When Doubt is Good for You

I vividly recall looking at my hand and bending my fingers, and being amazed at the simplicity and complexity of that movement. All the bones, joints, muscles, nerves, etc. working together to do what my brain was telling them to do. Amazing.

As a teenager I wrestled with doubt.

What if we did “just happen” and if we evolved from primordial ooze?
What if Jesus didn’t really say or do the things the Bible says he did?
How do I know God is even real? 

Thankfully, I was free to embrace my doubt and to ask my hard questions. Many teenagers who grow up in the church feel the pressure to keep their questions to themselves. If they do ask hard questions, they feel looked down on.

An increasing amount of books are recognizing the good things that come from allowing ourselves (and others) to doubt. Teenagers who grow up in Christian families often report a lack of freedom to voice their doubts. Instead, I try to encourage people (especially younger people) to ask their hard questions and to wrestle with their doubts.

One of my favorite stories in the Gospel comes when Jesus interacts with a man whose son is demon-possessed. Here’s the key interaction. We need to encourage this kind of honesty in the church.

But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out[a] and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
(Mark 9:22-24, ESV)

compass-in-hand

Doubt Leads to Faith
If you’ve never doubted, how can you be sure of anything? This isn’t rocket science. If you’ve simply never asked hard questions about something, how can you possibly be certain of it when life gets difficult.

Hard Questions & Easy Answers
God isn’t afraid of hard questions. We shouldn’t be either. And we need to avoid the temptation to give easy answers to hard questions. Easy answers are usually offered by well-intentioned believers, but they fail to honestly wrestle with the question (and why the question is being asked). People are complicated. Our world is complicated. Doubts are complicated. Often, easy answers are oftentimes just too easy.

As a general rule: our answers need to wrestle with the reality of sin, the brokenness it has caused, and the source of our hope. Hard questions demand honesty. And many easy answers do not acknowledge the real and legitimate challenge behind the question. This is not an encouragement for complicated answers… simply a call for honest answers to hard questions. Sometimes the honest answer is, “I don’t know. That’s a great question! Let’s dig into that.”

You Don’t Need to Doubt Everything in Order to Doubt Something
In my work as a youth pastor it’s common to hear teenagers asking hard questions. I always encourage them for asking their questions. The only problem is how many of them have the impression that they need to doubt everything to genuinely doubt anything. But that’s simply not true.

If I have a doubt about how the Bible was put together (“Maybe we missed something that should’ve been included?”), that doesn’t mean I need to doubt the resurrection, or creation, or the virgin birth of Christ. I can take my question, and search it out while holding onto what I am convinced of.

We doubt from faith.
All of us do. Some may doubt from the faith that God doesn’t exist, and so they ask their questions with those assumptions in mind. Others pursue answers with the assumption that all religions teach different versions of the same thing. While others are convinced that their particular religion holds the truth. The truth is this: We all doubt from faith, whether we realize it or not.

417stu2bletl-_sy344_bo1204203200_So next time you have a hard question or start to doubt something… remember to ask hard questions without settling for simplistic and easy answers. But also remember that you don’t need to drop everything you believe in order to ask a genuine question.
Finally, as a Christian, it is important to consider what you believe about the Holy Bible. Is it just another book, or is it the inspired and authoritative Word of God? If it’s the Word of God, then have no shame about appealing to it as the judge of truth and untruth. If you’re not convinced, may I recommend Kevin DeYoung’s book Taking God at His Word.

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