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Dealing with Doubt

04.13.18 | Faith, Doubt, Unbelief | by Matt Shantz

    If you have doubts, you're not alone. You're in good company and among friends. What do we do when we have doubts? Here are some practical helps if you are dealing with doubts.

    Read the Gospel of John

    We have given many Sundays to preaching this gospel. John writes that he wrote it "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:31). Sometimes we talk "open-handed" and "closed-handed" issues to differentiate between essential beliefs and secondary issues. It's helpful to categorize these and not let our faith be shipwrecked over non-essentials.

    The most important thing we will ever do or not do in our lives has everything to do with what we do with Jesus (that was a lot of do). Surrendering our lives to Christ in belief and service doesn't mean we won't have doubts but it frames our doubts in the context of our relationship with Him. 

    Study the lives of fellow doubters

    Study the lives of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17-18), Moses (Exodus 3-6), Gideon (Judges 6), David (Psalm 13), Zechariah (Luke 1), the disciples after the resurrection (Luke 24; John 20), and recognize that biblical giants of the faith had their share of doubts as well. Don't neglect to see how God met them in their doubts, grew their faith, and kept His promises. Their God is your God and He does not change.

    Share your doubts 

    Share your doubts with someone (or a small group of people) that you can trust and who is a mature follower of Jesus. It takes courage to share the cracks in your faith with others. But again, you're not alone. Others will actually be refreshed by your transparency.

    Being a Christian and being a part of a church family are synonymous in Scripture. One of the reasons is so that brothers and sisters in Christ can encourage us and help us through our difficulties. 

    Read

    Yes, to be a Christian requires faith. But not ignorant faith. I maintain that there are really good answers to really difficult questions. Read Making Sense of God and/or The Reason for God by Timothy Keller or Mark Clark's The Problem of God. You will find yourself in good hands reading nearly anything C.S. Lewis wrote, especially Mere Christianity

    If your doubts are about something specific, contact one of your pastors. They can steer you in the right direction to read well on that doubt and tackle it head-on. Again, you're not the only one who has big questions about big issues and there is an infinite library of wisdom from other saints (past and present) who have written down what they have discovered as they asked the same questions you are asking.

    Bring your doubts to Jesus

    Seek to bring your doubts to Jesus day by day. Posture yourself towards Jesus rather than opposed to Jesus and towards your doubts. This is huge. The dad of a sick child confessed, "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24). Did he have doubts that Jesus could heal his son, you bet. But did he bring it to Jesus rather than walk away with unbelieving cynicism? Yes.

    You have reason for hope

    Trials of many kinds, including your doubts, can lead to a faith that's deeper because of it. The Apostle Paul reminds us that "we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope" (Romans 5:3-4).

    Pray for mercy

    Pray for God to be merciful to you in your season of doubt. Whether we are suffering or sinning in our doubts and unbelief, Jesus is gracious to sort that out with us in love. Jesus tells a story about a tax collector who was a religious outsider cried out in prayer, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18:13). He knew his life was messy but he pleaded for the mercy of God. Jesus concludes the story by saying that he went home justified. "Doubting Thomas" claimed he would never believe unless he put his finger in the nail marks in the hands of Jesus and put his hand into the spear-pierced side of Jesus (John 20:25). But Jesus mercifully met Thomas there and alleviated the doubt that stood between him and belief.

    I write this post as I prepare to preach on doubt. And as I have been preparing, I have been praying for you. So I want to leave you with this prayer written by Scotty Smith based on Acts 12:

    A Prayer asking God to override our unbelief

         ”He [Peter] went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Acts 12:12-16

    Heavenly Father, thank you for chronicling the events of this comical, and all-too-common, prayer meeting. As much as it exposes our unbelief, in a far greater way it highlights your faithful commitment to do exceedingly beyond all we can ask or imagine. This story describes the kind of praying I’m way too familiar with. I dutifully pray, but I faithlessly doubt. Forgive my unbelief; override my unbelief; let me behold the salvation of the Lord.

    There are many things I’m praying about right now for which I want to hear “Peter knocking at the door.” I have no need to be considered a great prayer warrior. I’m not looking for wonderful stories to tell others as a testimony to my faith. I simply want you to bring a whole lot of glory to Jesus. Astonish us, Father; astonish me with your mercy and might.

    Father, I pray for marriages barely holding on and the ones needing a full-bore resurrection; for self-absorbed men who need a redemptive kick in their hindquarters; for spoiled children who need to learn gratitude and how to work; for elders who would rather win votes than win the lost; for pastors who keep defaulting from gospel preaching to law preaching; for my own heart—for greater freedom, joy and spontaneity in putting others first.

    Father, I also pray for those in the persecuted church and for their leaders. Strengthen them, encourage them, and grant miracles of provision and deliverance. Cause the gospel to spread like wildfire. Give them so much joy, peace, and love that their persecutors will be convicted and fall down and worship you.

    Father, I pray for the courageous men and women who are laboring in the dark world of human trafficking. Bring justice to bear; deliver women and children from the evil of slavery in every form. Protect the rescuers and provide good aftercare for those rescued.

    Father, I pray for an outpouring of your Holy Spirit on church families in our area. Let us have done with “lesser things” that we might more fully give ourselves to the things that matter the most to you. We’re spoiled; we’re dull; we’re bored and we’re boring. The main vision we need is a renewed vision of Jesus gathering his bride from the nations and making all things new. Free us from ourselves for yourself. Undo us, Father; humble and gladden us, as you override our unbelief and write stories of great redemption. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ exalted and glorious name.