All doubt is not created equally. After writing about the doubt of faith (Mark 9) in Pure Faith, I’ve considered doubt from a variety of perspectives through several experiences, and I’m growing to understand it’s a bit more complicated than we sometimes assume.
As a faith-filled person, perhaps you see doubt as the opposite of faith, but one doesn’t cancel out the other. An ounce of doubt doesn’t negate all belief, and a dash of belief doesn’t pull doubt out of its funk. And different kinds of doubt require different approaches and attention.
Rational doubt. When we reason through why we shouldn’t believe something, we have rational doubt. God certainly created us with reason. He is an orderly God, and we are created in his image. However, we do not have his complete capability of understanding how everything is connected. We cannot fully comprehend who he is and why he does what he does. When we’re limited in our understanding, we can slip into rational doubt. Any gap we have or anything that seems to not fit becomes grounds for dismissal. Those gaps are especially where our faith comes in. Faith is the mortar that holds the pieces we have together. Rational doubt can be the killer of our faith is we allow it to be, but it can also be a faith builder and expander.
Emotional doubt. When we don’t feel as if something is true, we have emotional doubt. However, our feelings aren’t always accurate. God is an emotional God. Scriptures are filled will the expressions of his emotions. Again, because we’re created in his image, we, too, are emotional. When we take our emotional experiences and project their accuracy onto God, we misstep in faith. When we make faith decisions based on emotional doubt, we erode our faith and our relationship with God. Just because we feel something doesn’t make it so. When we let our emotions decide our faith response, we easily tip the scales from primarily faith to primarily doubt. Emotions enhance experiences but left unchecked, emotional doubt will become a quagmire, but when we look to God for emotional accuracy, our emotions can provide stepping stones for sure-footed steps through sticky situations.
Spiritual doubt. When we move away from God, doubting his provision and presence, we have spiritual doubt. We wonder where he is, why he allowed something, or when we’re going to hear from him or see him move in our lives. We wonder if we really know who he is or what he’s doing. The answer? Yes…and no. We can know God, but we can’t know everything about him, because he’s God and we’re not. We can understand what he’s doing as we know his character and our experiences line up with the truth of God’s Word, but we can’t fully understand everything in our lives, because we aren’t capable of God’s omniscient perspective. Spiritual doubt creates a distance between us and God, but it doesn’t have to. Because of God’s consistent pursuit of us, he wants to make a way. He wants to build bridges over any pool of spiritual doubt. However, he won’t force himself onto us. He knows our hearts and our intentions, and he knows the source and purpose of our spiritual doubts. We need to struggle through some doubt in order to more deeply trust him, but when the distance our doubt puts between us becomes what we want more than the intimacy we can have with him, he will give us space.
Some doubt is acute, and some is chronic. None will be wasted if it’s given to God to sort, but you have to yield it to him. Tell him about it. He already knows. He likes when you share. Search his Word and listen to the Holy Spirit as he weaves the doubt into faith. You can trust him, but it takes a step of faith to do so.