Christian Doubt: Is It Good or Bad?
Should We Exemplify the Doubt of Thomas? The World’s View Over God’s View?
"The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." (KJV)
I can understand the need Thomas had to see and to feel the nail scars of Jesus before believing. It is human to have doubt, and it takes a great amount of faith to believe without seeing.
But faith, without seeing, is exactly what God asks us to have. It is what we must have to help us through times of trial and suffering. I have gone through a lot of suffering in my life, and everything that I have gone through has made me a stronger person. A stronger believer in God. If I accepted the world’s view of how I should feel about suffering, I would most likely feel victimized and angry because of the amount of suffering I’ve had to endure in my life. If I didn’t know God’s perspective with regard to my suffering, I would probably be harboring hatred and bitterness towards anyone and everyone who I felt might have played a role leading to my suffering. But that is not the way of God. The way of God is to forgive and to grow stronger through suffering. I believe, therefore, that instead of looking to the world for answers when we encounter doubt and unbelief, we need to look to God. We need hold more steadfast than ever before to our faith, and not allow doubt to shake our ultimate and proven belief in God and His Holy Word.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
In 1 John 2:15-17 (above), and in James 4:4, God’s inspired Word says anyone who desires to be a friend of the world makes himself or herself an enemy of God. There are things God allows us to go through that the world says we should avoid at any and all costs. For example, the world tells us in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that it is wrong to go through suffering. It even offers every conceivable luxury for those who can afford them, to avoid even the slightest hint of suffering. But God tells us that suffering can be beneficial; something we need to go through from time to time on our way to spiritual perfection. Job suffered unspeakable losses, and yet he did not turn away from God as Satan predicted he would. Jesus suffered and died on the cross at Calvary, and because He lived and died for us, He has both empathy and sympathy for us when we are going through our times of suffering.
Romans 3:3 “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” (KJV)
Remember the story about the science experiment that used two frogs placed inside a pot of water sitting on a stove? The first frog was put into hot water that was already boiling. As soon as his body touched the water, he hopped out of the pot, immediately. The water was so hot the frog’s instincts and reflexes saved him from certain death.
The second frog was placed inside a pot of cold water sitting on the stove burner. The water was cool and comfortable, so he didn’t hop out. He just chilled while doing the backstroke, thoroughly enjoying his own little private wading pool. But what the second frog didn’t know was that the water was being slowly heated. He didn’t hop out because he sensed no immediate danger. The soothing feel, first of cool water and then luxuriously warm water, anesthetized his natural instincts and reflexes. Because the water was heating slowly, he didn’t detect the danger he was in. It's no wonder, then, that only a few short minutes later, the second frog was dead. The increasing temperature of the water caught him off guard--and he boiled to death.
The world and all it has to offer can lure us into a false sense of security, causing us to forget that the pot we’re in is located on top of a hot stove burner. It can make us forget that God is a jealous God who will turn away from us when we deny and turn away from Him. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, it is written, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy.” When God turns away leaving us to our own understanding, it can often take a lot of suffering and strife to bring us back to God.
For Christians, Unattended Doubt is Dangerous
When it comes to Christian beliefs, the doubt we sometimes struggle with can be compared to the second frog’s short-lived and luxurious wading pool. When doubt is not acknowledged and dealt with, it can lead us to believe in "unsound" doctrine. When we don’t acknowledge the discomfort caused by doubt, when we ignore it, tiny chasms become opened up in our faith. Chasms that can allow worldly, non-Christian beliefs and ways to gradually seep into our subconscious and into our conscious mind, challenging and attempting to destroy our belief and faith in God and in the inerrant truth of His holy and inspired Word.
Unattended doubt is an important weapon used by God’s fallen angel. Doubt is his artillery, something he hopes will come into our lives causing us to become anesthetized by what the world offers. He wants us to allow our doubt to have the same effect of that frog’s little private wading pool—offering us something cool and comfortable, offering the visible as the only “plausible” reality. His hope is that doubt will overwhelm us to the point where we will ultimately accept the world and its offerings as being “all there is.”
For this reason, when we allow the world to “doctor” our doubt, we’re allowing mankind to define right and wrong for us—and in doing so, we slowly but surely lose the capacity to think for ourselves using God’s discernment and wisdom. Like the second frog, we allow ourselves to be boiled to death, slowly. Doubt and unbelief slowly replaces the passion we should be using in our service and obedience to God. Feeling overwhelmed by doubt, we give in to the simple, comforting provisions the world and mankind offer as an “easy out,” and that easy out then submerges us, drowning us in even more doubt and unbelief.
For this reason, doubt must be replaced by assurance about the promises of God, and that assurance can only be found in God's Word.
Take Care that Doubt Does Not Become Unbelief . . .
Doubt is one thing. Allowing it to progress into unbelief is something else. When doubt is allowed to fester and to become unbelief, it can cause us to begin to look for and to find people and things that are not God to believe in while, at the same time, we’re trying to fulfill a God-given need to believe in something greater than ourselves. When unattended, doubt leaves open fissures in our minds and in our spirits that can make us begin to feel closer to things and people who help us forget about God. The world’s invitation to believe in what is seen, only, can seem like a simple and uncomplicated way to live. Why hassle with things you can’t see? Why believe in a God who never seems to visit the visible world when the world has so many challenges, and so much to offer that is fun and fast and visible?
If the easy way is what you're seeking, the world is certainly the place to find it. But there is no reason to allow doubt to be used against us in this way. There is never a reason to allow a world view to become more real to us than God's view. Instead, we should take advantage of times of doubt by allowing such times to challenge us to grow. We should seek out those who might be more mature in their Christianity, who have studied and lived and developed stronger understanding. We should allow doubt to force us to strengthen our faith, instead of weakening it. How? By realizing it is not wrong to have doubt—it is human. It’s part of being an “imperfect” work-in-progress.
Christians are not perfect, and Christian faith is not perfect. Faith is not the opposite of doubt. Knowledge is doubt’s opposition. The seeking of knowledge and understanding should be what the devil has to contend with when he puts doubt into the ring with Christian soldiers. Without doubt, there would be no need for faith. From time to time, we will always have questions about our beliefs, and those questions are a natural part of having a working human brain. For this reason, we should look at doubt as being something that can be helpful.
If used properly, doubt will send us in search of answers to questions, hopefully—in search of truth. Once we seek and discover the truth as answers to our questions, faith and confidence in our beliefs will actually become strengthened as a result of facing up to and using doubt. Then, instead of being a pot of cool water that's slowly becoming heated, and that will soon boil and drown us in unbelief, doubt becomes a welcome catalyst, always motivating us to grow in our knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, as a Christian.
© 2013 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD