Every believer in Christ will at some point in their life question their faith to a certain degree. Peter questioned what he was doing as he walked on the water to Jesus (Matthew 14:30), Thomas doubted the risen Lord without physical proof (John 20:24-25), and even Abram (Abraham), the man who was made righteous by his faith (Genesis 15:6), questioned the Lord in his ability to produce an offspring in his old age (Genesis 17:17-18).
Those who have been a Christian for a long time understand this. But when I was a new believer and first called Jesus “Lord,” I never thought such a thing was possible for me. It has been almost 18 years since that precious day, and I have lived through those years thinking about my faith (Philippians 4:8), studying the Bible and the history of Christianity (2 Timothy 2:15), and talking to others, both sharing the gospel and defending it (Ezekiel 3:17–19). These years, which included tragedies and heartaches, have brought opportunities for me to question my beliefs.
I have been given countless personal examples to say with full confidence that my God has never left me or forsaken me (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). What usually began as confusion and questioning transformed into an experience that not only grew my personal faith but also gave me the answers to help others who may find themselves questioning their own.
It’s woven into the redemptive nature of who God is, and while we read over and over again in the Bible that we should have faith and not doubt (James 1:5-6), it is no way, shape, or form an unpardonable sin for the Christian who is seeking to understand the heart of God.
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"By faith, I mean both my personal faith in my beliefs and the actual beliefs themselves."
While the phrase, “questioning my faith” seems fairly straightforward, I want to make certain that it’s understood I’m referring to the action of doubting faith instead of asking questions like, “what was Noah’s Ark made out of?” or “how many books are in the Bible?” By faith, I mean both my personal faith in my beliefs and the actual beliefs themselves.
An example of the first would be questioning my faith that God could use me to preach the gospel locally or travel as a missionary. An example of the second would be to question the very existence of God, that Jesus came in the flesh, or another doctrine that is usually found in Statements of Faith.
I can question my faith in the idea that I do not believe I have the faith to do something, and I can question my faith in that I do not believe God can or cannot, did or did not do something that He has done or says He will do.
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"... this is from the perspective of doubting faith as a follower of Christ, not as a nonbeliever."
I also need to make sure it’s clear that this is from the perspective of doubting faith as a follower of Christ, not as a nonbeliever. The latter is like a man who longs to be loved yet doubts that any woman would love him. His doubts keep him from searching for that someone special or keep him focused on the idea that he is unlovable. The former is like a married couple having doubts about each other. “Is she who I thought she was?” “He is gone so much with work that I’m starting to wonder if he even loves me anymore?” These questions are doubts that enter into a marriage and have the ability to pull it apart. The only difference for the married couple and our relationship with Christ is that all forms of doubting can only come from us, while both parties can bring doubt into the marriage relationship.
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"Unlike God, we do not know everything, nor are we here for this short period of time to learn it all."
When doubts enter our hearts and minds, we are called to either seek out the answer of the questions that arise or to cast down these doubts with the biblical truths of Scripture, standing upon that as a foundation of our faith.
Unlike God, we do not know everything, nor are we here for this short period of time to learn it all. We have to be able to discern doubts that come as either a pathway of knowledge and growth or a pathway of destruction. I have learned to remember that there are, at least for me, four ways of discerning my doubts so that I can methodologically counter any questions that arise. I carry this method with me in the form of a rhyme:
“Can I Know? Will I Grow? No Means No! Here I Go!”
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1. Can I Know?
“Are my doubts and questions something that is within my reach of understanding?”
This is the first question I keep at the ready when doubts arise. There are questions we can ask that we will not have the ability to answer this side of heaven, nor is the Lord beholden upon us to give us the answer. Look no further than God’s questioning of Job in Job 38 to see that there are things that, while I may know a small part of the answer, we will never be able to give the full answer with certainty.
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"...there are times when answers may not come..."
