Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

5 Changes to Make When You're Struggling with Unbelief

  • Robin Dance Author
  • Updated Jun 22, 2020
5 Changes to Make When You're Struggling with Unbelief

Satan loves it when we have questions or doubts about God, and his hope is that we’ll never find our way back. I’m more than happy to inform him that my wandering is the very thing God used to draw me closer. That Satan would even care to mess with me tells me God has something magnificent in store for my life. 

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How to Keep Your Faith through a Season of Doubt 

Even though you’ve spent the majority of your life in church, you have all the right “Sunday school answers,” and follow the do’s and don’ts list flawlessly, you can’t help feeling empty. 

The faith you were once so sure of doesn’t make sense anymore. You’ve been hurt by other believers who were supposed to love you. You can’t reconcile pain and suffering, injustice, or even political discord in light of a good God. 

You read your Bible. You pray. You go to church. But you see little evidence of God at work in the world . . . or in your life.

Although you seriously wonder if there’s any “remedy” for your spiritual drought, you need to know that you can journey through such difficult times and emerge on the other side with your faith intact. After experiencing an extended season of “wandering” from God and struggling with my own doubts and fears, I found my way back to Him, stronger than before. 

If you’re questioning your own commitment to God but long to reconnect with Him, try making these five changes. Invite the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you in His power, and watch your heart come alive again.   

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1. Know That You’re Not Alone

1. Know That You’re Not Alone

Just because it feels like you’re all alone doesn’t mean you are. Others are struggling just like you, and, most importantly, God is with you. In fact, these moments of wandering and doubt and confusion are actually evidence of God at work in you, not His abandoning you. Isn’t that a revolutionary, almost scandalous thought? It flips struggling with unbelief on its head and disarms the strength of an enemy who is always and only against us. Parsing out the tensions of our faith is part of the growth process.  

Look for other Christians who can share their similar experiences with you, so that you can learn from them and not feel so alone. You can find a trusted Christian friend in whom to confide or read about another’s struggles with doubt. For example, you may want to check out Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith by Barnabas Piper. In it, he discusses his experience with unbelief. His story is encouraging to those who are in the middle of a similar crisis.

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2. Pray with Gut-Level Honesty

2. Pray with Gut-Level Honesty

Even if you don’t quite feel like praying in earnest, change your behavior anyway. If you’ve continued to pray throughout your time of wandering, examine the content of those prayers. Were they rote and lifeless? Now, pray differently. Pray with heartfelt passion and transparency. Tell God what you really think. 

When I began praying this way, I described it as “gut-level honest.” I told God I didn’t know if I believed He was real. If He was real, I needed Him to convince me. I was no longer willing to profess something I didn’t believe. I could no longer accept the prescribed faith of my youth, my church, our culture or anyone around me. If I was going to continue in this thing called faith, God was going to have to make Himself known or I was done. 

And then something began happening during this season of prayer, something I didn’t expect, and something for which I was too short-sided to ask: God began transforming me and literally changing the way I was thinking. It wasn’t overnight, but it was obvious. I know how I think, and I noticed when thought patterns started shifting. 

There is no greater evidence of God at work in this world than a changed mind that leads to a changed life . . . and my life was changing from the inside out. Spill your guts to God, anticipating He will answer by changing you.

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3. Keep Asking Hard Questions

3. Keep Asking Hard Questions

When my wilderness was new and disorienting, God threw me a lifeline in a Sunday morning sermon, showing up despite my wrestling with belief. That morning my pastor explained that if you were struggling with unbelief, it didn’t mean you weren’t saved. God wasn’t caught off guard by our questions and He wasn’t offended by our doubt. 

But the kicker, the inspired message that gave me the hope I would cling to in my spiritual desert, was the pastor’s suggestion that God could actually be using my doubts and questions as the means to woo me back to His side. Rather than heaping guilt or condemnation on my already sagging shoulders, he lifted my chin as if to say, “Everything’s going to be alright.”

Instead of viewing my questions as a sinister divide between God and me, I began seeing them as a bridge. Question by question, slat by slat, my doubts were bringing me closer to the truth, not driving me away. Wandering doesn’t always mean you’re leaving God; sometimes you’re just taking the long way home.

Reframing my questions in a positive light, as both a vehicle for God’s grace and a means for me to seek Him was a game-changer. It didn’t immediately quell my doubts, but it extended the freedom for me to be honest, wrestle, and find a way back to the truth. 

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4. Look at the Storms You've Weathered to Find Encouragement

4. Look at the Storms You've Weathered to Find Encouragement

When we’re afraid, or going through difficult circumstances, our first response is telling. When life gets truly difficult, is the name of Jesus the first word on your lips? When I was all alone on a desolate highway during a tornado, His name was the only word I could utter.    

How we respond in crisis reveals the measure of our faith and what we understand about the character of God. Our responses are an indicator of spiritual maturity, how well we know God, and what we believe about Him.

If you’re still struggling with doubt but have had a similar experience, consider it a gift from God. In the tornado, I had a rare opportunity to see how I’d respond when faced with a possible threat to my life. That Jesus was my immediate thought, cry, prayer, and plea is an ongoing source of encouragement to me, even now.

Storms reveal whom we really trust when we’re pushed beyond our breaking points. And though I had been wandering off and on for so many years, the tornado showed me that deep down, at the end of it all, I really did trust Jesus. God isn’t just faithful in hard times; His Holy Spirit is in us all the time, just waiting for opportunities to reveal Himself.    

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5. No Matter What Else You Do, Seek First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness

5. No Matter What Else You Do, Seek First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness

Once I began wholeheartedly seeking God, I also began to understand the depth and beauty of this command and its incalculable promises. I found out that its truth is foundational to faith. It may sound counter-intuitive that I was seeking someone I wasn’t sure was even there, but Scripture’s command to seek God doesn’t require you necessarily to believe first.  Seeking God is linked to His sufficiency and provision for our needs. His faithfulness.

As I examined other verses about seeking God, one truth became very apparent: God isn’t in the business of keeping Himself from us. God wants to be found. If we’re earnestly looking for God, we’re going to find Him.

When you (finally) pursue the Giver and not the gifts, you’re giving evidence of growth, transformation, wisdom, and maturity. 

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God Works All Things Together for Our God — Even Our Wandering 

Don’t be discouraged if you’re dealing with doubt and unbelief right now. I have good news: God is working in your wandering! He will restore your soul in the end, however, He sees fit and in His perfect way.                                                

Satan loves it when we have questions or doubts about God, and his hope is that we’ll never find our way back. I’m more than happy to inform him that my wandering is the very thing God used to draw me closer. That Satan would even care to mess with me tells me God has something magnificent in store for my life. 

I’m convinced He has the same for you. If you find yourself in the desert, just wait for how He’ll use your story. God is for us in our wandering; He’s working all things together for good. 

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A former marketing and PR professional, Robin Dance now encourages others in life and faith as a writer, speaker, and small group leader. She's a founding contributor for (in)courage, DaySpring’s online community for women, has been featured in HomeLife and Mature Living magazines and advocated for children in poverty as a Compassion International blogger in India. Robin believes listening well, laughter, and generosity are indispensable superpowers, and there might not be a sweeter ministry than a warm delivery of sourdough bread. Married to her college sweetheart and mom to a daughter and two sons, Robin currently lives in middle Georgia and online at robindance.me.