by C Michael PattonApril 14th, 2010 46 Comments
Christians doubt. No, not always. But Christians do doubt. Christians doubt because their faith is not perfect. Christians doubt because we are fallen. Christians doubt because we live in a confusing world that breeds misinformation, impossible expectations, depression, pain, suffering, sin, and skepticism. We doubt all kinds of things from God’s concern and activity to the Bible’s truthfulness. We even doubt God’s very existence.
Thoughts sometimes go through our mind:
“God, why are things falling apart like this? I did what you said. I have always followed you but you are absent from every area of my life. It is not supposed to be like this. Hello? Are you there?”
“God, you say that you will not give us more than we are able to bear, but I passed that point a long time ago. Is your word actually true?”
“I was so sure about everything at one time, now I am not sure of anything.”
“Why did you allow me to believe that for so long? It was false, yet I made it the testimony of my life. What else am I wrong about?”
“The very fact that I am doubting causes me great grief and intensifies the doubt and makes me unstable. I am not supposed to doubt Lord. Where in the heck is this coming from? I thought that if I wanted to believe, it would come. I want to, but it is fleeing from me.”
“I believe—I think—help my unbelief.”
“Are you really the one, or should I start looking elsewhere.”
“God, do you hate me? I know I am a sinner, but you seem to really hate me. Just tell me what I did. Give me a remedy. I am willing to do anything, but this feeling of dread is more than I can bear. God? Are you there?” [Repeat every day for a year until you cease due to exhaustion.]
“Do I really have the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or is this a psychological and cultural belief based on my own desires that it is true? I’m so scared.”
Solution: Step one: Take it to your Church. Take it to the community of God. Take it to fellow Evangelicals. Hold on there partner. . . There are three things that you normally don’t have the right to express in Evangelical circles. The three Ds:
2. Divorce (or just marital problems in general)
In Evangelicalism, there are, sadly, more often than not, very few counselors to whom to turn. It is no wonder that many secretly seek shelter and refuge outside Evangelicalism. We feel like Saul going to the witch of Endor when we go outside our own fold for help, but we cannot find God’s representative among our own. It is no wonder people eventually become ex-Evangelicals. Our lack of grace, understanding, and transparency—our pride—often keeps us from representing Christ to those who are most in need. Sometimes it is that we are so afraid of admitting our own struggles because that, to us, would admit defeat. Other times it’s that we have never been able to come to terms with our own doubt. If we cannot admit our own, how do we help others? If we have a blacklist of things that you cannot talk about, why shouldn’t they go somewhere else? Who can blame them?
If you have or are going through any of the three Ds, it is only those who are able to admit that they have been through the same that we want to talk to. Everyone else out of the room! Why? Because, for those brave enough to actually express and articulate such thoughts as those listed above to another Evangelical, there is a trained and rote response. After the initial reaction of horror lifts, the all-to-easy cliché answers begin to emerge from our mouths:
“Are you sure you are really a Christian?”
“Have you been reading your Bible?”
“Memorize these two verses and call me in the morning.”
“What sin do you have in your life that you need to confess?”
“You must not have heard this argument.”
“You need to consider whether you are using your doubts to justify your backslidden life.”
“You are demon possessed.”
The problem is that it is hardly ever so easy.
Doubts come in many shapes and sizes. The solution is often more complicated than breaking out a Four Spiritual Laws tract. There are serious doubts. Lingering doubts. Flies in the ointment of our faith. Imperfections and annoyances. Vortex doubts that are the black holes of your mind. You know, the kind that make you feel like you are a subject in the movie The Matrix. Sometimes there are doubts that cause your world to fall completely apart, your life comes undone, and you, the Christian, even dread life itself. You may consider suicide.
It is on the tide of the reality of these types of doubts that we need to move forward in Evangelicalism with compassion and understanding, not judgment and fear. The first step to dealing with doubt is to admit we have them and provide a safe environment where they can be expressed and worked though. Doubt, belief, and unbelief are much more mysterious than we like to think. But one thing I know for certain: Even if I don’t know the “why?” of your doubt, I do know that God is not scared of our doubts. There is no clichés in his world. We need to feel free to express them. Why are we so scared of them?
Please use this time, if you desire, to do one of two things:
1. Express some of your own doubts. The one rule: At this point, I only want people to express their doubts. Please don’t attempt to come in and give solutions. We will talk about how to deal with doubts later.
2. Answer this question: Why are we so scared of doubts?
- Dealing with Doubt – Part 1
- Are You a Misfit in the Church?
- Dealing with Doubt – Part 3: Emotional/Experiential Doubt
- Doubting Your Faith? So What?
- The Miserable Christian Doubt