Doubt, like faith, is probably a permanent feature in our Christian life. It may not always be prominent in your relationship with God, but it does make its presence known. With this thought in mind, it will be of great benefit to us to have an understanding of where doubt within us comes from.
Alister McGrath points to two key areas of our lives regarding doubt: Human sinfulness and human frailty. So, to understand doubt in the right perspective, we need to see ourselves in the right perspective – we are finite, sinful people, and that limits what we can be sure about.
To begin with, part of understanding the proper context of doubt is that of our struggle with sin (Hebrews 12:4). This was true for me in my own life. Some years ago, I was struggling with a particular sin in my life. I prayed, I cried out to God for relief of this sin, but all I felt was silence from God. I wondered where God was at that time. In other words, I began to doubt. To this day, sin remains a lingering presence in my life, in all of our lives. To ignore it or pretend it isn’t there points to an inadequate understanding of the effects of our sinfulness, one of which is doubt – doubting the promises of God and mistrusting Him.
Doubt reflects the continued presence and power of sin in our lives, but it is not entirely correct to speak of sin as our only reason of doubt. Doubt is also a reflection of human frailty. As human beings, we operate under limits. There are many things that we cannot see or do simply because we are humans. Part of these limitations is that we are not fully able to grasp the things of God. Because we are unable to grasp something completely, we question if it is real. In other words, we doubt. Think of the stars in the sky. They don’t need darkness to exist, but we need darkness if we are going to see them and convince ourselves that they are there. So it is with God. Just like we can’t see the stars during the day, so our minds can’t take in the fullness of God. It is the way we see things, rather than the way things actually are, which is the problem. There are limits to what we can understand and prove. Understanding these limits is so important with our relationship with God, because in the end, doubt comes from our unrealistic expectations about certainty. Accepting these limitations is an essential step in reducing doubt in our Christian life.
Doubt is a reminder of the continued presence and power of sin in our lives as well as the limits to what we are able to understand and comprehend about God. Doubt doesn’t need to be the end all to our relationship with God. Rather, it should serve as a reminder of our need for grace and be a stepping stone for increasing our faith in God.
~ Tim Hall
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