Is doubt a part of a healthy Christian life?

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  James 1:2-8

Life can be confusing. At times more questions seem to pop up then answers. Living as a Christian is no different… in fact often this can lead to more confusion. It’s sometimes hard to see why things happen in life, why we go through certain trials, tragedies or circumstances. Doubt seems to hold a common place in our lives.

However, is it a lack of faith in God to doubt? Is it a sign of spiritual weakness? Well that all depends on how we understand doubt and our attitude to it.

In this well known passage in James, we read that God will not answer someone’s prayer if they are doubting. The one who doubts is like a wave tossed around by the wind, lacking in direction and certainty. One could jump to the conclusion from this is that our doubt highlights a lack of faith and trust in God and is therefore the sin that is blocking our relationship with God.

However, doubt should not necessarily be viewed as a bad thing. In itself, it should not be condemned in our lives. Rather, it is our response to doubt that is  important. How we respond to it will highlight where God stands in our lives, and the true nature of our hearts before God and others.

As a result the doubt and insecurity that can creep into our minds, the question can arise, “How do I really know I am a Christian?” (I wrote a blog on this recently). This world can be very confusing and the assurance of our faith can be challenged. However, the Bible is clear that as a Christian we are given a new heart and are changed within (Ezekiel 11:19-20), born again (John 3:1-15, 1 Peter 1:3-12), in order that we may have eternal life with God. As a result of that, how we live our lives will change (Matthew 7:15-20, 13:23, John 15:1-17). Therefore, one can logically see that what we believe governs how we live. What we hold dear in our heart will filter out to how we approach life.

When doubt comes along, a healthy response to it is to seek God more, to ask Him why, and to read the Bible for answers or explanations that provide understanding. It is a good thing to experience doubt if  you seek God for the answers and trust Him no matter the outcome. Doubt can be a tool to strengthen our faith in God as we learn more about Him and trust in Him as a child trusts a father. To lean on God even when the answers may not come our way or they are not what we expect. That shows a faith that is grounded and unshakeable, assuring us that, regardless the outcome, we are secure in God’s care.

However, the flip-side of this is that doubt can lead us to despair and unbelief. Many think of doubt as the opposite of faith, but that’s not true. Unbelief is the opposite of faith. Where faith says “I will choose to believe in God even though I don’t understand it all”, unbelief will say “I choose to not believe in God because I don’t understand it all”.

So, doubt in itself is not an unhealthy symptom of a feeble faith, but rather a vehicle God can use to draw us closer to Him. It’s a tool in which He can test the convictions of our heart and strengthen our trust in Him, so that we may mature in our character and hope (Romans 5:1-5) and not base our relationship with Him on fleeting feelings and circumstances. Our faith is based on the fact that we are redeemed and saved by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who died for our sins so we can enjoy God forever. Our response to that is to be of one mind, not continually lured away by allowing our flesh and this world to be the driving-force of our lives. That is to be tossed around around as a wave is by the wind. Not embracing who we are as Christians and therefore being double minded in how we approach decisions in our lives is what leads to a double minded, frustrated and fruitless life.

So if you have doubt, don’t worry or think you are lacking in faith. Rather, see it as an opportunity to seek God our Father and to ask Him for guidance and to strengthen our faith. In doing so we, will highlight to Him that our heart is to seek Him and not run, to follow and obey Him whatever comes our way.

God will gladly give us what we need. It may not be what we expect, but it will be what we need to mature in our character and be better prepared for what lies ahead and to glorify God with our lives.

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