How the Bible deals with doubt. The Bible starts by speaking openly about doubt. Why? Because doubt is a confidence killer. The seed of uncertainty. Bane of belief. And we all experience it. Although when it comes to ultimate questions like does God exist? Is heaven and hell real? The stakes go up quite a bit. Here are some thoughts on how the Bible addresses it.
How the Bible deals with doubt. It’s okay to express it
Mark 9:14-29 tells the story of a man who presented his mute son to Jesus for healing. But unlike others who asked Jesus for healing, he didn’t express complete confidence. Instead, he says to Jesus “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus immediately challenges him. “‘If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.”
You can almost picture Jesus with hands on his hips, raised eyebrows and slight smile. If? What do you mean “if?” There is no such thing with an all-powerful God. But you need to believe.
The man immediately realized his mistake. And to his credit he didn’t fake it or make an excuse. He did believe but maybe not enough because he still had some doubt. But if Jesus required more belief to heal his son he asked Jesus for help there as well. “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Don’t we all do this at some level? We doubt because we’re not sure God hears our requests? We’re unsure of our worthiness. Possess a limited amount of faith.
And the good news is God doesn’t demand a fixed level of belief you must demonstrate before he responds. Like the minimum height requirement for a roller coaster you must meet to ride. At least he didn’t in this case. Jesus went on to heal the boy.
It’s comforting to know that God understands our humanity. And doubt is not a disqualification as Jesus’ disciple Thomas demonstrated.
How the Bible deals with with doubt. The Apostle Paul considers a “what if?” possibility
What if God doesn’t exist? Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? Heaven and hell are fiction? These questions can present moments of doubt for followers of Christ. Rather than run away from these questions the Apostle Paul honestly speculates a “what if?” scenario in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19 by confronting the possibility. What if they all AREN’T TRUE? And his answer is brutally honest. In that case, those of us who believe are the most to be pitied.
I wouldn’t take it quite that far and think he’s maybe exaggerating a little to make a point. Because he goes on immediately in V.20-25 to assert that Jesus did rise from the grave and in him, we too are alive.
However, Paul willingly presents one side of the intellectual argument. Not because he believed it. But to admit. Okay. If, you’re right…if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then all of my belief is in vain. I’ve been duped and deserve your pity.
And by honestly doing so, he opened up the other side for honest speculation.
What if they’re all true? Then what does that mean for non-believers? This is the paradox of doubt. It works both ways.
How the Bible deals with doubt. The answer to doubt is faith
Scripture describes three aspects of faith.
More than wishful thinking, but reasonably considers the evidence
In Romans 1:19-23, the Apostle Paul says that God’s power and divine nature are clearly visible in his creation. Those who refuse to acknowledge it do so as a matter of choice, but are without excuse. Furthermore, Jesus Christ was God incarnate. And his sinless life, death, and resurrection offer us redemption.
Embraces a sense of confidence and conviction
In Hebrews 11:1 the writer describes faith as the “assurance in things hoped for and conviction of things not seen.” The Greek word for “assurance” also means confidence. In other words, faith is more than blind hope, but a confidence that is deeply and profoundly secure in the heart and mind. And this confidence and conviction moves the believer forward.
Demonstrated in the actions of the faithful
Faith in the Bible is never passive. Simply an intellectual acknowledgement. It always involves action. Jesus told his disciples to “follow me” because he demanded an active demonstration of faith. To follow him meant to follow his teaching by practicing it in daily life.
James, likewise, told believers that “faith without works is dead.” And the faith of a follower of Jesus demonstrates good works.
For now we waver between faith and doubt. And God promises to reveal himself to anyone that sincerely seeks him. But the day is coming when doubt is cast aside and faith is replaced with absolute assurance. As we stand in God’s presence and behold his splendor and glory. Then every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.