The skeptic’s most frequently asked question must be, “If God is real and he is good, why would he allow suffering?” But skeptics are hardly alone in their questioning. The very point of this post is to shine some light in the direction of the post’s title: Do good Christians doubt? The way I have heard most Christians respond to this question seems to imply that true faith seeks to resist and eliminate doubt. I find such an approach to be disingenuous, misleading, and downright destructive. Let’s talk about why. Everyone doubts. If you don’t today, you may tomorrow, and you certainly will someday. Subscribing to the faith-equals-no-doubt approach forces me to think that if/when I doubt I have tainted or lost my faith. I believe the opposite of this is true. My friend Leslie was recently told she has a brain aneurism. I have asked her permission to retell part of her story, as it specifically relates to doubt. She has been writing in great detail about her journey. She told me why she has chosen to write.
I was just very convicted to share this walk. The good, bad and ugly parts. Why would Christ allow this if He wasn’t planning on using it for His glory? I look forward to seeing what God does with all this.
A significant part of what I know God has already done because of Leslie’s willingness to invite us into her journey is that I have revisited my understanding of the nature of doubt. Before a recently scheduled surgery to implant a device into her brain, Leslie was required to take some medication that would cause her blood to thin and help to avoid clotting during the surgery. In her words…
… as soon as I take that medication, my blood begins to “thin” and my platelets are inhibited. And, I found out, that, should my aneurysm rupture in the next two weeks, this medication would take my survival chances from 20-40% to basically ZERO. Learning that, especially knowing that my aneurysm isn’t stable, it is growing and changing at a rapid rate, my world stopped. So, when it came time to take those pills on Monday, I couldn’t. I am ashamed to admit that I could not even trust the Lord when He has promised over and over again to not leave me or forsake me. I sat and looked at these bottles of pills for what seemed like hours, debating, devastated over the truth that what was required to save me, could also kill me.
When faced with difficult and life-threatening realities, doubt and fear are quick and close. But are they enemies or friends? The answer is likely in how you handle them. Think of your physical body. Most of us would agree that pain is not a good thing. But it can be. Imagine if you were hurt and could not feel pain. A dear friend of mine was paralyzed from the waist down in an accident. After the accident he had to learn to be extra cautious with regard to extreme temperature coming into contact with his lower body. Because he had no feeling it was entirely possible for him to severely burn his flesh and not even know it was happening. Here are a few things I’ve been thinking on lately regarding doubt:
- Doubt Is Not the Absence of Faith. Faith and doubt are not mutually exclusive. Doubt is a human emotion and only confirms that I am such. I am honestly more nervous about people of faith who seem to never have any doubt. My experience with them is that they are either disconnected from reality or downright denying it. Having worked with doubters and skeptics for years (and been one), I have learned to believe and teach that God is ok with your questions and doubt. He is bigger than them. He desires for you to ask so that he may answer.
- Doubt Can Strengthen Faith. When I come to God with my questions and I believe that he is ok with me asking, my heart is open to hear his response. Then when I find that answer, be it in Scripture or in my spirit, I am quite naturally inclined to believe again. All of this is impossible without acknowledging doubt.
- Doubt Can Be Debilitating. While I’m sure you see where I’m coming from with relation to doubt, I do believe their are limits. Living with serial doubt can, and likely will, crush a person’s spirit. Having frequent and sizable questions is one thing. Refusing to accept God-given answers is another thing altogether. I love the Scripture that reminds us of the proper flow… ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.
So bring your doubt. Run to Jesus. Ask your questions. Expect to hear from him. In the end your faith will be strengthened.