Doubt and Faith
I believe doubt—particularly the deepest, most terrible kinds—are not spoken of enough. I understand this. For a long while, I didn’t share my doubts. For those of us in public ministry, it can feel as though we are not allowed to have them. But we are just as fallible as the next person, prone to apostasy as anyone else. Thankfully, we are not particularly special, blessed with greater revelation, or have anything to offer that is essential for others' growth in godliness. We are exactly who you should believe we are: sinners, prone to wander, in need of a Savior.
Doubt Toward or Away
I’ve heard before that in doubt we have two choices: doubt toward God or away from God. My doubt started because of suffering and feeling like God had withdrawn his presence from me. Yet, there came a pivotal moment when I had to ask: If I could turn to Jesus in seasons of abundance, could I not turn to him in a season of lack? I had strolled with him in the sun—could I not trudge with him through the rain?
I don’t know why it seems God withdraws himself from us, but I know the Gardener only prunes when we need pruning. If you doubt, remember: In his mercy, there is no depth you will be called to where God is not also.
Yet dealing with doubt is difficult. It comes in many shapes, weights, and forms. I don't have a silver-bullet solution for your doubt. But I can sum up what I did, and I pray it will help you.
I told people, and they responded in love and had faith that God would keep me through it.
This was the hardest part, but I know of very few things that are better in isolation. When we fight alone, our hearts tire and grow callous and hard. All of us struggle with questions—some fewer than others—but the more we bring our doubts, fears, and unbeliefs into the light the less of a hold they have on us. Perhaps you have doubts. Tell someone. Perhaps someone has told you of their doubts. Take them seriously and love them through it. Be Christ to them and have mercy on them (Jude 22).
I was brutally honest with God.
I left nothing on the table. Instead, I told him every fearful, painful, anger-filled thought I had. If he wasn’t real, it wouldn’t matter. If he was, Job, Lamentations, the Psalms all told me he could handle it.
I didn’t act on my feelings.
Three decades of Christianity taught me that when it comes to faith, we don't ask, “How do I feel about this?” We ask, “What do I need to do to obey?” (John 15:10). If God is real, then abiding in him, admitting my need, and crying out for salvation was where I would find trust, joy, and life. Like the Psalmist when he felt abandoned by God, crying out: “Will the Lord reject forever and never again show his favor? … I am grieved … yet I will remember the Lord’s works” (Psalm 77:7, 10, 11).
Feelings work well when things are happy and easy. But feelings are not helpful when we’re thrown in a furnace that’s seven times hotter than usual. I went back to basics, knowing that the old habits of grace are not what would save me, but what would stir and ignite joy, passion, and the desires of my heart toward God. Even when I didn’t feel like reading my Bible or attending church, I determined to. When I was most hopeless, when the last shreds of my faith had been abandoned, I prayed. I sought the God I had lost in the dark. If you have stopped engaging with the things of God because you just can’t believe he’s real, take another look. For, what if it’s true?
I filled my mind with stories of people who love Christ in every fiber of their being and have walked by his side in suffering.
I read and listened to people who have known what it is to be thrown into the lion’s den, yet speak of the joys of following Christ in their suffering. In doing so, I learned from those who have experienced real pain and still love Jesus with all their heart, soul, and mind. Hearing their adoration of Christ was contagious. If you’re doubting, read missionary biographies, listen to podcasts about obedience and delight, ask your friends how they’ve seen God work in their own lives. God will bring witnesses to tell of all the things you’ve known of him, yet don’t have the courage to believe.
I recognized doubt usually has a source point.
My source point was suffering and a lack of physical care, leading to burnout. It was helpful for me to recognize the lighting strike and understand that many of my feelings and doubts were a direct result of it. Work with others to help you objectively evaluate where the doubt might have started. While this doesn’t remove it, it can help you see if there are other areas that need to be dealt with, processed through, or even in which to receive professional counseling.
In light of the above, I reworked my schedule, commitments, and life choices.
When the doubt started, I was overcommitted and overscheduled. I wasn’t eating well. I was struggling with insomnia because I had a baby that woke a lot in the night. Additionally, I wasn’t exercising. I simply was not taking care of myself. A friend encouraged me to evaluate the way my time was spent and helped me see I needed to make adjustments—belief in God or not.
Immediately, I was able to work on making healthier choices for my nutrition and exercise. Over the long term, I worked on taking on fewer commitments and maintaining margin in my schedule. No matter how you feel right now, take a hard look at how your time is spent. What adjustments need to be made?
I learned to be okay living with a side of doubt.
Sometimes I want to go back to the good ole’ days when I didn’t struggle with doubt. Much of me expected that eventually, I would. But so far that hasn’t been the case. There are times, when I least expect it, the heavy weight of doubt still crosses my mind. But I’ve learned it’s just part of my story of faith—a stronger, more firm faith that knows how to wrestle and is willing to fight. A faith that can confess like the father of the demoniac in Mark 9, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Perhaps the five most honest words ever spoken by a human. Don’t be afraid to say them.
He is never going to let you go
Ultimately it is not our strength of resolve or ability to follow that keeps us. It is always and only his firm grip, set and determined on our souls (Ephesians 1:4–5). We cannot earn our way to him or strong-arm our salvation; it is purely a gift given to us by the shed blood of Jesus. How it all works is a mystery to the human mind. As Psalm 139 says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for us; we cannot attain it.” But we do know God’s heart is always to reveal himself to those who seek him.
Remember: If you are truly in Christ, he has bound his heart to yours before eternity past and he is never going to let you go. This is, quite possibly, the most beautiful thing I know about God.
Meet the Author:
Laura Wifler is the co-founder of Risen Motherhood and currently serves as the executive director and co-host of the weekly podcast. She is the co-author of Risen Motherhood: Gospel Hope For Everyday Moments. Laura, her husband, and her three children live in central Iowa. You can find her on Instagram, @laurawifler.