Faith and Doubt [Guest Post]

Kathy Stock Shares Her Journey of Faith

I’d like to thank Andrew for inviting me to participate on his blog. Andrew is a great writer and a passionate leader. I’ve read his interesting thoughts and teachings and have personally benefited from the discussions I’ve seen afterward between people on different sides of many different issues.

Faith and Doubt - Kathy Stock

I am a lover of conversation. As a flaming extrovert, I thrive off of the company of others. Drop me in a room full of strangers and I’ll leave with a long list of new friends.

This temperament of mine has served me well, especially as a musician and public speaker but it has its downside. I share a bit too easily, I care a bit too recklessly and I am dramatically affected by the thoughts and feelings of others.

Wearing my hungry heart on the outside of my sleeve has served me both well and negatively in ministry. I’ve been a Christian my whole life. I am told I came to know Jesus at the ripe ol’ age of two when I knelt beside my mother and wanted to do what my five-year-old sister did at church that day. So, at five and two, we surrendered our sin-laden lives to the Lord, knowing full well the gravity of that decision and went forth, sinning no more.

Just kidding.

We had no idea what we were doing!

Yet, I remained ingrained in Christ, and He in me, from then until now…sometimes fervently on fire for the gospel, sometimes gripping tightly with white knuckles while doubt all but swallows me whole.

Faith is a rough and beautiful sea of bluish, grayish waves that toss and stir and ebb and flow. Click To TweetWhat I have learned is that faith isn’t a black and white issue. Faith is a rough and beautiful sea of bluish, grayish waves that toss and stir and ebb and flow. It’s complicated and beautiful and terrifying and filled with unknowns.

I’ve done a lot of living for a thirty-three year old woman. I was married at twenty, a mother at twenty-two and again at twenty-six. I’m a published author. I have lived in two countries, three states, two provinces, and have changed addresses thirteen times in the last thirteen years.

I’m a musician who performs (unapologetically) secular music during the week and joyfully leads worship in a congregation I love on Sunday mornings (Spruce Hills).

I had cancer while my children were two and six years old and have been in remission for three and a half years.

I recently went back to school, where I sit in classrooms surrounded by other students who are closer to my son’s age than my own.

What has stayed consistent (outside of the love of my family) is my belief in Jesus. Click To TweetLife has been more interesting than I can properly articulate in one blog post and I have had some high highs and some low lows along the way but what has stayed consistent (outside of the love of my family) is my belief in Jesus.

Ironically, (and perhaps I’m over sharing here, in true Kathy form) I am writing this during an intense season of doubt.

Some do not believe that faith and doubt can co-exist but I am living, breathing evidence that they indeed can. I embody both. The disciples embodied both. John the Baptist embodied both, and he saw the sky open up and watched a dove appear out of nowhere, landing on Jesus and then heard God audibly say, “This is MY SON” and he STILL questioned who Jesus was from the darkness of his prison cell. If John the Baptist can doubt, and still be labeled by Jesus as one of the greatest human beings ever, certainly we can too (Luke 3:21-22; 7:18f).

This truth has brought an enormous amount of comfort to me as I navigate life, especially in my thirties. For the majority of my twenties, I lived in the Southern USA or the ‘Bible belt’ as it is sometimes referred.

I was so entrenched in church and church culture that I didn’t have one friend that wasn’t a Christian. I worked at church, sang at church, socialized at church…and the energy that I should have spent going out into the world and being Jesus to people was instead spent arguing about theology with other Christians.

My faith was very, very strong during that season but I wasn’t fulfilling the great commission. I wasn’t being Jesus.

When I was twenty-eight, my little family of four immigrated back to Newfoundland with nothing but the clothes on our backs and six suitcases in our hands. We settled swiftly and I quickly realized that I wasn’t in the ‘Bible belt’ anymore…and I was quite honestly relieved… so I set out to meet as many different people in as many different places as I could.

I began playing music at events and restaurants, eventually landing a permanent gig at a piano bar in downtown St. John’s (The Fifth Ticket).

After I finished chemotherapy and began my remission from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I set out to meet as many young adult cancer survivors as I could, and pour into their lives in a way I so desperately needed when I was sick. No hidden agenda, no bait and switch to evangelize…just living out love in the way that Jesus has asked us to and seeing what happens. Faith, usually, naturally comes up in conversation.

