Judging by its frequency, this must be one of the great questions of Christianity. It’s a fear that even a momentary doubt means a new fall from grace, a loss of salvation. Once you believe this, it’s a short step to becoming obsessive about every theological thought: Is that a good question or is it soul-destroying doubt?
Prayer is a conversation with God, and some of what we say in our messy lives sounds doubtful. Why is this happening to me? How can I keep on going? Once we’re fearful of doubt, even normal questions become signs that we have lost faith.
On the cross, Jesus himself cried out in the language of the Psalms: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22 goes further, “I cry by day, but you do not answer.” The psalmist comes back to an unshakable assertion of faith, but the fact that such questions are part of scripture reflects our reality. We have faith, but lack full knowledge: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.” Until then, we may question and wrestle.
John of the Cross gave us the phrase “dark night of the soul,” describing our struggle with faith. What seems like doubt may be God’s interaction with us as we struggle through our dark night toward the gift of dawn.
Michael Rich, 17th Street Missionary Baptist Church, Anniston
Doubts should be made to obey
The concern of doubt is much deeper than it first appears. Certainly, God is able to handle thoughts of doubt and is able to calm even fears, but what is the meaning of and the consequence of having doubts about God? When the believer doubts God, what is it that’s being doubted — his veracity, his love, his power? What is the believer justified in doubting about God? As a believer, having thoughts of doubt about God can lead to disastrous results! Specifically because doubt is the road to unbelief, and unbelief is sin. The believer is responsible to make every rebellious idea obey Christ.
Having experienced the love and mercy of God, what consequence can await a person who doubts God?
Adam and Eve doubted, lost Eden and gained death (Gen 3:1-7).
Abraham doubted and almost lost the title “Father of many nations” (Gen. 17:15-22).
While in the wilderness, Israel lost entrance into the promised land because of doubt and unbelief (Heb. 3:19).
Over and over again, we are pushed to believe, to embrace faith which comes through the word of God. It is explained that to understand spiritual things one needs a spiritual mind (1 Cor. 2:1-16).
Finally, James teaches us that doubt and asking anything from God is incompatible (James 1: 5-8).
For the unbeliever, doubting God is common; for the believer, doubting God should not be.
E. Steven Richardson, 17th Street Missionary Baptist Church, Anniston