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Wrestling With Doubt and Disbelief

Is it wrong to have doubts about my faith? The Bible says that you can't please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6) and that a person who doubts shouldn't expect to receive anything from Him (James 1:7). This bothers me, since I often struggle with doubt. I'm a skeptic by temperament. 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?

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You remind us of the man who brought his son to Jesus for healing. “Lord,” he shouted when he saw the Master, “I believe; help my unbelief!” We know how Christ responded to that honest cry of the heart. The boy was returned to his father healthy and whole.

There’s nothing “bad” or unusual about the struggles you’re experiencing. Every Christian needs to wrestle with doubt and disbelief. A faith unquestioned and untested is no faith at all. That’s why the great poet Lord Tennyson was able to write, “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” Even the disciples of Jesus had to find their way through this dark, discouraging tunnel. At the very moment when belief should have come easiest to them – when the Risen Christ Himself stood in front of them on a mountaintop in Galilee – Matthew records that “some doubted” (Matthew 28:17). So you’re not alone. As a matter of fact, you’re in very good company.

To put it another way, Christianity isn’t about having faith in faith alone. In the language of the New Testament, faith (Greek pistis) is a derivative of persuasion (Greek peitho). In other words, it’s not merely a blind, mindless acceptance of the things our mothers and fathers told us. Instead, it’s a solid confidence based on convincing evidence. That’s why Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, has nothing but praise for the Jews of Berea, who, after hearing Paul’s preaching of the Gospel, “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). You seem to be something of a Berean yourself.

Genuine biblical faith is only as strong as its object. I have faith in my chair because I’m convinced that it is 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. Why? Because I am persuaded by relevant evidence that He really was God-in-the-flesh. The New Testament documents tell me that He actually lived and walked the roads of Galilee and Judea 2,000 years ago, that He died on the cross for my sins, that He rose on the third day for my justification, and that He lives today in the hearts of those who believe in Him. I respond by trusting Him with the details of my everyday life.

Remember, the Bible defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for” and “the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This is why Luke, in the dedications to his Gospel and the Book of Acts, 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.

This implies that the process of making your faith your own is probably going to entail some hard work. It’s going to mean putting on the hat of the investigator, the detective, the historian, the scholar, and the dedicated disciple. It’s going to require that you study the Bible intently, weighing the validity of its historical claims. It’s going to involve comparing its assertions with those of other religions and philosophies.

Eventually it will mean stepping out and looking for opportunities to put the words of Jesus into action. As Christ Himself phrased it, “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself” (John 7:17). As you engage in all of these activities, you’ll begin to accumulate a fund of rich experiential evidence. The foundation of a solid personal faith will begin to come together brick by brick. But it won’t necessarily be easy, and it certainly won’t happen overnight.

When all the working, studying, and learning is done, it’s vital to remember that faith is ultimately a gift of God (see 1 Corinthians 12:9; Galatians 5:22). In the final analysis, we believe because He enables us to do so. This is what John Newton, writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” meant when he said, “No temporal dispensations can reach the heart unless the Lord Himself applies them.” The Psalmist expressed it this way: “For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

If you’d like to discuss your concerns at greater length, call us. We have a staff of pastoral counselors who would love to speak with you over the phone.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

The Case for a Creator

The Case for Faith

Evidence for the Resurrection

The Case for Easter

Know Doubt: Embracing Uncertainty in Your Faith

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

Christian Research Institute

Insight for Living

Trusting: Let God Do the Driving

Faith: New Eyes

Copyright © 2010, Focus on the Family.

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