Through all of this, I have met so many different kinds of friends. People from varying spiritual, religious, socio-economic backgrounds, same sex couples, single parents, transgendered men and women…I’ve met ex-cons and CEOS, reconnected with people I knew from high school and been blown away by how we have all developed and evolved throughout the years.

There isn’t anyone you couldn’t have empathy for if you took the time to learn their story. Click To TweetAnd through all of these encounters I have learned one very valuable lesson: There isn’t anyone you couldn’t have empathy for if you took the time to learn their story.

Breaking through the Christian bubble that I had created for myself has opened my heart and mind up to a world of doubt and questions that challenge me on a daily basis.

They challenge how I raise my children and the words I speak behind the microphone on Sunday mornings…but it has also allowed me the powerful opportunity to be Christ to people who haven’t experienced Him in a real way. Not by preaching at or fighting with or segregating myself from them, but by doing life shoulder to shoulder with them and seeing what God does through relationship.

I’m finding the older I get, the less I can claim to know for sure but the more O.K. I am with not knowing.  As exhausting as it is, doubt is worth wrestling with.

There are many days when I wonder whether any of this is legitimate at all, but I rest in the words of John 6:68, when Jesus asked Peter if he was going to leave and Peter responded, “Lord, to what person could we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

When doubt creeps in...I choose Jesus with my head and my heart eventually follows. Click To TweetWhen doubt creeps in, or bursts the door down, I choose Jesus with my head and my heart eventually follows. When I am challenged by the non-sense that is grace, the arrogance that is self-sufficiency, the ridiculousness that is child-like faith, I cling with both hands to Jesus!

I recently heard someone say that the opposite of faith isn’t doubt.  The opposite of faith is certainty…because what do the certain need with faith? The Bible says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for,” and my hope is in Jesus (Hebrews 11:1).

There is no one else for me. None but Jesus.

When We Doubt God’s Plan

Christian Doubt, Part 4

I remember growing up hearing, “pray in faith…your faith will heal [or provide for] you…”  Conversely, if someone was not healed or provided for, the response was, “you did not have enough faith.”  As I grew as a Christian, so did my questions.  If God has a special plan for me (Psalm 139:16) and works all things together for the good (Romans 8:28), why would my faith, or lack of faith, solely dictate whether God would heal or provide for me?  Is my doubt a lack of faith, or can my faith even exist without doubt?  If you believe in the omnipotence of God, the question is never if God can do something; rather, why God has or hasn’t done something.  When we doubt God’s plan, we must refocus our attention towards the gospel, and trust God’s all-sufficient grace will help us while God uses our weaknesses to show His glory.

Christian Doubt, Part 4

I offer two examples of leaders in scripture who either had doubt, or had questions about God’s plan, and why they had to go through it.

1. John the Baptist doubted Jesus’ plan when he was in prison.

Jesus said there was no one greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11), and yet after Jesus started his ministry, John was arrested and Jesus did nothing about it.  John prepared the way for Jesus, and Jesus continued his ministry while John was in Herod’s prison.  John did what most of us would do ? he questioned if Jesus was in fact the Messiah.  He sent messengers to ask Jesus and Jesus responded with:

 4“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:4-6)

When we face doubt, we have to keep our focus on the purpose of the gospel Click To TweetWhat a response! God’s Kingdom was being established (insert all the amazing things that were happening), and yet “blessed is the one who is not offended by me?”  Everyone else is getting help, but the one who prepared the way, is left in prison.  The word offended is translated from the Greek word skandaliz? which means “cause to sin, or make someone stumble.”1  Jesus was more about serving those who were lost, than he was about saving those who already knew.  It was more about serving and less about conquering.  John may have been looking and hoping for a conqueror to free him from prison, and doubted who Jesus was when that did not happen.  In reality, Jesus was explaining that the Kingdom was being established and blessed are those who believe and follow, even when circumstances seem to be uncertain (ie. doubt).

If you keep reading, you’ll find out John was never released from prison and was eventually beheaded.   In order for the Kingdom of servanthood to continue to be established, Jesus did or didn’t do things that could cause someone to doubt and stumble.  When we face doubt, we have to keep our focus on the purpose of the gospel – bringing life to those who are lost.  If we do, we will be blessed.

