Many of us are afraid to voice our doubts – perhaps especially around other believers.
We live in a culture that tells us truth is relative. When we are confronted with other people who devoutly believe their faith, we wonder if ours is real. Is Jesus really the only Way? What about these other faiths? Or perhaps we have a crisis of doubt when we lose a loved one, or life takes a decided down turn. Is God really good? Does he really love me? Among the faithful, these doubts are often swept under the rug as private shame. When I doubt, I believe there is some problem inherent to me and I slog along under the weight of my unbelief alone.
Doubt, in fact, is normal for humans, maybe even healthy. Doubt is the crucible on which deeper faith is forged (or flounders). Mind, there is no pat answer for doubt. Each of us must find an answer for our doubt: an answer we can fully own.
The first place for answers to doubt is prayer and meditation. This is the blood and bone of belief. Nothing can substitute for that. If you don’t have any idea where to start, turn to Psalms. A large portion of them ponder and faith side by side. They have been good ground for meditation for two thousand years.
Another place for answers, however, are among small groups of believers who are doing life together. If you have no community, get one. And stick around for 6 months (or longer). People with doubts need to spend time among folks who are farther down the faith road. Good answers are housed in the heads of those who have paid (are paying) the price of prayer and meditation. In a small, safe community of believers, we can bring our raggedy faith and find a support system, not accusation or dogma.
Finally, answers to doubts are bound in books. In the past two thousand years, neither you nor I can be the first person to struggle with any particular doubt. Many have gone before. They have drawn helpful maps. Which book is useful depends on what triggers the doubt. Do you doubt God is real? There are good books for that. Do you doubt God hears your prayers? There are resources for that. Do you doubt God loves you? Do you doubt there is a reason for your suffering? Do you doubt (insert your doubt here)? There are books on that. Ask a pastor or someone who has a deep faith for a recommendation; they can guide you to useful books.
Going a few rounds with doubt can strengthen our faith. Our salvation is once-and-done — but the strength of our convictions? Our trust in God? Our peace? That is a progressive thing that requires us to wrestle thorny doubts. Each doubt answered and rousted out, though, leaves us more securely tied to God.
Doubt should not be avoided. It is not a private shame. When doubt shows up among us, we must treat it with dignity and kindness. We must make a space at the table for the doubter (NIV Jude: 19-23). As we squeeze up and let doubt have room among us, the doubters will be close enough to see a living, blood-and-bone faith. Then – by God’s grace – they may ask questions and know they don’t bear up under doubt alone. Eventually – by God’s grace – doubt will be forged into faith.