Step 3 – Dealing with Doubt
Hebrews 3:12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.
Doubt is something most people have to deal with. As I looked for answers as to why I have doubt in God, my mind started racing. I started by looking at the root of what my relationship with God was, and why He wants to have a relationship with me so badly. That’s right: God wants a relationship with me as much as I want one with Him, if not more.
1 John 4:9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.
I truly believe there is a distinctive difference between doubt and disbelief. In my case, I believe in God but I have moments of doubt. The ability to doubt gives me the opportunity to exercise my free will to believe or not believe in God.
The deeper I looked into the issues of doubt, the more I came to realize that God wants an honest relationship with me, not a forced one. In the past, I often wondered why God doesn’t just show Himself to everyone and be done with it. Think about it. If God were to just part the clouds and say, “Helloooo, everyone! That’s right, God here … I’m real!”, things would be much simpler, right? I don’t think so.
You see, God, in all of His infinite wisdom, understands the true meaning of a relationship. Sure, He could just appear to us if He wanted to and prove His existence, but then the relationship part would go away, at least the kind He desires. If He were to do this we would lose the free will that’s required for us to love Him by choice.
Why do we have a choice?
There was once a man, a very smart man, who lived a very lonely life. All he wanted was a relationship with someone he could love and in return that person would love him back.
One day the man decided he was smart enough to create a robot that would look and act exactly like a real person.
He spent months in the laboratory perfecting every last detail. The robot’s skin was soft and warm, the animatronics were perfect, and the body could move just like a real human’s. He even created a pump inside that simulated a heartbeat. It could laugh and cry, hug and comfort. Being as smart as he was, he had created the robot to be a female. She was perfect in every way.
The day finally came to activate the robot, and the man was very excited.
A few days after activating his new companion, it was time for an evening conversation and quality time. The two talked and laughed and everything was going great. So great, in fact, that the man looked into his creation’s eyes and said, “You make me so happy and for that I will always love you.” His companion then replied, “I will always love you too.”
In a rush of emotions, the man’s world came crashing down on him. Although he finally had what he always wanted, he now knew it was all an illusion. When he heard his new companion express its love for him, he realized it was just a programmed response. How could his creation really love him? Sadly, he began to understand that even with all his wisdom, he forgot the need for free will. His creation was just doing what it was told to do. It had no choice. The love couldn’t be real.
Don’t you think God was smart enough to think about this type of problem before He created us? Of course He was. So, what does this have to do with doubt? What did the man fail to consider when creating his robot? You see, God was smart enough to give us free will. This gives us the ability to choose if we want to love Him or simply turn our backs and walk away. By giving us the ability to choose, He knows that when we say we love Him, we really do.
If God were to simply appear to us demanding our love, we would lose our ability to make a choice. By His design, our relationship is built on faith, and faith requires us to believe in something even if there isn’t definitive proof of its existence. For me, I choose to believe in God, but because my relationship with Him is based on faith, sometimes I doubt.
Joshua 24:15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.
You see, in the story of the man and the robot, the one thing the man didn’t give his robot was a choice, free will. How can love mean anything if the one who expresses it only does so because it was told to? Is that love or just a programmed response?
Because God wants an honest relationship with us, He had to give us the choice to engage in that relationship or reject it. This is the only way He knows for sure that our love for Him is real.
One thing we need to be careful of is what we do with our doubt. As we all know, Satan is always looking for the opportunity to come between God and us. Doubt is one of the best weapons he can use to achieve this goal. If unchecked, he will use doubt to create disbelief. If you don’t think he will, think again.
Doubting God or me?
Doubt is a funny thing. I’ve been married to my wife for 23 years, and my love for her is almost unexplainable. She is one of the most compassionate and giving people I’ve ever met. Although rare these days, we still have our occasional spats, but what couple doesn’t?
I can see her, touch her, and physically hear her when she tells me she loves me. I can see direct results of her actions when she takes care of me. I can see the love in her eyes and hear it in her voice. When she holds me in her arms, I feel safe and comforted. Yet, there are times I doubt her love for me. How can this be? Well, I’ve discovered that my doubt isn’t in her, but in me. It’s not that I feel her love isn’t real, but sometimes I think I feel unworthy of her love. How could someone as wonderful as she is actually love someone like me? It dawned on me that almost every time I starting doubting God’s existence or love, I was thinking the same thing about Him.
Consider the story I told in the chapter on trust about Jen and Angela. Jen was convinced that Angela was disrespecting their relationship when she didn’t call as expected. As time went on, she began to doubt the friendship she had with Angela. Do you think she could have doubted their friendship because of a lack of self-worth?
Similarly, Satan will use our doubt to destroy our relationship with God. He will take the doubt or lack of self-worth and turn us into nonbelievers. He will do everything he can to increase our doubt, in whatever form it is, and pull us away from God.
