I want to briefly give you some of the more “mundane” causes of why we, as Christians, might experience doubt, whether it be doubt in the existence of God, doubt in his love for us, or doubt in our salvation.
Personality causes: Some people are prone to doubt because it is in their DNA to doubt. Just as some people are more outgoing and others are more socially reclusive. Many of us have a hard time believing anything due to the skeptical nature of our personality. In this case, it is fairly easy to discover if this is a contributing factor to your doubt. Are you skeptical about everything in life? Do you have problems in your marriage due to a lack of trust that is not warranted? Do you find it hard to trust people, even your closest friends? Are you afraid to get on rides at the amusement park that others believe are perfectly safe? There are strengths and weaknesses to this type of personality. The solution is to rationally pursue the truth so as to make a sound judgment and let your thoughts adjust accordingly. Don’t give your personality undue control. Use it to your advantage. (And lay off your wife!)
Historical causes: Like the previous, this affects our ability to trust in general. Unlike the previous, this breach of confidence is brought about by past experiences. Some people have had traumatic experiences in the past that keep them on the edge. This “edge” tempers their ability to trust. It may be something in your childhood or something very recent. Those who have had abusive situations growing up, whether sexual, mental, or physical, find it hard to trust in anything. When one experiences a trauma in their life or a series of traumas, these take their toll on a person. If you have been through this, even though your theology may allow for such, the impact that it has from an experiential standpoint can take its toll and make people “nervous” spiritually and therefore more prone to doubt.
Medical causes: Often people experience chemical imbalances in their brain. This could be genetic or brought about by difficulties, stress, and normal unattended depression. Once the seretonin levels in your brain become imbalanced, people find that they experience all sorts of changes that does not represent who they really are. When the way you think is impacted in such a way, it is sure to have effects on your spirituality. Many people who have gone through such find that their ability to believe God suffers as doubt replaces what used to be certainty. Normally, when the chemical balance is restored, people return to their former self with regard to their faith. This does not make their faith any less sincere as Christians should be able to accept the reality that there is a vital connection between the brain and the soul. One cannot be affected without the other.
Physical causes: As bizarre as it may seem, our physical condition can have an effect on our faith. Eating unhealthy and a lack of exercise can cause us to have tremendous mood swings and even mental depression. This happens for two reasons: 1) Our minds need good nutrition to work properly. When our mind is not working properly, our faith will suffer. 2) While people come in a variety of packages, being out of shape physically can have an emotional impact that can effect everything from our personal security, to our trust in God. When things are not ”the way they were supposed to be,” including our physical condition, we, in some sense, are living outside of the will of God. This can bring us down psychologically and effect our faith in many ways. Often, when people get in shape (relatively speaking—the best shape they are able to be in), their ability to notice and enjoy spiritual pleasures enhances.
Stressful causes: When we place too much on our shoulders, it can affect our relationship with God and cause us to be more prone to doubt. Normally, with stress comes a lack of sleep. Both have tremendous effects on the way we think and how we judge reality. I have been around people who are walking zombies and I have noticed the toll this takes on their confidence in God. I have also seen people who are so worried and stressed about so many projects they have on their plate that spiritual doubt comes easy. Be careful with how much you concern yourself with. It may seem like the right thing to do, but it can be counterproductive to the most important thing—your spiritual life.
Theological causes: I don’t know how many people I have come in contact with who were doubting God and they had every reason to. What I mean by this is that we often doubt God, but it is not really the God of the Bible we are doubting. We assume characteristics about God that are not true. We imagine that God is supposed to protect us and our family from all physical harm. When he does not, we begin to doubt. But the god that we are doubting is not the God of Scripture. When we believe that God has made promises that he has not, when God becomes the candy machine in the sky, we are setting ourselves up for the fall. Bad theology can bring about so much unwarranted doubt.
Sinful causes: We dare not fail to mention the sinful causes of doubt. When we are not obeying God the way we should, living in sin, we are going to be prone to doubt God at the most fundamental level. Sometimes people use doubt as an excuse for sin, but I think more often, at lease with Christians, people begin to compromise in their lives, taking small yet persistent turns away from God and, because of this, take the exit on the road of doubt. The deeper and more persistent we get into sin, the more we have to pay the piper the heavy cost. Our belief is replaced with doubt before we know it and, so many times, people don’t know how they got there. So often, when people turn away from their sin, they will see the doubts vanish and confidence return. There is a reason God built it this way. You can’t expect to live in sin and not have your beliefs seriously compromised.