2. Paul doubted why God wouldn’t remove his “thorn in the flesh.”

Paul was one of the first Christian leaders who wrote nearly a third of our present day New Testament.  You would think that God would provide him with a peaceful and pleasant life.  When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, however, he shared that he was tormented by a “thorn…in the flesh.”

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

We don’t know what Paul’s “thorn” was.  It could have been anything from a physical ailment to persecution from his opposition to a severe temptation.2 In any case, the issue was significant enough to cause him consistent grief.  What’s even more significant, is the fact that the “thorn” was given, or at least permitted, by God.3  If that doesn’t lead to unanswered questions (doubt), I don’t know what will.

So, what did Paul do? He pleaded with God.  In fact, he did so three times – asking that it would be removed from his life.  What did God do?  He responded to Paul.  In fact, he did so in such a way that He brought purpose and strength to the pain.  This is so encouraging to me:

  1. I can plea with the Lord, for pain to be removed, without compromising my spirituality. I can process my doubt by engaging in dialogue with God.
  2. God will respond. I may not hear what I want to hear, but God is willing and ready to respond with what I need to hear.
  3. God’s grace is sufficient. I may not think God understands, but his grace is all I need as I process my doubt.

God’s saving grace is fully shown when He uses broken people for His glory! Click To TweetI’m sure we’ve all had moments and situations when we wondered why God would allow us to go through painful experiences.  For Paul, it meant showcasing how great God is by showing how God used Paul and his weaknesses.  So much so that Paul took joy in boasting in his struggle because he knew that his success, paired with his pain, would point to Christ.

9…Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

If there’s one thing that Paul’s testimony should tell the church today, it’s this: God’s saving grace is fully shown when He uses broken people for His glory!

To Conclude

We will never fully understand why God does or doesn’t do certain things.  Levels of doubt will continue to surround many of life’s circumstances.  In fact, it almost feels impossible to actually live for God when the plan seems so uncertain.

The pain of losing a job, battling cancer, an unfaithful spouse, persecution, chronic illness, losing a loved one, family tensions, addictions, or…I’m sure you can fill-in the blank, are all so overwhelming that it’s difficult to see any form of good.  I think the key is to step back, revisit how God has blessed us with grace, and realize that this life is temporary.  God is establishing His Kingdom and when we find ourselves doubting God’s plan we have to refocus on the goal – to save the lost, and trust in God’s all-sufficient grace to carry us through when God’s plan doesn’t make sense to us.

Whether we find ourselves doubting God’s truth, voice, or even plan, we have to give ourselves enough space in order for us to process our doubts.  While we do so, we can live knowing that God is waiting for us and willing to provide us with an all-sufficient grace that will help us take faith-filled steps as we grow towards maturity.

Check out Part 3 of this series – “When We Doubt God’s Voice”

Your turn…

Have you ever doubted God’s plan?  Did you let doubt pull you closer to God or push God away?

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

References   [ + ]

When We Doubt God’s Voice

Christian Doubt, Part 3

Have you ever heard God’s voice?  What was your response?  I remember the first time I heard God’s voice.  I did nothing.  That’s right ? nothing.  It sounded like something and I was somewhat confident it was God, and yet I dismissed it.  You could say it was because it was the first time it occurred, or I was on a journey of understanding, but if I’m honest, there are still times when I question what God is saying to me.  The issue is not doubting if God can speak; rather, if it’s God I’m hearing.  In a world where God is not respected or even, at times, acknowledged, God’s voice is difficult to hear and understand.

Christian Doubt, Part 3

I’m reminded of Gideon. Gideon was one of the judges before Israel had a king.  During this time, the Israelites were rebelling against God, let alone the pagan cultures around them.  Their cycle of spirituality was very similar to the cycle of many today: rebel against God, experience pain, cry out to God for help, God sends help, and when things are better, rebel once again.  Sound familiar?  It was in that atmosphere, that God spoke to Gideon, and challenged him to do the impossible act of saving Israel from the hand of their enemy (Judges 6-7).

Let’s look at how Gideon responded to God’s voice.  Here are three things we can learn:

1. Gideon initially responded with questions.

God ensured Gideon that He was with them and would bring them through the trial they were facing.  But Gideon responded with questions: “Pardon me… but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13)

I couldn’t relate more to Gideon.  How many times has God put a promise and a challenge in my lap, and my response has been, “why now?”, or “where were you when I needed you?”

