Doubts About God’s Activity

Can a faithful Christian have doubts and questions about God?

“Don’t be a doubting Thomas.”  Have you ever heard that phrase?  It refers to the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples after his death and resurrection.  Unfortunately for Thomas, he was not there to see the resurrected Jesus for himself, and he doubted the story of the other disciples.  When Jesus appeared to him and the other disciples,he immediately believed and made a dramatic statement of his faith in Jesus.  And yet, to this day, the story of Thomas is used to rebuke people who express doubts about God or God’s activity in the world.

Can a Christian have doubts about God and God’s activity in the world?  In the face of natural disasters and tragedies, is it possible for a Christian to express their concerns and questions about God’s activity? 

During the early years of my life, my home church had a very low tolerance for doubts and questions.  Everything was to be “taken on faith”.  If you read parts of the Bible that you did not understand or you suffered personal losses that did not make sense to you, you just needed to accept God’s will on faith alone.  While there are things that need to be taken on faith, there also has to be room for some doubts and questions.  In fact, there are many people whose faith is made stronger by going through periods of doubt and questioning.

Looking at this story of Thomas, his dramatic statement of faith and trust (“My Lord and my GOD!”) comes after his questions and doubts about Jesus’ resurrection were answered.  It is also notable that Jesus, while he does address Thomas’ doubts, does not condemn Thomas for them.

Scripture is filled with the stories of people of faith who have had questions and doubts when confronted by things they could not believe or understand.  The Psalmist continually relates the feelings of people who bring their questions, doubts and complaints to God, and yet have faith that God will be with them.  As one of my seminary professors used to say, it is the great, “Nevertheless”.  Though I may have doubts and concerns, nevertheless I will not lose heart.

When confronted by the question, “Can a Christian have doubts and questions?”, the answer is an emphatic “Yes”.  Doubts and questions are not necessarily the opposite of faith.  Instead, they can be an acknowledgement that we do not have all the answers or that we do not understand God’s will or God’s actions.  At the same time, we are still connected to God, and in the end, we will place our trust in God.  Faith is holding on – despite or in the midst of – our doubts and questions. 

Most importantly, faith is also a gift that is given to us by the Holy Spirit.  During moments of struggle and disappointment, one of my favorite passages to read is from Romans 8.  “The Spirit helps us in our weakness…the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words to express.”  As frail human beings, we all needs God’s Spirit to help us, encourage us, and even carry us through difficult or trying times.  The idea that the Spirit was given to us to help us when our spirits are weak is very powerful to me – and I hope it is to you as well. 

In moments of doubt, turn toward God.  God will not reject you.  May God’s Spirit encourage and lift us all through the times when doubts assail us, that we may remain faith-filled and faithful.

Have you had periods of doubt?

Do you have questions about your faith?

How did God help you through those times? 

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