Doubt: A Faith Catastrophe or Catalyst?
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)
Doubt is perhaps one of the most uncomfortable and distressing emotions we can experience as Christians. After all, the Bible is full of calls to have faith, not fear, and not doubt - so why do we doubt, and is it necessarily a bad thing?
When my struggles with chronic pain began back in 2011, my wife and I were part of a church that discouraged doubt of any kind. As physical pain led to disability and depression, I struggled with a tsunami of doubt. However, I felt horribly guilty for having any doubts and all, and at times was made to believe (by well-meaning people) my doubts were likely the reason I’d not yet experienced physical healing. That led to more guilt, more doubt, more depression… it quickly became a downward spiral and nearly destroyed my life and my marriage.
I’ve heard it said many times that God is big enough to handle our doubts; he knows them already anyway right?!? Last year I interviewed Dr. Kara Powell, a leading Christian researcher and authority on youth culture in America as it relates to faith and the church. She recently wrote a devotional for Proverbs 31 Ministries titled “Doubt: A Faith Catastrophe or Catalyst?” I really liked what she had to say; in the hands of our God doubt can actually be a tool to increase and strengthen our faith! Dr. Powell shares these three points about doubt and faith:
Doubt is a part of faith, not opposed to it. When we have the freedom to explore and express our doubts, it opens the door for faith to grow. When doubts are squashed, faith tends to shrink and die.
Faith isn’t just a noun; it’s a verb. Faith is something we actively exercise, and doubt can be used to strengthen our faith “muscles.” I particularly loved this statement: Faith isn’t a correct answer but a courageous process through which God transforms us.
God is big enough to handle our tough questions. I really love this one; faith is not simply the blind allegiance to religious dogma. Much like our kids ask us questions, so God desires - and expects - his children to ask him questions.
Dr. Powell’s main point - “God wouldn’t be wholly and holy God if we humans could understand Him. Do you have struggles and doubts that don’t have easy answers? Bring them to your heavenly Father - he’s big enough!