Does Doubt Mean I’m a Bad Christian?

Why you don’t have to have perfect faith for God to use you.

I’ve struggled with doubt for a lot of the time I’ve been a Christian. I thought I had worked through some of my biggest questions, but recently, they’ve been coming back up. I’m not ready to give up on God or anything, but I’m questioning some of the most fundamental aspects of my faith. Does this make me a bad Christian?

- Doubting

Dear Doubting,

You may feel alone in your questions right now, but you definitely aren’t the only skeptic. When it comes to beliefs and worldviews, some people haven't struggled with doubt. Others are at least honest with themselves. 

Personally, I'm not one for blind faith; I've always had a little of the skeptic and the cynic in me. Fortunately, God is big enough for our questions. Faith can look at the tough questions of life for what they are and eventually still come to the conclusion that the most reasonable answer to any of these questions is found in God. After all, I would argue that God wants us to think and ask big questions instead of just believing whatever we’re told.

And rest assured, doubt definitely doesn’t make you a bad Christian. In fact, if you’re willing to engage it, it can actually strengthen your faith.

In my case, doubt has often meant I was coming to grips with what the Christian faith actually meant to me. It isn't supposed to be the end of the journey, but it can be a defining point (or, more likely, many points) along the way. Since my early teens, you name it and I've questioned or rejected it at some point along the way: the Bible's accuracy, the goodness, plan and even existence of God, etc. Sometimes, it's taken me to some pretty dark, futile places while I questioned things just for the sake of questioning. But each time, I've come back around to the conclusion that nothing else explains life as well as God and His Word do.

When in Doubt

I've known some church people who seem to think that if they were Peter in the story about walking on water, their faith wouldn't have failed—that fear and doubt wouldn't have taken over. In some Christian circles, people don't know how to be gracious to people who doubt, and that’s a shame, because questions are a natural part of growing in faith.

There have been times when I've been a "wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind," (James 1:6) and I've been like Peter, sinking in the raging seas, about to drown. Sometimes, when you're there, the people who think they could have walked on water are in fact stepping all over you, pushing you even further underwater. But Jesus didn't kick Peter down below the surface because he had failed—He pulled Peter out. 

Graciously discussing and answering questions is not the same as getting defensive or shaming the one who is doubting. One can be a hand reaching out to save, while the other can be a boot to kick them while they're down.

Because of this, it can be scary to admit your doubts to others, but find some close friends to share with who can thoughtfully engage with you, challenge you, encourage you and pray with and for you.

Moving Through Doubt

Fortunately, I’ve found that encouragement can take unlikely forms. One of my favorite biblical characters is Thomas—yes, "Doubting Thomas," the same one who is a close second to Judas in many people's "Worst Disciple” ranking. Thomas' story is so encouraging to those of us who struggle with doubt. He was naturally skeptical that a dead person could come back to life (as I would have been), and Jesus met him right at the point of his doubt. Jesus did not shame Thomas for doubting, but gently, indisputably proved Himself to be alive. 

There are many other examples in the Bible about "heroes of the faith" who had times of doubting or questioning God—Moses, Abraham and David, just to name a few. You don’t have to have perfect faith for God to use you.

Those of God's people who doubt are still God's people, and there is no second tier for those with certain struggles. All who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb are forgiven, no matter what came before or comes after.

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To wrap it up, it's OK to admit it if you're having doubts. All of us have been there at some point. We need to do away with this whole pretending we're fine when we're not thing. 

Admit your doubts, wrestle with them, pray about them, talk to close friends about them. You will get through this. And as you do, remember to give grace to yourself and to others who admit their struggles.

Have a question? Good! Send an email to AskRELEVANT@relevantmagazine.com. All identifying information will be kept anonymous.

Top Comments

Laura Wise

8

Laura Wise commented…

As Christians, we have been fed this horrible Christian marketing that we are never supposed to doubt, suffer, struggle, etc., because that might mean we aren't Christians, and that is entirely wrong. Unless you've kept your Bible under a rock and haven't read it, you will find countless stories and situations where people just like us struggled and had doubts. Regardless what culture sells us, it is entirely normal, human, and okay to doubt and struggle. God knows you better than our world.

I listened to this sermon by Kevin Twit of Indelible Grace and RUF of Belmont last spring and it might be one of the best things I've ever heard. He hits the nail on the head on the subject of suffering, doubt, etc. Please do yourself a favor and listen to it yourself. http://adventbirmingham.org/audio/whom-have-i-in-heaven-but-you/

Phil Heslop

1

Phil Heslop commented…

Man this spoke to me this morning. Instead of getting up and going to set up church and do kids ministry like I had said I would, I stayed in bed until 3pm and ate some junk food while watching a couple of tv shows. And questioned everything.