In response, God asked Gideon another question: “Am I not sending you?” (6:14) Gideon responded with more doubt: “But how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (6:15).

Not only was Gideon doubting God’s activity among them, he also doubted his ability to help.  I think we often doubt how much God can use us.  As a result, we push away God’s calling on our lives.  What Gideon didn’t know was that God was about to show the Israelites, and everyone around them, His omnipotence, by defeating the Midianites with only 300 men (7:2; 7-8).  God wants to show his glory by qualifying the called.  (We’ll explore how God uses our weaknesses for His glory in Part 4)

2. God patiently waits.

Gideon wanted a sign to confirm that this was indeed God’s voice.  If you couldn’t relate up to this point, I’m sure you can now.  How many times have I asked God to confirm what I’m, “pretty sure”, I’m hearing.

It’s encouraging to know that, when we doubt God’s voice, He patiently waits for us. Click To TweetGod’s response to Gideon’s request for a sign has given me so much encouragement:

17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”

And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.” (Judges 6:17-18)

It’s not until after God revealed his power through an angel by miraculously consuming Gideon’s offering, that Gideon began to really acknowledge God’s voice (6:19-24).  It’s encouraging to know that, when we doubt God’s voice, He patiently waits for us.  In fact, God is willing to be so patient, that he allows us to process our doubts as He waits.

Gideon responded with his famous request: the sign of the fleece.  He was about to take an army into action and needed further confidence.

36 Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised—37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” 38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.

39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew. (Judges 6:36-40)

God’s patience with Gideon is truly remarkable.  God waited, proved himself, and confirmed twice to Gideon that the call he was hearing was indeed God and God’s promise.

3. Gideon’s moments of doubt led to faith-filled steps.

Gideon’s journey, as he processed his doubt, led Him to different moments of action.  Gideon doubted God’s voice because of God’s recent lack of activity; however, when an angel appeared before him, he responded with worship and prepared an altar for God (6:22-24).  Gideon doubted his ability to save his fellow Israelites; however, when God called, he took a step forward to destroy his father’s altar for Baal and replaced it with an altar for God (6:25-32).  Gideon doubted God’s promise of saving them from the Midianites; however, when God confirmed through the sign of the fleece, Gideon stepped forward and began to gather as many men as he could (6:36-7:1).

God is patient, but He expects us to take action. #Doubt #FaithSteps Click To TweetIt’s one thing to doubt and dialogue with God accordingly; it’s another thing, to remain in the state of doubt without taking faith-filled steps forward.  After all, it’s our doubt and uncertainty that causes us to walk in faith.1  If we had all the answers we wouldn’t need faith.

God is patient, but He expects us to take action.

How do we move forward?

When God told my wife and me that we had to move away for school, I was full of doubt.  I wanted to ignore God’s voice at all costs, but I’m thankful that God was patient with me.  He simply waited as I processed my doubt.  I remember challenging God with “an impossible test” – a transfer to Toronto with my current employer.  Not only did I receive the transfer, but also a promotion.  God waited and I was able to process.  God provided and I had a choice to either ignore or to take a faith-filled step forward.  Even when we made the decision to move, I still wasn’t all-in.  There were many more doubts I had to process, but God continued to wait, let me process, and provided ways for me to step forward.

God waits for us to process our doubt & gives us...faith-filled steps towards maturity. Click To TweetIt’s alright to dialogue with God – it’s called discerning.  God is willing and waiting for us to process the doubts we have.  God’s voice may not always make sense, but He will empower us to do the impossible. He often uses the weak to prove our accomplishments are beyond our own ability.  After all, why would God do the impossible if it didn’t lead back to Him?

I believe the key is to take the answer(s) we receive and take one faith-filled step at a time.  Like the Psalmist said, “[God’s] Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).  God will wait for us to process our doubt and we have to respond by taking one faith-filled step at a time.

When we doubt God’s voice, God waits for us to process our doubt and gives us the ability to take faith-filled steps towards maturity.

Check out Part 2 of this series – “When We Doubt God’s Truth”

Your turn…

How do you process doubt?  Do you know God’s voice?  If you do, how do you discern God’s voice?