Turning doubt into faith
The key in all of this, at least for me, was to decide what to do with my doubt. I began to recognize that a certain measure of doubt, just like our measure of faith, was actually a gift from God. My God is so awesome that He will allow me to reject Him if I want to. Obviously that isn’t my goal, but I could do it. I also have to believe that I am worthy of God’s love.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
I choose to take my doubt and use it as a tool to increase my faith. I use my doubt to push myself to look for more evidence of God’s existence. My doubt makes me ask more questions. It gives me the desire to learn more about God and why He created me.
I’ve read some teachings about doubt in which people advise you to actually put God to the test. There’s an example in the Bible in which Gideon had doubts of God’s existence so he decided to put God to the test (Judges 6:39). He threw a fleece on the ground and asked God to surround it with dew the next morning but leave the fleece dry. The next morning, dew was everywhere yet the fleece was dry. Today, when a Christian challenges God or puts Him to the test, it’s called “throwing out the fleece.” I’m not so sure this is the best approach, but it does help some people who struggle with doubt. I prefer to examine my past to find evidence of God’s existence.
A good human example of how doubt can affect anyone is John the Baptist. Jesus said, “Among those born of women, none is greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11). John spent a lot of time with Jesus. Well, eventually John found himself in prison because of his disapproval of King Herod’s adulterous affair with his brother’s wife, Herodias. King Herod eventually divorced his wife and married Herodias.
While in prison, John started to have doubts about Jesus, so he sent two of his disciples to Jesus to ask if He really is the Messiah. You have to understand that while John was in prison he had a lot of time to think, and it’s only natural that his mind would start to go to places like this. He wondered, if Jesus was “the one,” why He would let one of His disciples sit in jail.
When the disciples reached Jesus, they asked Him if He was “the one” or should they look for another. Jesus let the disciples watch Him perform some miraculous healings and then told them to go back to John and report what they’d seen. This was enough to stop John’s doubt. I think another thing that helped John overcome his doubt is the fact that he actually witnessed Jesus perform miracles firsthand.
Matthew 1:1-5 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
Another famous doubter, perhaps the single most famous doubter of all times, was Thomas. We all know the story of how Thomas doubted that it really was Jesus raised from the dead until he actually touched the nail holes in Jesus’ hands.
There is an expression, “Seeing is believing.” Well, Jesus understood that our human nature wants us to see something before we believe it. That’s why He had the disciples witness miracles and then report back to John—to remind him of what he had witnessed firsthand in the past. This is also why he let Thomas touch the nail holes in His hands.
After reading these stories, things started to make sense to me. The Bible clearly states that these two men, who actually walked and talked with Jesus, still had doubts. How could this be? Well, because they were human. Remember, God wants us to have an honest relationship with Him. He wants us to choose to love Him. In order for us to make a choice, the choice has to exist. The robot couldn’t doubt the man who created it because it wasn’t made that way. There was no free will and therefore no honest love.
Wagering on faith
In the early 1600s, there was a brilliant mathematician by the name of Blaise Pascal. When it came to God, he concluded there was no definitive way to prove or disprove His existence. When considering the option of believing in God or not, he decided it was safer to believe. His theory was simple: When the time comes for him to die, if he had believed in God’s existence, he would be safe. In addition, if he had believed in God, but when he died God really wasn’t there, it wouldn’t matter and nothing would be lost. This way of thinking is called Pascal’s Wager. It was his “safe bet.”
I’m not a fan of this way of thinking. I’m confident that God knows what’s really in our hearts. He didn’t create us to “play the odds.” That, to me, isn’t a relationship but an act of self-preservation.
I know that I long to have an intimate relationship with God, and I now understand that He wants one with me. So, in the end, I don’t think I’m a bad person for having doubt from time to time. I just need to make sure I always find my way back.
Dear Lord, please help me to better understand the nature of our relationship. Help me to understand that the doubt I feel from time to time doesn’t come from a lack of belief in You, and that doubt is actually part of my faith. When I have my moments of doubt, please remind me to use them as a way to grow closer to You, to find ways to increase my faith. Let me be reminded of John and Thomas and their relationships with You. Let me not be ashamed by my occasional doubt, but let me grow stronger each time I overcome it. Comfort me with the knowledge that even in my times of doubt you are there to protect me because that’s just how wonderful You are.
Thank You for the gift of free will and for allowing me the opportunity to worship You by choice. Thank You for wanting an individual and unique relationship with me that’s built on honest love. Please help me to appreciate this gift more and more each day
The next time you feel yourself doubting the existence of God or your relationship with Him, take a deep breath and try to slow things down. Don’t beat yourself up, because we all have our moments of doubt. The key is what you do with them. When doubt hits, dig deeper into the Word. Stay in communication with God and explain your doubt and how you feel.
Think about the moment you started to feel the doubt and ask yourself what may have caused it. Did something bad just happen? Did you ask God for something and feel like He didn’t answer your prayer? Are you around a lot of nonbelievers who might be influencing your thoughts?
Seek out another believer and be open about your doubt. Tell them what’s going on in your life and ask them how they’ve dealt with doubt in the past. Don’t hide from doubt; face it head on.