I guess I've reached a point of doubt over the Church I go to. Struggling to reconcile the message of 'being the change in the world' that seems to come across with the lack of action over things happening within its own pews - children with massive behavioural issues just being left in kids ministry with no back up, training, understanding or support being given to the kids ministry team. The Kids Ministry teams leadership changing for the 3rd year in a row because the last leaders (who were by far the best), couldn't commit to mid-week meetings, because they are parents to 3 kids under 6years old and both work demanding jobs. Hearing the Pastor say they want to see 80% of the churches congregation (80% = 160 people) do an overseas missions trip within the next 2 years, and knowing that there will be people who do it - because you've seen the way the Pastors use of sneans, snap-backs or hipster hats has translated into the congregation - but also knowing that an average cost of $3000/per person to do an overseas missions trip, that is close to $480,000 being spent to go elsewhere to see God work, while your fiancee tells you about the kids at her school who were given blankets and she found out that those 2 blankets are the only ones a family of 6 has to get them through the winter. I wrote this down this morning while listening to some music...

"I live in a world where pseudo-moral obligation to attend a structured Sunday service is deemed more important than the development of relationships outside of that one day. A world where facts, numbers and appearance of making changes in this world are hyped up more than the reality of crying yourself to sleep when you realise the reality of some people's lives. Where being seen to be doing good is the painkiller for the aching of ones heart. Where experience inside a building on a Sunday is valued more than experiences outside the building. When will we understand that Jesus didn't ask us to prescribe him as the answer to lives troubles, he told us that love was, that we are the answer.

My heart it aches, it is so heavy that I cannot get out of bed. It is burdened with the understanding that something is wrong, something is unjust. It cries, it sobs, heavily weeping it drowns my lungs and makes it hard to breath, and people softly offer advice of seeking God. Of asking what he wants to do - not understanding that we are God here. There is no divine moment, there is no big missions trip that can change the world around us, that can help us learn to trust Him any more. That we have to free-fall in his grace and mercy, along the way reaching out and pulling others with us as we fall into his deep, reckless love."

5 Comments

Phil Baker

3

Phil Baker commented…

My daily devotional from Skye Jethani has been talking about this lately. https://skyejethani.com/

Laura Wise

8

Laura Wise commented…

As Christians, we have been fed this horrible Christian marketing that we are never supposed to doubt, suffer, struggle, etc., because that might mean we aren't Christians, and that is entirely wrong. Unless you've kept your Bible under a rock and haven't read it, you will find countless stories and situations where people just like us struggled and had doubts. Regardless what culture sells us, it is entirely normal, human, and okay to doubt and struggle. God knows you better than our world.

I listened to this sermon by Kevin Twit of Indelible Grace and RUF of Belmont last spring and it might be one of the best things I've ever heard. He hits the nail on the head on the subject of suffering, doubt, etc. Please do yourself a favor and listen to it yourself. http://adventbirmingham.org/audio/whom-have-i-in-heaven-but-you/

Anthony Gladden

12

Anthony Gladden replied to Laura Wise's comment

There is no content in the link.

Allacin Morimizu

1

Allacin Morimizu commented…

I think all the people God used to write the Psalms would give a hearty AMEN! to this thoughtfully written post. Well done!

Phil Heslop

1

Phil Heslop commented…

Man this spoke to me this morning. Instead of getting up and going to set up church and do kids ministry like I had said I would, I stayed in bed until 3pm and ate some junk food while watching a couple of tv shows. And questioned everything.

I guess I've reached a point of doubt over the Church I go to. Struggling to reconcile the message of 'being the change in the world' that seems to come across with the lack of action over things happening within its own pews - children with massive behavioural issues just being left in kids ministry with no back up, training, understanding or support being given to the kids ministry team. The Kids Ministry teams leadership changing for the 3rd year in a row because the last leaders (who were by far the best), couldn't commit to mid-week meetings, because they are parents to 3 kids under 6years old and both work demanding jobs. Hearing the Pastor say they want to see 80% of the churches congregation (80% = 160 people) do an overseas missions trip within the next 2 years, and knowing that there will be people who do it - because you've seen the way the Pastors use of sneans, snap-backs or hipster hats has translated into the congregation - but also knowing that an average cost of $3000/per person to do an overseas missions trip, that is close to $480,000 being spent to go elsewhere to see God work, while your fiancee tells you about the kids at her school who were given blankets and she found out that those 2 blankets are the only ones a family of 6 has to get them through the winter. I wrote this down this morning while listening to some music...

"I live in a world where pseudo-moral obligation to attend a structured Sunday service is deemed more important than the development of relationships outside of that one day. A world where facts, numbers and appearance of making changes in this world are hyped up more than the reality of crying yourself to sleep when you realise the reality of some people's lives. Where being seen to be doing good is the painkiller for the aching of ones heart. Where experience inside a building on a Sunday is valued more than experiences outside the building. When will we understand that Jesus didn't ask us to prescribe him as the answer to lives troubles, he told us that love was, that we are the answer.

My heart it aches, it is so heavy that I cannot get out of bed. It is burdened with the understanding that something is wrong, something is unjust. It cries, it sobs, heavily weeping it drowns my lungs and makes it hard to breath, and people softly offer advice of seeking God. Of asking what he wants to do - not understanding that we are God here. There is no divine moment, there is no big missions trip that can change the world around us, that can help us learn to trust Him any more. That we have to free-fall in his grace and mercy, along the way reaching out and pulling others with us as we fall into his deep, reckless love."

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