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

References   [ + ]

When We Doubt God’s Truth

Christian Doubt, Part 2

We’re told not to doubt, and yet Christians still doubt. Is there something missing from our equation of Christian living?  Why do some believers seem to question God’s truth?  If we have the faith we say we have, why is doubt still a part of our lives?  Even if the action of “doubting” is somewhat different for everyone, I think we all could agree it surrounds our lack of answers for our many questions.

Christian Doubt, Part 2

Let’s look at Thomas’s struggle with doubt found in John 20.  This story is found just after the other disciples saw Jesus following the resurrection.

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29)

Here are four things we can learn from this story:

1. Jesus’ disciples doubted on their journey of belief.

We experience faith by processing our doubt over time. Click To TweetSometimes we forget this obvious truth.  Even though the disciples dropped what they were doing to follow Jesus, it took a while before they actually expressed signs of belief.  I’m not actually sure it’s fair to say thoughts of doubt ever left the disciples.  There were glimpses of belief, (John 16:29-31) and yet doubt led Judas to take matters into his own hands and betray Jesus,(18:1-11) and led Peter to deny Christ just after he was arrested (18:15-27).  We experience faith by processing our doubt over time.

2. Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples when they saw Jesus.

We have to give ourselves and others some mercy as we process our doubt. Click To TweetI almost feel bad for Thomas.  The other disciples would clearly believe before he did – they SAW Jesus in person.  I think if I were Thomas, I would have been very upset with them and the whole situation.  After all, their mentor and teacher had just been crucified and now they were saying they just saw him alive! His doubt was based on something that just didn’t make sense.  We have to give ourselves and others some mercy as we process our doubt.

3. Processing doubt takes time.

There’s a journey from the first time we hear about the risen Jesus to when we actually believe. Click To TweetScripture specifically states that it was eight days before Thomas had a physical encounter with Jesus.  I certainly wouldn’t read into the meaning of eight days; however, some scholars have pointed out that eight people were saved on the ark, and that Jewish boys were circumcised on the eighth day.1  Perhaps we could loosely identify Thomas’ journey of eight days as a sort of new beginning, just like the eight were saved on the ark (1 Peter 3:20) and the eight days prior to a Jewish boy’s ceremonial covenant (Genesis 17:12; Philippians 3:5).

We could never use this timeframe, however, as an absolute for everyone today.  The point is: there’s a journey from the first time we hear about the risen Jesus to when we actually believe.  Those “eight days” represent the space we need to process our doubt.

4. The disciples saw with their eyes; we see with our faith.

Faith is not seeing Jesus' nail-scarred hands & yet allowing them to transform us from the inside-out Click To TweetThe disciples had the opportunity to physically witness Jesus with their eyes.  Christians today, however, can only experience Jesus with faith. Faith is not seeing Jesus’ nail-scarred hands, and yet allowing His nail-scarred hands to transform us from the inside-out.  This kind of transformation is a life-long journey of faith with Jesus.  And, according to Jesus, those who believe without seeing are blessed (John 20:29).  Because of this dynamic, having faith in Christ requires us to process our doubt so that our faith can guide us in the right direction.  Otherwise, without that space, our doubt may actually push us further away from God’s truth.

How do we respond?

I love how Jude simply instructed the early Church: “be merciful to those who doubt” (Jude 1:22). He was helping the Church protect the faith by ensuring that mature believers would help and encourage new believers.  Jude knew what it meant to doubt – it took him (and Jesus’ other half siblings) even longer to figure out the faith than it did for Thomas.  As a result, we need to respond in one of two ways:

  1. If we find ourselves doubting:

We need to remember that processing our doubt helps to develop our faith and understanding of God’s truth, and that process takes time.  If we continue to mature in the faith, we may not doubt the same things we did yesterday; however, because we’re human, we will experience new doubt tomorrow.  The key is allowing for space to process the uncertainty we face.

  1. If we find ourselves mentoring someone who is doubting:

We need to remember that showing them mercy as they process their doubt will help develop their faith.  Unfortunately, we are sometimes quick to put pressure on Christians during this process.  I believe if Thomas wasn’t given eight days, he would have been less likely to accept the faith he eventually stood for with his life.2  We need to show mercy and give space.

