How to Deal with the Faith Versus Doubt Problem
Struggling with Doubt Isn’t a Sin, But We Must Avoid Letting Doubt Squash Our Faith
I once listened as a friend wrestled with the issue of faith versus doubt. She groaned in anguish over her struggle to believe with full faith, dismayed over the arrows of doubt that assaulted her. I blurted out, “Faith without doubt isn’t faith. It’s a sure thing.”
I said this without thinking, and I’m still pondering it today. I hope it came from God, but I’m not sure. I think it’s profound, but maybe it isn’t. Yes, Jesus affirms that great power results when we have faith without doubt. It’s a faith that can actually move mountains (Matthew 21:21). But does anyone have that kind of faith?
However, I suspect that to have faith without doubt isn’t a command. Instead it’s something to strive for, a goal to pursue even though we may never reach it. As a result we’re left to contemplate the faith versus doubt problem.
What the Bible Says about Faith Versus Doubt
The word faith appears hundreds of times in the Bible, most prominently in Psalms (74 times), followed by Romans (40 times) and Hebrews (39 times). In Hebrews we read that “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV).
The chapter goes on to talk about the great faith of people in the Old Testament. Nowhere in the whole chapter does the issue of doubt come up. And surely some of these patriarchs did have a tinge of doubt assaulting their faith. Yet they moved forward in faith anyway.
Interestingly the word doubt only appears fourteen times in the Bible, with the book of Matthew taking the lead (3 times). In it Jesus criticizes his disciples for their lack of faith and for their doubt (Matthew 14:31). Later he tells Thomas to stop doubting and to believe (John 20:27). If we follow Jesus, we have the power to overcome our doubt through faith. Click To Tweet
I don’t view doubt as a sin, but I do see doubt that keeps us from acting in faith as disobedience. Ideally God would like us to have a faith with no doubt, but I don’t think it particularly bothers him when we struggle in the faith versus doubt department. If our faith wins out over doubt, we’re good. However, we must avoid doubt that squashes faith, causing us to cower in fear instead of acting in boldness.
As long as we’re human, I suspect we’ll struggle with faith versus doubt. But if we follow Jesus, we’ll have the power to overcome our doubt through faith.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.