Is It Ok to Doubt?

Is it okay for a Christian to doubt? Is it okay for anyone to doubt? That’s the question that we’re dealing with today. That comes straight out of my message from this last Sunday from Psalm 73, where we looked at a guy, and not just any guy, but one of the heavyweights in the faith community of Israel, priest, an author of Scripture, a worship leader who was really wrestling with doubt. And so we kind of followed in Psalm 73 his journey of this crisis of doubt that he’s having and what that looks like and where that came from, what the source of it was, and how he found some hope in the midst of his doubt.

If you missed that message, I hope that you’ll go back and listen to it on the website. But the question again, is it okay to doubt? I find personally that when a person asks that question, it’s not usually coming from a place of arrogance or a person who’s looking at, hey, I want to be able to see if I can get away with my doubt. As much as it’s often coming from a place of hurt, genuine desire to be able to have greater faith in God, usually it’s a person who’s hurting. It’s a person who’s saying, look, I believe that God exists.

I want to believe the things that he says are true. But right now, I just kind of struggling right now. So is it okay for me to doubt? Am I under condemnation from God? And I think we just need to recognize when a person asks that question, that’s an opportunity for us to show God’s mercy.

That’s an opportunity for us to just offer encouragement and compassion, because doubt is something that all of us experience, as we saw with a guy like ASAP and Psalm 73, who’s as heavyweight in the faith community, or a guy like John the Baptist who wrestles with doubt. We all, at various points, wrestle with doubt. It’s an experience that is common to all of us. If you’re a human, then you’re going to wrestle with doubts from time to time, and especially if you’re a Christian, you’re going to wrestle with doubts from time to time. But what do we see when we find that certain doubts in Scripture are sinful?

So does that mean that all doubts are sinful in Scripture? For instance, with ASAP in Psalm 73, what made his doubt sinful was not just the mere doubt itself, but it was because it was paired with envy. He talked about this. He admitted it. He recognized that underneath his doubt about God, as he was looking at other people who were prospering, experiencing great shalom and wholeness and prosperity in their lives, people who had no interest in God, and ASAP saying, god, what’s the deal here?

And he envied them, he admitted. And that is something that then just kind of caused his doubt to spiral into something else altogether. And so that to me is a clear example of when doubt becomes something that God would call sinful. Or we go back to the Book of Genesis in the Garden of Eden where we see the first couple, Adam and Eve, who are tempted by the serpent to doubt God’s word, to doubt what God has said, to doubt that God is good and wants good things for them to doubt that God is a judge and would judge them and bring about consequences. All of those things.

The enemy used doubt as a tool to just sort of plant unbelief in the minds and the hearts of that first couple. And obviously we know the consequences of that. So that clearly is a wrong doubt. We see doubt in the life of someone like Zechariah in the Gospel story who was told by the angel that his wife Elizabeth would have a child that eventually would be John the Baptist. And Zechariah didn’t believe that message and so he was rendered mute temporarily.

And so we’re like, okay, well, that clearly is a time when doubt was a problem there. Or in James chapter one, verses five through eight where it says whenever we need wisdom, we should ask of God. And when we ask, we should believe and not doubt because anyone who believes or anyone who asks and doubts is like a double minded person who is unstable in all that they do. So all of these are examples of time when doubt becomes sinful. But again, back to our original question are all doubts necessarily sinful?

Here’s what I found helpful for me as I process through this and I hope it will be helpful to you all. It’s not so much that doubt in each and every circumstance is the opposite of faith. We know that God wants us to have faith and so we automatically think, okay, well, any doubt then is a problem. It’s not so much that doubt is the opposite of faith. You know what the opposite of faith is?

The opposite of faith is unbelief. And so then we ask the question, well, how is doubt different than unbelief? R. C. Sprol writes about this and he talks about the difference between doubt and unbelief, is that doubt is some uncertainty about various things, but it’s an open minded certainty or uncertainty.

It’s an open minded uncertainty that God can use in a person’s life as a springboard to help a person to ask big questions and to lean into God and to profess greater need for him and our dependence and to lean on Him in our time of weakness. That can be a springboard to help our faith to move from one place to a place of more mature faith, more complete faith, as the Book of James sort of talks about that that is God’s desire for our life. Whereas unbelief has more of a certainty to it. It is saying, I don’t believe these things and it’s closed minded to God’s working. It is a person who’s saying, I’m rejecting, here what God has said, and I’m going to do this on my own.

I’m going to go my own way. So those are really the opposites. There it’s not so much doubt being the opposite of faith as much as unbelief being the opposite of faith. And we need to keep those things in mind. The bottom line for you and me is, I think that the goal for us should be what we see in a place like in Mark, chapter Nine, where a man has a son and comes to Jesus because this son continues to convulse and he’s overtaken by this evil spirit and he’s asking Jesus for his help.

And they have this conversation and Jesus talks about belief and the man says, I do believe, but help my unbelief. He’s basically professing, I have faith. I believe that you are able. But to the extent that I’m sort of wrestling with some doubt right now, I’m asking for your help in that you see how open minded that is. Even in the midst of some uncertainty, the man is professing his need for God.

And God did a special work in that moment. And so as you and I process what does it look like to doubt with an open minded, open hearted approach to God? I hope that you and I will come to know God in a deeper way, that he is a good father. He welcomes our questions. He’s the one, after all, who gave us this ability to question and to wonder and to explore really, really deep things.

And if you’re going to explore deep things, then you’re going to encounter doubts from time to time. But in the midst of our doubt, let’s continue to pursue God and have Him reveal to us what he would have us to do so that we can grow and prosper in the middle of that doubt, that that can become more mature and more complete and our faith can become that all that God wants it to be. Thanks so much for the question today and thanks so much for joining us. I hope that this has been helpful to you.