My camper crumbled a stick in her hands as we sat watching the lake glimmer.
“What’s been on your mind?” I repeated, “Anything in particular?”
Bits of the stick tumbled to the ground, and words tumbled out of her mouth.
She had questions on everything from creation to end times to evil to absolute truth. And below these, she wondered if this God was worth trusting despite her pain.
I don’t remember what I said in the next ten minutes as we sat on that stoop and the sun faded off the lake, but I recalled this moment over and over in the next year as my own doubts demanded confrontation.
If I had this conversation again I would give her a hug and start here…
Is the root of your doubt intellectual or emotional?
The two are closely tied, and require similar responses, but often one stems from the other.
For instance, if I can’t trust what the Bible says about history and science, why should I trust this God to take care of my heart? On the other hand, if I’m hurting, it’s easier to argue over science than face my pain.
Know that emotions lie, and that intellect puffs up.
Do you fear it?
As clean-cut Sunday School attendees, we quickly cram questions into secret corners, fearing that they undermine God—or simply that others will judge us for them.
But if God is who He claims to be, our questions will only reveal His glory. Just look at the book of Job! And not only do other Christians struggle, but someone nearby is probably wondering the same things, and could be encouraged by your search for truth.
Feeding on secrecy and never confronted, doubt grows from a few weeds to a deep-rooted thicket. Start weeding for the glory of God!
Have you told God about it?
God already knows, of course, but He wants to hear it from you. Don’t let this drive you away from Him—instead, ask Him your questions and let it strengthen your relationship. He’s not afraid or angry! Psalm 50:15 promises, “And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (ESV).
God will bring himself glory even through doubt!
Have you looked in the word?
Look for answers here first. You can’t ask good questions about something you don’t understand, and you can’t get satisfying answers either—so understand what the Bible says before questioning it. Search confidently, remembering the promise that “the one who seeks finds” (Luke 11:10 ESV). Search faithfully, because “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17 ESV).
You’ll also find that scripture overflows with fellow doubters and God’s faithfulness. From Abraham who ran to Egypt, to Gideon who set out fleeces or David who wrote a book of poetry about his doubts, right down to Thomas, who’ll never shake that name—they questioned for many reasons, and got many different responses, but time and again God showed himself worthy of trust. He answered the blackest doubt and the heaviest sorrow and the deepest fears and never let them go. Read and remember.
Have you asked others about it?
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As a well-trained, hand-raising, self-proclaimed expert, it’s hard for me to admit I don’t have all the answers. But that’s just pride, and I need to honestly share my weaknesses and confusion. Otherwise, I miss all the experience of my fellow believers.
Talk to trusted Christians who have walked with God longer and ask them for help. You’ll find they have valuable wisdom to share. And recall that scripture commands us to have grace toward doubt in Jude 1:22: “And have mercy on those who doubt” (ESV).
Have you done your research?
It’s easy to let questions gnaw at us without carving out time to address them, and it’s easy to settle on a viewpoint without fully understanding the issues and information involved. But your worldview and faith, your relationship with God, is too important to take the easy route.
Pursue answers! Ask a pastor or teacher for excellent resources, read them, and ask questions. Test the teachings of Christianity, confident that many of history’s brightest minds have done the same. Brilliant men and women have tried God and found Him true, so you’ve nothing to fear from following in their footsteps.
Are you turning from sin?
In this time of questioning, it’s tempting to let sin grow—after all, why follow the commands of a God you’re not sure exists? But Jesus puts it clearly in John 3:20-21: “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (ESV).
In other words, stubborn sinners avoid God. Doubt can quickly become a smokescreen for reluctance to repent.
Are you expecting fast, full answers?
Scripture tells of many faithful believers who waited decades for answers—and many more who died without seeing God’s promises fulfilled. The Bible does not apologize for this reality; in fact, it celebrates the greatness of God we cannot understand!
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’” (Rom 11:33-35 ESV).
Though the Word of God reveals many mysteries, God does not promise complete understanding. He only promises that if we trust Him, He will satisfy us with Himself.
And lastly…Are you trusting that He’ll carry you through?
It might sound crazy to talk about trust within doubt, but Biblical characters often lived in this tension. In the face of darkness and confusion, when God seemed far, they knew He had a good plan.
“Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:8-10 ESV).
Look to Jesus, and put your heart in the hands of Him who said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1 ESV).
Esther Johnson is a freelance writer, editor, and magic bean buyer with a passion for lemon bars, folk rock, and morning runs. She has written for Piercing Word ministries, CHAP Magazine, and The Rebelution, and recently became a regular contributor to TCB. You can find other writings and updates, and get in touch, on her blog at https://estherjohnsonsite.wordpress.com/