When All you Feel is Doubt

I love math. Always have. I’m excited when my kids need help with their math homework. The reason? An equation is black and white and solvable. It almost always has a happy ending.

I wish faith were more like algebra. Instead, this faith journey often feels like trying to untangle my headphones. I would honestly rather buy a new pair than tackle this seemingly impossible task. It’s infuriating.

Take John the Baptist’s faith journey, for example. He was a person of exceptional faith. He was set apart from birth to be the forerunner to the Messiah. His character was obedient, humble, and sacrificial. He gave his entire life to God. Jesus described him, “of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). But despite all that faithfulness, he ended up beheaded before age 35, with his head delivered to King Herod’s wife on a silver platter.

As I said, I’d rather tackle math than try to untangle that confusing mess.

I recently read a book filled with dramatic accounts of miracles. So naturally, I devoured it like a starving dog with a bone. However, hidden beneath my fevered page-turning was a buried belief about God. I believed that a God of fireworks could cure me of a flimsy faith. If I could collect enough evidence of God, I could avoid any questions of Him. As it turns out, however, my math did not add up.

Sometimes God behaves in ways we do not expect and can not control. Miracles do not always increase our faith. Often it is the lack of a miracle that forces us to wrestle with what we really believe.

In our suffering, we become increasingly desperate for answers, believing those answers will rescue us from our pain. But although answers might bring relief in the short term, nothing can help us make sense of some painful heartbreaks. Genuine faith is learning to trust in the midst of the unknowns, to rest even in the turmoil, and to believe our questions will somehow lead us to the God who holds the answers, even if we never discover those answers ourselves.

Although doubt feels scary, it is often a gift that causes our faith to grow into what we have wanted all day along. So, how do we deal with the reality of doubt?

  • Acknowledge it. Doubt is a normal part of an active, stretching, growing faith.
  •  Keep asking questions. To stop asking questions is to stop thinking. Allow yourself to wrestle with the mysteries of an all-knowing God.
  • Keep moving. There is nothing noble about staying lost in a forest. Admit you are lost, ask questions, and keep moving forward.
  •  Accept that not all questions will be answered. If we could solve the equation of God, he would be a god far too small. Make peace with not knowing everything.
  • Choose trust. We will either trust in our own capacity and ability or God’s magnificence and mystery. Which will it be?

Doubt is not the enemy of your faith. Instead, it’s the means to deepen it. So, resist fear and shame.

Instead, take your doubt to Him. All of it. He can handle it. And He has what you need to untangle the mess and deliver you safely to the other side. Even better, there’s a good chance your faith will be stronger as a result.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Matthew 11 today.