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Wrestling With Doubt and Disbelief

black and white photo of a woman holding a question mark that covers her face
Is it wrong to have doubts about Christianity?

The Bible says that a person can’t please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). And it says that a person who doubts shouldn’t expect to receive anything from God (James 1:6-8). This bothers me because I often struggle with doubt. It’s hard for me to believe anything just because other people tell me I’m supposed to. I want to be a Christian, but I can’t turn off my brain. Does this mean there’s no place for me in God’s kingdom?


ANSWER:

After reading your question, what comes to mind is the biblical account in Mark 9 of the father whose son was suffering. The man cries out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Jesus doesn’t scold him. Our tender, compassionate heavenly Father “knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). And He will respond to the honest cries of our hearts.

There’s nothing wrong or unusual about the struggles you’re experiencing. In fact, every Christian needs to wrestle with doubt and disbelief to a certain extent. A faith unquestioned and untested isn’t true faith.

Even Jesus’ disciples had to find their way through this dark, discouraging tunnel. (At the very moment when belief might have come easiest — when the risen Christ stood in front of them — Matthew records that “some doubted” (Matthew 28:16-17.)

Christianity isn’t about having faith in faith alone

In the language of the New Testament, the word faith is a derivative of the word persuasion. So, faith is not a mindless acceptance of things other people tell us.

Instead, faith is a solid confidence based on convincing evidence. That’s why Luke, author of the book of Acts, praised the Jews of Berea: After hearing Paul preach the Gospel, they “examin[ed] the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Genuine biblical faith is only as strong as its object. For example, I have faith in my chair because I’m convinced it’s strong enough to support my weight. I express that faith by sitting down.

Similarly, I have faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior because I am persuaded by relevant evidence that He really was God-in-the-flesh:

  • The New Testament tells me that Jesus really existed — and he walked the roads of Galilee and Judea over 2,000 years ago.

The Bible defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for” and “the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This is why the apostle Luke places so much emphasis on eyewitness accounts and “infallible proofs” (Luke 1:2; Acts 1:3).

We don’t believe simply because we want to believe. We believe because there are good, solid reasons to believe.

How to make the Christian faith your own

Faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 5:22). We believe because God empowers us to. The Psalmist expressed it this way: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

Faith is knowing that things are not as they seem, that Christ has defeated sin and death, and that God is indeed a loving Father who plans to gather His family around Him one day. Beyond this, faith is the willingness to take the first step toward Jesus, to trust that His love is an accurate reflection of God’s love, to begin following in His footsteps and loving other people with a love like His. (Coming Home: An Invitation to Join God’s Family)

The foundation of a solid personal faith — making your faith your own — comes together brick by brick. But it won’t necessarily be easy, and it won’t happen overnight. You’ll have to become an investigator, a detective, a historian, a scholar, and a serious learner. You will need to study Scripture and weigh the validity of its historical claims. You must compare the Bible’s assertions with those of other religions and philosophies.

And eventually, you’ll need to step out and look for ways to put Jesus’ words into action. Remember, however, that we’re not saved by doing good works. Rather, “good works testify to the fact that we have been redeemed so that our lives might reflect the craftsmanship and character of God.”

We’re here to help

To learn more about what it means to have a personal relationship with God and the promise of eternal life with Him, we encourage you to read our free online booklet Coming Home: How to Know God.

And if you are having repetitive, unwanted thoughts and worries about salvation or other topics of faith, that doesn’t mean there’s “no place for you in God’s kingdom.” Instead, those symptoms could point to a psychological condition called scrupulosity. Find out more in our Q&A on the topic: Scrupulosity: Understanding Religious OCD and How to Treat It.

For personalized help, call our Counseling team at 1-855-771-HELP (4357) for a free over-the-phone consultation. Our licensed or pastoral counselors would be honored to listen to you, pray with you, and offer biblical wisdom and practical suggestions for next steps. In the meantime, we invite you to look through the resources and referrals below.

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