Doubt can creep into the life of a believer from time to time. And when this happens, it can be quite unsettling.
It usually starts with questions about our Christian faith that we thought we had a handle on — things like forgiveness, salvation, or death. But now, suddenly, some of our beliefs are clouded by doubt.
Regardless of what kind of questions we have, this can be a dark time in the life of a believer. Feelings of guilt, embarrassment, confusion, and even anger can fill our hearts — especially if we’ve been a follower of Jesus for many years.
But recognizing what we’re dealing with can make things easier and clearer.
The first thing to recognize is that doubt and unbelief are not the same things. Unbelief is the act of deliberately choosing to deny the existence of God or Christ. Doubt, on the other hand, is different. For the believer, it’s the questioning of faith, not the absence of faith. Basically, doubt is questioning what you already believe.
For a great example of doubt, let’s take a look at the apostle Peter. Matthew 14:22-36 tells us that the disciples, who were inside a boat on the lake, saw Jesus walking on water during a storm. Although the disciples were afraid, Jesus invites Peter out of the boat to come join him. Peter takes Jesus up on his offer, steps out of the boat and begins walking on water towards Jesus. But then fear creeps in and Peter becomes afraid. As he begins to sink, Peter yells out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus reaches down and catches Peter saying, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
So why do we doubt? With Peter, it was fear. But there are so many different reasons that it’s practically impossible to list them all. It can be as innocent as not having enough information about a certain subject or as serious as harboring a specific sin that we just don’t want to give up.
To get to the root of doubt it takes honest, and sometimes painful, self-examination. And rarely is it fast or easy. Only by asking ourselves the hard questions and answering these questions with true, honest answers can we begin to heal.
Also, and more importantly, it takes prayer. Talk with God. Tell him about the struggles you have with doubt. Ask him for clarity. Ask him for help. And then be patient, and be willing to listen.
In the meantime, continue reading Scripture; continue talking to other believers; and continue listening to sermons. Sometimes it’s our growth and maturity as believers that bring about the answers we’re looking for and quenches the seeds of doubt that might have plagued us for years.
And keep this in mind: out of all the disciples, only Peter stepped out of that boat. Although Peter began to doubt because his faith wasn’t as strong as it could have been, he still walked on water.
Remember, we can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). And just like Peter, we too can accomplish the extraordinary — even when we have fear, doubt and a short supply of faith.
Donna Hughey is an award winning Christian author and columnist. She lives in Crescent City.