Is Doubt The Opposite of Faith?

2017-1021

IS DOUBT THE OPPOSITE OF FAITH?

Real people of faith have real doubts.

Maybe you’ve been led to believe that just isn’t so.

All too often churches are assumed to be fortresses of unassailable certainty – places where spiritually mature people no longer have serious questions about God’s existence, or the meaning of life, or what happens after we die.

And if they do have such questions, they most certainty aren’t going to ask them out loud.

But the truth of the matter is that real disciples – real lifelong learners of Jesus – frequently have real doubts.

That’s part and parcel of surrendering oneself to a God who cannot be seen, heard, or touched, and whose existence cannot be finally proved.

The real world, after all, can be a tragic place, giving us numerous reasons to wonder if God is really there.

The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, who fiercely loved God, nevertheless suggested that the death of a single infant ought to call his existence into question.

At the very least, a church has to be a place where there are honest answers for honest questions.

Such an atmosphere requires humility.  And transparency.  And no more trotting out Dr. So-and-So’s list of the 10 reasons why our spiritual convictions are spot on while everybody else is totally out to lunch.

Yet many Christians have come to see doubt as a terrifying monster.  Surely we must batten down the hatches of our faith, conceal our misgivings from others, and refuse to consider the possibility we might be wrong.

But there’s a healthier way forward.

It begins with grasping that doubt is not the enemy.

Is doubt the opposite of faith?  Not at all.  The opposite of faith is unbelief.  Doubt is better defined as “faith under pressure.”  In the same regard, is fear the opposite of courage?  It’s not.  The opposite of courage is cowardice.  Firefighters running into a blazing house are exhibiting courage – and they are also likely to be afraid.  Fear in this context is “courage under pressure.”

Doubt may make us think more deeply.  And study more diligently.  And pray more fervently.

In other words, our doubts may actually drive us into the arms of God.  Or at least into an understanding of God that is more consistent with his true character and identity.

In the meantime, there’s a character in the Bible who’s become something of a hero for those who wrestle with trusting God.

In Mark 9:21-24, Jesus is confronted by a father whose son is afflicted by a demon.  “If you can do anything,” the father pleads with Jesus, “take pity on us and help us. ’If you can’? replied Jesus.  Everything is possible for the one who believes.”

Exasperated, hopeful, and desperate all at once, the father offers what can only be described as a Doubter’s Prayer:  “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Jesus heals his son.

Maybe you’re living in spiritual No Man’s Land between belief and unbelief, confidence and fear, hope and despair.

Here’s the wonderful news:

Jesus hears and answers prayers that are offered from spiritual No Man’s Land.

— Authored by Glenn McDonald

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