Have you ever doubted the existence of God? What about AFTER you became a Christian? Have you ever doubted that God is actually working in your life? That He cares? That you’re accepted? Have you ever doubted that things will ever change? Do you want to know how to overcome doubt?
Doubt is a very real thing and, though we may think Christians should be immune, at some point, and in varying ways, doubt will come for us. When it happens it can feel debilitating, but it doesn’t actually have to be. Here are 5 ways to overcome doubt as a Christian, and spoiler alert. I’ve used them all.
MY PERSONAL STORY ABOUT DOUBT
In 2016, I went through a really rough time, personally. Our youngest child was old enough to quit nursing, and we had decided against having more children. Why is that important…? Because my hormones were all over the place! On top of that, I was caring for two other children; another one-year-old and a newborn.
I’m pretty sure I had undiagnosed postpartum depression, which men… is very real and disorienting. If your wife ever claims she has it… listen to her. Know the symptoms. Anyway, all that was going on, and at the same time, internally, I was struggling with the worst doubt I had ever experienced in my life.
I grew up in a Christian home.
Never once did I doubt the existence of God, just whether or not I wanted to give my life to him. Well, fast-forward to 2016. I had been an actual Christian for almost a decade and a pastor’s wife to boot. I remember driving home from Bible study one day. I was passing by Tim Horton’s, and the thought hit me. “This whole Christian thing is a sham. God’s not real. Jesus was a fake. I can’t believe I’ve given my life to a lie.”
Now hear me. This wasn’t a question. I wasn’t asking myself, “What if?” This was a statement. In that moment I was sure of myself. God wasn’t real.
Do you know who I told?
No one. Who in the world could I tell that to? Definitely not the lead pastor of my church. He would for sure fire my husband (or so I thought). I couldn’t tell anyone in the congregation. I was supposed to be a leader… someone the people could look up to. So I struggled silently. Until I didn’t.
God’s grace was so good to me during that time, because I was part of an inter-denominational Bible study. At BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) nobody knew I was a pastor’s wife. I wasn’t the leader there. I was just an attender. So, one day I opened up. Then, another day, I opened up again. And again and again.
One of my favorite Bible verses is James 5:16 “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
There’s something so appealing about keeping our sins (or doubt) hidden.
It feels more right. Less scary. But that’s demonic. Keeping our struggles hidden keeps us in bondage, and I can assure you, God does not want that for us. He wants us free. There have been a few times in my life when I’ve struggled with something serious. This period of doubt was one of them. Another time I dealt with sinful thought patterns. Both times I wanted to keep them to myself. Both times God reminded me of James 5:16.
Confess, so you can be healed. Bring that issue to the light, so you can be healed.
Both times I did it. Both times it was scary. Both times I was healed. The doubt of 2016 eventually lifted. And it’s never been back. At least not to that degree. I share the story with you now because, as Christians, we tip-toe around certain issues. Doubt is one of them. I want you to know that doubt is normal, but if you don’t deal with it well it can consume you.
OVERCOMING DOUBT IN THE BIBLE
The best thing we can do when we’re dealing with doubt is run to the Bible and pray. You may think if you open up your Bible you’ll be condemned for your doubt. Actually what will happen is you’ll realize how prevalent doubt is, especially amongst Jesus’ closest disciples. So often we think we have to overcome our doubt. We think we either have 100% faith or 100% doubt, and if it’s the latter we need to figure out how to get back to the former.
But check this out…
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. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 16-20
The word doubt here means to waiver. To be uncertain of which way to take. My favorite explanation of the word is “to stand in two ways.”
The disciples literally walked with Jesus. They were friends with the guy. They saw him perform miracles, die, and rise from the dead. And still, right before he commissions them to go and make disciples it says, “They worshiped him; but some doubted.” This was the 11. Some doubted as they were standing right in front of the risen Jesus. He didn’t say, “Welp. You doubt. You’re out.” No, he said, “Go and make disciples.”
If Jesus said anything in that moment it was, “You doubt? You’re in!”
5 WAYS TO OVERCOME DOUBT
There are so many different types of doubt we deal with as Christians. We can doubt foundational beliefs, like me doubting the existence of God in 2016. We can doubt that God will answer our prayers or that God loves us. No matter how large or small our doubt is, we can feel like something is wrong with us. I’d love to tell you that nothing is actually wrong with you, but that would only be a half-truth.
We’re living in a fallen world. Our flesh wants things that are contrary to God’s word. There IS something wrong with you, but it’s not just you. It’s all of us. The cool thing is God doesn’t leave us without hope. Here’s what you can do if you’re dealing with doubt:
1. Talk about it.
Find a trusted Christian friend, and bring your doubt to the light.
2. Take your thoughts captive, and make them obedient to Christ.
Focus on what’s true.
3. Prioritize obedience.
This is hard when you’re struggling, but going your own way will only enhance the problem.
4. Remember God’s faithfulness.
Where has He shown up for you in the past? What has he done in your life? Remembering is a way to fight doubt.
5. Stay in community.
Don’t run from Christians when you’re struggling. Satan wants you alone. Don’t let him win.
You may feel like your doubt is keeping you from God and from growth. In actuality, God may use your doubt to draw you closer to him and to propel you forward in your faith. Stay the course. It’s worth it.
Because there’s a better way,
Sarah (and Trent)
Have you ever dealt with doubt? How’d you overcome it? What advice do you have for others going through their own doubt right now?