just what you need when you spiritual gas tank is low. Or you may just need to ask some stronger and more mature Christians to help you. 
Whatever you do to bolster your faith, make sure you include the Word of God. As the psalmist David writes, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (Psalm 19:7).

Most of all, ask God for help. He is the ultimate encourager, prayer partner, teacher, and mentor. When you have doubts about God, go directly to the source. Ask him and he will answer.

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About
Christianity 101 is a collection of books and digital resources by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz that talk about God in a way that encourages people to grow in their faith.