Devotionals & Quiet Times - Blog

Why God Welcomes Your Doubt

Melissa Long

Clouds enshrouded life for months on end. It was winter in Vancouver, and the painful loss of daylight further punctuated the questions that occupied my heart and mind.

Recently married and transplanted from the cocoon of a small Christian community to an eclectic West Coast city, I swirled in the transition and culture shock. Adding to the complexity, my husband and I found ourselves sinking in the depths of a mental health crisis. Battling anxiety, depression and insomnia, my husband’s internal life mirrored the winter outside.

As suffering mounted, what I believed to be true about God and life didn’t seem to line up with our experience. Doubts crept in.

“If God is good, why would He allow us to suffer so much?”

“Does God even care?”

I began to wonder whether I should even ask such accusatory questions. “Do my doubts offend God? Do they threaten my faith?”

1. Life With Jesus Isn’t a Victorious Straight Line

A narrative within many Christian communities whispers that life with Jesus progresses in a victorious straight line.

We buy into a sneaky story that says once we start following Jesus, we should be perfect people who automatically have all the answers to life’s questions, and that the time for asking questions has passed. This isn’t the story the Bible tells us.

2. In the Bible, God Embraces People Who Doubt

When we think about how God views our doubts, it’s tempting to take our cues from our fears, feelings or that fictional “straight line” narrative. But the best place to start is with God’s primary way of communicating with us: the Bible.

Scripture guides us on both sides of the picture. The New Testament Pharisees stand out as those who think they’ve got God all figured out. With the exception of Nicodemus, they never asked questions to understand. They asked questions to try to entrap Jesus.

For God’s people in the Bible, questions and doubts were part of the process of growing into maturity. God doesn’t turn His back on the questioners.

On the flip side, the Bible overflows with examples of far-from-perfect people who respond to God with honesty and humility.

  • Abraham chuckles to himself when God says that His promised great nation will come through Sarah, the wife whose child-bearing years are a distant memory (Genesis 17:17). Likely, his doubts land in the realm of “Nice thought, God. But too little, too late.”
  • Mary asks, “How can this happen?” when the angel reveals God’s plan that she will carry the Messiah, Jesus, in her womb (Luke 1:34, New International Version).
  • Peter wants to believe enough to walk to Jesus on the waves of a stormy sea, but he sinks when his fear distracts his focus from Jesus (Matthew 14:22-32).

For each of them, questions and doubts were part of the process of growing into maturity. And in each case, there’s a redemptive pattern in the way God responds to their questions. Not once do we see God turn His back on the questioner.

  • Making good on His promise, God gives Abraham and Sarah a son.
  • God’s messenger does not shame Mary for her question but gives her what she needs to comprehend and embrace the pregnancy to come.
  • And Jesus, rather than allowing Peter to drown in his doubt, reaches out His hand to catch him.

3. There Is a Faithful Way to Deal With Doubt

How, then, can we move forward when we don’t know what to do with our doubts?

  • Honestly take your doubts to God. The writer of Psalm 42 turns his question to God, asking, “Why have you forgotten me?” (v. 9, NIV). This sounds more like an accusation than a question. But it models honesty with God and reminds us that we don’t have to put on a show to approach God.
  • “Talk to yourself, don’t listen to yourself,” suggests pastor Timothy Keller. In times of uncertainty, you can turn your doubts to focus on reminding yourself of what you know about God’s character. The Psalms are a great help here.
  • Turn your questions outward. As tempting as it may be to go into hiding with your questions, if you want to grow and learn, you’ll need other Christians. Seeking out people of strong faith to be around and wise writers to read allows you to learn from others who have thought long and hard about the complexities of faith. Keep reading, keep listening, keep asking.

4. God Can Strengthen Your Faith as You Doubt

Over the course of a few years, I slowly emerged from my “Vancouver winter.” God hadn’t miraculously removed my husband’s depression or anxiety. He hadn’t guaranteed that our life would play out like our dreams. But as I wrestled alongside my husband, bringing my doubts to God, reminding myself of His character, and seeking wisdom from people of strong faith, I realized that God hadn’t spurned any of my questions. Instead, He’d invited them, allowing the process of engaging my doubt to strengthen my faith and correct my misunderstandings.

I still ask questions, especially when life gets hard. When my daughter’s chronic illness confines her to bed, I ask, “How long, O Lord?”

The difference now is that I don’t wonder if God is threatened by my doubts or annoyed that suffering prompts me to ask questions. I see now that God cares about our uncertainties as much as He cares about our moments of courage, sorrow and joy.

God welcomes your doubts because, in His mysterious love, He wants the real you to know, love and honor the real Him. And that takes a lifetime of mutual pursuit, which will undoubtedly involve asking questions along the way.

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