With that said, however, it has not gone unnoticed that many criticize Christianity when Christians give the answer, “Only God knows.” Critics may assume it is a quick fix to those not willing to venture into a rational argument or debate. We cannot know everything. Our questions come hoping to be satisfied with answers, but there are times when answers may not come, and the only satisfactory answer is, “I don’t know.” The idea that we cannot know isn’t an act of foolishly walking away from a problem. It is a form of wisdom in that we do not spend our precious time focusing on that which does not grow us.
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2. Will I Grow?
“Is exploring these doubts nothing more than a rabbit trail?”
This is the second question I ask. All humans, either by nature, nurture, or a combination of both, are passionate and gifted in certain areas of life. While I love to write, my mind often wanders towards other avenues of interest that can pull me away from completing what I’ve begun or make me question if what I’m doing is even worth finishing at all. When we have questions or doubts, we need to make sure that we do not pull our focus away from that which has been given to us, especially concerning the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
Yes, change is inevitable, but we all eventually fall into a pattern we call seasons where the things that happen are pretty much within a certain area of activity, study, or influence. Just as God set standards to control the seasons and how they change, so too will He guide us into changes that focus on our growth while not lessening our focus.
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3. No Means No!
This, while listed third, is usually my main weapon of truth in defense of my doubts, especially when I have remembered the Scriptures that prove them incorrect. This is what I use to, “...demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5). When I begin to believe that God doesn’t love me, doesn’t desire my growth, or, as in the garden of Eden, I am tempted by Satan or one of his demons to question the commands of the Lord (Genesis 3:1-7), I quickly say, “NO!”
You may remember the greatest biblical example of this type of defense against doubt is found in Matthew 4:1-11, specifically in verses 6-7:
“Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone,’” (6).
I love how Jesus was known to ask questions back to those who questioned Him, but this does not apply to Satan. Satan’s heart is already known by the Lord and Christ is not about to enter into a debate with the Father of lies. “Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test,’” (7).
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"This thought is quickly removed...while remembering other Bible verses that expressly reveal that God loves me."
If a more personal example is needed, then I offer my own doubts that surfaced at the reading of Romans 9:13. “Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” This verse has the tendency to make me ask, “if God hated Esau, could He hate me, too?” Reading further down we even find it says in verse 15, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” I now have the potential to believe that God not only could hate me but that He might not have compassion or mercy for me either! This thought is quickly removed when I simply say that God has never directly told me He hated me while remembering other Bible verses that expressly reveal that God loves me (1 John 4:7, John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:37-39). While the Bible clearly says what it says in Romans, there are no signs that it applies to my life.
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4. Here I Go!
This is said when none of the first three questions or expressions fit the situation at hand. This is where I realize that the questions and doubts I am having do indeed pertain to my life and need an answer that I do not yet know. It’s during this time that I seek God’s generous wisdom for my doubts (James 1:5). It’s the time to get my thinking cap on and, “... study to show myself approved,” (2 Timothy 2:15). It’s time where I realize that I should call upon Christian brothers and elders because, “... in an abundance of counselors there is safety,” (Proverbs 11:14). It’s the time I remind myself why I became a Christian in the first place, even if it means starting at, “In the beginning, God…” (Genesis 1:1). This process grows my faith in the answers I find, revitalizes the truths I know already, and reminds me of the facts that I love God and I am loved by Him (1 Corinthians 8:3).
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"This applies to being merciful to yourself as well."
I would say in all of this to remember, “Be merciful to those who doubt,” (Jude 1:22). This applies to being merciful to yourself as well. Christ showed constantly through the Scriptures that while he rebuked the doubt and disbelief of those seeking Him, He did not leave the person forsaken. He carried Peter back to the boat (Matthew 14:31-32), offered Thomas the opportunity to touch his scars (John 20:26-29), and stayed with Abram (Abraham) and fulfilled his promise to him (Genesis 17:19). He will not leave you forsaken either.
Richard Lee Sorensen is a happily married father of 7. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology – Christian Counseling from Liberty University and is a Certified Professional Life Coach from Light University. He helps people overcome the often emotionally overwhelming process of decluttering at Declutter Planning, and writes a blog with his oldest daughters at Fiction and Fatherhood.
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