Uncertainty, as opposed to denial, of religious truths. To waver. To lack confidence in. Distrust.
Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms
In the sciences, doubt is encouraged. Doubt ignites the fire of curiosity, which fuels scientific exploration, which produces important discoveries. On the other hand, doubt in religious circles, is typically frowned upon. The person who expresses doubt in faith is considered weak, and likened to an unbeliever. In the media, well, we have learned to doubt everything. We question motives and context, we read between the lines for covert agendas; we have become more critical thinkers. Doubt can, potentially, motivate us to search further and deeper for an understanding of our faith. While doubt can propel us deeper into our faith walk, it can also hinder our growth. Though doubt of men’s motives and deeds leads us to more sound judgment, doubt of God’s goodness and love leads us to destruction and death.
Doubt that destroys…
The presence of doubt in our hearts should cause us to immediately stop and take time for reflection and contemplation. We must first ask, what has caused me to cast doubt on my faith? Difficult circumstances, with hard questions and even harder answers cause us to doubt the goodness of God. This is the doubt that leads us to destruction. Why? We know, because the Holy Spirit lives within us, that God is good; that His Word is truth; that He is our Father, and He loves us unconditionally. God reassures us, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed (do not doubt), for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). (Paraphrase added). When doubt creeps into our hearts, it is because the response we are required, as believers, to have towards our circumstance, is counter cultural. This is the lie the world tells us, that doing what is right and good is “against the grain”. We waver, not because God’s Word is untrue, but because the world’s voice is so loud and relentless. Jesus says, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:19).
Doubting the truth of God because we are called to do something unpopular, is a lie. It is a lie that we tell ourselves deep in our hearts; a lie that corrodes our souls from the inside, out.
“God didn’t say anything about this, so I’m good.”
“This isn’t that bad. It’s not like I’m a murderer or something!”
“But, Sally from church did the same thing…”
The Bible is very clear on many things, on the issues that are not mentioned, we are told “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). When we doubt God’s promises because we think our circumstances are beyond His understanding, we sin.
Doubt that delivers…
Doubt that is directed towards God, by men, is a sin. But the Bible doesn’t address all the issues of today – at least not directly. The Bible doesn’t mention Twitter, Facebook, or proper email etiquette. Identity theft wasn’t a problem in the days of the ‘begats.’ Abortion wasn’t yet an issue, because of the value placed on having a large family. It is difficult to know what to do, according to God’s word, in response to these “new” issues. The book of Jude, however, reminds the church to remain vigilant, to keep strong in the faith, and to oppose heresy (Life Application Bible). The very premise of the book of Jude, is doubt. He warns that we must doubt teachings that are contrary to the Truth; we must doubt people who seem too sweet and agreeable. Their motives are impure; they do not have the Spirit (Jude 1:19).
In the early days of the church, false doctrines were being taught, and many of the disciples were sent out to encourage the growing church body. After being stoned nearly to death, Paul went along with Barnabas and preached to several other cities, saying “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” (Acts 14:22). He did not want doubt of the Lord to creep into the new church. He knew that the Gospel was a message of hope, coupled with suffering. Being unpopular and suffering persecution for our beliefs takes gumption, therefore, we must show mercy to those who doubt (Jude 1:22). The road to the kingdom of God is a difficult path to follow. We are called to strengthen one another, to encourage each other and build each another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Doubt, therefore, opens the door for relationships within the body of Christ. However, the first relationship we must pursue is with God, through prayer.
Pain is weakness leaving the body.
If you have ever been to the gym sometime during the months of January through March, you have likely seen many people pushing their poor bodies to the limits! Within a few days, many of those same people can barely lift their gym bags even to go to the gym. They had no doubt of their strength when everyone was watching them do their leg presses and biceps curls, but just days later they doubted their judgment in pushing so hard! The smarter, more committed gym-goers know their limitations. Through experience, they know just how hard to push so that they are making progress without injury; they know their bodies.
Sometimes, we doubt our own strength. Even mighty Samson, a man who probably looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger, or who may have been even more impressive, prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more,” (Judges 16:28). This kind of doubt is an open invitation for God to come and show Himself to us, to perform miracles, to strengthen us! When we doubt, we are weak, yet, we are made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Painful circumstances help us realize that we cannot live this life in seclusion. Prayer is a “face-to-face relationship with God” (Core Christianity, 61).
What to do with doubt…
If there is doubt in our heart, we need to find out where it is coming from. Most likely, a lie has been planted and is taking root. The first step in overcoming doubt, is to doubt the lie itself! Then we should reach out and join with other believers in studying the Word of God to find the truth of the matter. The Bible says that where three or more gather in Christ’s name, He will be there (Matthew 18:20). Together, we can pray, asking God to strengthen us, and believing that He will show up in a mighty way to disprove the lie.
Remember the disciple Thomas, who doubted the resurrection? Jesus showed up and proved the truth of the matter, saying, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27).