The Value of Doubt

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I have doubts from time to time…

I hate to admit it but I do. I also have to admit that I have fewer doubts at my age today than I had in my younger past.

Why?

God has shown me over and over that I need not worry. He is there and all I have to do is believe.

It is hard.   We all have fears: fear of failure, fear of the future, fear of lack of control, fear of outcomes that are not what we desire. You know the list can go on and on.

When fear comes about, I have heard good Christians say they are embarrassed and they feel they should not have them, that fear is a lack of faith, a sign that they have doubt about God.

What is the big deal about doubt?

Pastor Adam Hamilton entitles a chapter in his book “In Praise of Honest Doubt.”

Think of this title for a moment, especially the word honest. I think what he is saying is that all of us have doubt if we are honest.

Some fear that if you have doubts you are destined to turn away from God and indeed it can go that far. I have seen young people who were raised in solid Christian homes by faithful Christian parents come to doubt everything they have been told was true. They totally rebel and turn their back on God, maybe to never return to their younger faith.

In face of doubts, some suppress their feelings and go to what Hamilton calls “intractable faith.” I have had numerous conversations with staunch Christians who say things like “the Bible means what it says and says what it means.” In other words, don’t get into a discussion with me about my Bible. I accept every word of my Bible as inerrant. I have listened to good-meaning people say the “Bible comes from God to me” and cannot accept the idea that man was involved in the process anywhere. I just listen. It is impossible to get this type of person to admit they may have doubts. They probably have them but let’s examine that word suppression. It means to stop something, to withhold from disclosure, to subdue, quell or crush. In common language of today, it means to stuff your feelings.

Some would say that is not healthy but it happens.

A third approach to doubt is to face the fact head on. We have them. It is normal to have them. Do some doubters run the risk of plunging headlong into full blown doubt?

Yes they do.

But also the person who is honest about doubt can grow in their faith because they have examined it. I don’t believe God wants us to have a child-like faith for our whole lives.

Hebrews 5:12 states “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” The writer of this Scripture [some say it is Paul] are admonishing the readers to learn the fundamentals of their faith, but those fundamentals are not adequate for long term faith in God. Solid meat is the necessity for preserving life, a necessity for acquiring greater strength.

Read a little further in Hebrews 5: 13-14 and you will see the goal of the Christian: “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the Word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food [KJV: strong meat] belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

There is nothing wrong with the examination of faith from time to time. Not all the “truth” we are taught as children may apply to our mature lives. Instead of accepting someone else’s frame of reference regarding God, it may be better to construct your own.

When doubt happens, face it. Try not to fear it. Don’t suppress it. Let it grow you.

The end result can be a richer and deeper faith that can help you weather life’s struggles, a much more mature faith than one that is stagnant. The meat of a more mature faith can begin in honestly confronting our doubt.

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