When we doubt God’s truth, we must choose to give ourselves & others space to process our doubt. Click To TweetBecause we live in a world with so much spiritual tension, it’s vital the Church figures out how to manage doubt.  John Ortberg calls uncertainty a gift “because it gnaws at us to pursue truth.  As hunger prompts our stomach to find food, doubts prompt our minds to find reality.”3  This, however, takes time.  When we doubt God’s truth, we must choose to give ourselves and others the space we need to process our doubt so we can build a stronger faith.

Check out Part 1 of this series – “What is doubt and is it sinful?”

Your turn…

Have you ever doubted God’s truth?  How do you process doubt?

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

References   [ + ]

What is doubt and is it sinful?

Christian Doubt, Part 1

If I had a dollar for how many times I thought those words as I wrote this blog series, I could retire now!  Just because I’ve been a Christian most of my life, have two degrees, and now pastor a church, I still don’t have all the answers.  I never will.  In fact, as many have said before, “the more I learn, the more I realize how little I actually know.”  At the end of the day, it is this lack of knowledge that forms the basis of my doubt.

Christian Doubt, Part 1

I think if we were all honest for a minute, we would ALL realize we experience some levels of doubt.  Unfortunately, the word doubt seems to have negative connotations and therefore, when we experience doubt, we either keep it locked up inside, or count ourselves as unspiritual.  As a point of introduction to this series, I’d like to help define what doubt really is and set some of the ground work for the next three parts.

  1. Doubts are unanswered questions.

Doubt is simply processing the things we don’t know for certain.1 Depending on our spiritual journey, our uncertainty could be anything from whether or not God is real, to why God doesn’t always heal those who are sick.

  1. Doubt is natural, not necessarily sinful.

I read an article recently about how some people aren’t physically healed.  Unfortunately, in years past, we have made people believe that doubt is a sort of spiritual disease that somehow blocks us from God’s healing power.2  This is simply not the case.  Doubt is a natural experience that flows out of our humanity, and causes us to think and act accordingly.  The only possible sinful activity, would be how we chose to process that doubt – we’ll explore this further in the series.

  1. Doubt is not the same as unbelief.

We tend to associate doubt with unbelief because they are closely related.  Just because we doubt, however, doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t believe.  I’m reminded of the father and son found in Mark 9:23-25.  The son needed to be healed from an unclean spirit.  Jesus said he could be healed if he believed.  The father responded honestly: “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). John Ortberg wrote it this way: “I believe and I doubt.  I hope and I fear. I pray and I waver.  I ask and I worry.  I believe; help my unbelief.”3  The father both believed and doubted, and Jesus still answered them by healing the son.  Our doubt and belief is much more encouraging and complicated than we might think.

Depending on where we are on our journey of faith, we all experience both belief and doubt.  For example, a new Christian may believe in Jesus and His redemptive work in his/her life, but may doubt the idea of the Trinity.  It doesn’t mean they don’t believe in the one and only God, it simply means they have not yet understood how one God can simultaneously exist in three relational ways.  Likewise, a Christian may know for certain that God CAN heal; however, may be uncertain of why their loved one (a faithful Christian) was not healed, while their neighbour (an unbeliever) was healed.  It doesn’t mean they don’t believe in God’s ability; rather, they are processing their doubt (uncertainty) regarding God’s activity. It’s a spiritual journey.

  1. We tend to associate our doubt with failure and not growth.

At the end of the day, our doubt will propel us to choose between two directions.  We can either allow our doubt to push us further away from God, or we can allow ourselves, and others, the space we need, to process our doubt, and to bring us closer to God.  If we choose the latter, we choose discipleship.  As a result, our doubt leads us on our journey of growth, rather than describing our failure.

I spent a long time trying to figure out the best way to approach such an important discussion.  While examples, stories and ideas play a major part in our Christian journey, the next three posts will focus first and foremost on four biblical examples of how we should process our doubt:

Part Two: “When We Doubt God’s Truth” (Exploring “Doubting” Thomas’ journey of faith).
Part Three: “When We Doubt God’s Voice” (Gideon’s uncertainty of God’s voice).
Part Four: “When We Doubt God’s Plan” (How John the Baptist and Paul questioned God’s plan).

Your turn…

How have you viewed your doubt?

My prayer for this series is that it will help us process our doubt so we can grow spirituality and become more mature in the faith.  Along the way, I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment, or send me an email (andrewholm@gmail.com).

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