“I don’t know if I believe in God anymore.”
We were driving home late one night when the words I’d been too scared to say for months finally tumbled out of my mouth. Despite the fact that he was driving, my husband turned and stared at me in shock. I watched him mentally search for an acceptable response to my confession until he settled on simply asking, “Why not?” Instead of arguing with me or dismissing my doubt, my husband chose to listen. He asked me simple questions and gave me space to explore my doubts without condemnation.
Once I confessed my doubts aloud, I was able to start confronting them one by one. Over the next few months, with the help of my husband, my friends, and my church family, I continuously exposed my doubts to the light of God’s Word, taking back ground in my heart until my doubts were at bay. Graciously, in the light of day and outside the confines of my overthinking mind, my doubts were far less intimidating. So while that’s not to say I never struggle with doubt anymore, I am grateful that even my darkest doubts were never able to strangle the gospel seed of faith implanted in the soil of my soul.
What Should I Say?
If you have a friend who is struggling with doubt, you may find yourself relating to my husband’s shock after my blunt confession, frantically searching for a response that will assuage their skepticism. It can be uncomfortable and even distressing to see a friend struggling with doubt. But let me encourage you not to rush her through it. Listen to her fears, ask questions, and be willing to engage in a discussion about her doubt without immediately trying to fix it.
Here are a few things you can say when talking to a friend who is doubting:
“It’s okay to have questions.”
Remind your friend that God isn’t afraid of her questions, and neither are you. While you may not know all of the answers, God does. No question is capable of stumping the Creator of the universe who holds all things together (Col. 1:17). Encourage your friend to ask her questions aloud both to you and, most importantly, to God. In my own experience, simply exposing my doubts and questions by speaking them aloud significantly diminished their power over my heart and mind.
“It’s not about the size of your doubt, but the size of your faith.”
During his time on earth, Jesus addressed doubt like this: “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:20). Instead of focusing on how much doubt we have, Jesus addressed the size of our faith. While your friend may be swimming in a sea of doubt, Jesus says just a mustard seed of faith is enough. Encourage her to consider that it’s possible to carry doubts and still have faith. Even if her faith feels small in the face of her questions, Jesus can do miracles with only a mustard seed.
“Your doubt does not disqualify you.”
When you struggle with doubt, it can make you feel like a fraud. It’s easy to believe that having doubts disqualifies you from claiming Christ confidently or from being used by God to advance his kingdom, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Just look to Thomas, Jesus’ friend and disciple. When Thomas doubted Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus didn’t declare him unfit to be a disciple. Jesus didn’t condemn him or renounce him from the family of God. Instead, Jesus treated him with compassion and stretched out his hands to reveal his scars (John 20:24–29).
Jesus actively nourished Thomas’ faith, encouraging him to believe so that he could continue to do the work he was called to do. In the same way, Jesus nourishes our faith so that we may continue to do the good work for which we were created. When your friend is doubting, encourage her to look to Jesus as the nourisher of her faith rather than allowing her doubts to disqualify her from the work of ministry.
“Keep fighting for faith.”
When life gets hard and doubts start to grow, it may feel easier to give up rather than fight for faith. Instead of allowing her fears and questions to pull her away from God, encourage your doubting friend to keep fighting the good fight by continuing to feed her faith with the truth of God’s Word and the fellowship of God’s people. While giving up on faith may seem like the easy decision when doubts take hold of your heart, the darkness of disbelief is much more painful.
When Jesus asked the disciples if they wanted to turn away from him in John 6 after many of his followers turned their backs on him, Peter answered this way: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). While the path of faith may be narrow and challenging, it's the only way to truly live.
Don’t Fear Doubt
Ultimately, doubt is always present when faith is required. There is no need to fear doubt—not our own or the doubt of those we love. For even when we doubt the truth, it still remains true. As you encourage your doubting friend, you can be confident that when you stand on God’s Word, it will not fail you. Praise God that even when our faith is weak, the Word of the Lord endures forever (1 Pet. 1:25)!
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of praying for your friend who is doubting. The words you say to your heavenly Father on her behalf are far more powerful than any words you can say directly to her. Even as much as you long to dispel the doubts plaguing your friend, God cares for her even more. Trust him to nourish and build up her faith, doing the work that only he can do. You can be confident knowing that doubt will never have the final say over the way, the truth, and the life.