What can be good about doubt?
Not all doubt is bad. Some of the world’s leading skeptics of Christianity have eventually become its leading advocates. Such a person was C. S. Lewis, the late professor of Medieval English at Cambridge University. A combination of issues–the horror of war, seeing some of his best friends die, wondering about the hereafter–made Lewis first doubt his faith, then search for answers. He found them, too, in the pages of Scripture.
What’s good about doubt? Consider the following five observations, and then make your own decision.
Observation #1: It is better to deal with doubt and learn what you believe than to live with doubt and never know what you believe. A lot of people avoid confrontation with doubt, perhaps secretly fearing that what they think is truth may turn out to be falsehood. Some in this category are afraid that deviating from the group–what others think–might subject them to ridicule or criticism. Lacking the strength to confront their fears, they vacillate back and forth, uncertain, having no foundation. They have never learned the truth of what Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Observation #2: Better to doubt your faith than to believe your doubt. A Christian scientist was being interviewed by a skeptic, a talk-show host who took refuge in his ignorance and unbelief. Finally, the scientist confronted his interviewer, asking, “What evidence are you willing to accept?” He had no answer.
Those who believe their doubts, never confronting issues with an open mind, are not new. Even after Jesus rose from the dead, there were some who still clung tenaciously to their unbelief. Matthew, one of the twelve who was a first-hand witness of the risen Christ, tells how Jesus appeared to the disciples on many occasions, even revealing Himself to them as they met behind locked doors. In the final paragraph of his Gospel, Matthew writes, “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted” (Matthew 28:16-17).
Observation #3: Better to confront truth that will survive testing than to never question that which is untrue. One of the characteristics of cult groups is their demand that devotees blindly accept the teaching of the founder. There is no room for questions. The leader’s word is final, as though God has spoken. Jesus, in contrast, invited sincere doubters to confront and question. “If anyone chooses to do God’s will,” said Christ, “he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17). God never reproves those who doubt their faith, but He does censure those who refuse to believe the truth. There is a big difference.
Observation #4: Better to take your doubts to the Lord than to let your doubts take you from the Lord. John the Baptist did that very thing. When the darkness of a prison began to create darkness in his heart, he sent his disciples to Jesus with the big question: “Are you really the one, or should we look for another?” Jesus sent them back with the instruction, “Tell him what you have seen!” which included the miracles of healing which no mere human could ever do.
Observation #5: Better to act on what you know to be true than to be paralyzed by your doubt. Most of the time, we are troubled far more by what we believe than what we are uncertain of. Act on your faith. Often what we don’t understand begins to fade as our foundation of faith expands. Nobody ever has all the answers this side of heaven. But don’t let doubt stop you. Come down on the other side of the issue.