“The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
(James 1:5-6 ESV).
Scripture has some serious words concerning faith and doubt. Faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1) while doubt is the inability to believe in that which we hope for and the incapacity to trust in that which we do not see. Faith is rewarded constantly throughout Scripture. The book of Romans declares that Abraham was justified by faith (Romans 4:3). Hebrews informs us simply that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Doubt, on the other hand, is constantly rebuked throughout Scripture.
It is important to understand that the kind of doubt that is rebuked in the Bible is a willful decision to act upon distrust in God, His promises, and His character. The disciple who comes filled with questions or uncertainties – so long as at the end of the day, they can put them aside and act on faith, does not deter God. It is the individual who clings with such fervency to his or her own questions and concerns about God, causing them to abandon pursuit of Him altogether that will attract His displeasure. Such an individual may simply act upon what they can see, rather than in the God they cannot see.
Having doubts is not wrong, but feeding them in such as way that dictates our actions, may be. The Psalmist on occasions enters the same tense conflict between doubt and faith. Many of these songs are written from David to God, and not all of them are full of certain faith and exuberant praise. Many times, he questions his own circumstances and wonders when God will deliver on His promises. This is the man whom God called “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). And yet, as we see throughout his poems and songs, he had moments of doubt, worry, and anxiety. David chose to bring these doubts before the Lord, lay them before His feet, yet the defining characteristic of David was that he surrenders himself to God and continued to trust him regardless of his circumstances.
When we are dealing with doubt, it is vital that we do the same. Do not try to bury the doubts – they have a way of growing in darkness. Do not allow yourself to buy into the doubts. Rather, tackle them face on and bring them before the Lord.
Psalm 13 is a wonderful example of how to do this. David wrote this Psalm. The date of the Psalm may be ambiguous, but what is without question, is the difficult set of circumstances surrounding his life. However, he received many promises from God, but was also asked to endure significant trials. This particular song was clearly written during such a time of doubt, pain, and hardship.
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
Lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’
Lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
My heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.”
Psalm 13, ESV
What do we learn from David’s lament here?
- We can bring our doubts, worries, pains, and confusion to the Lord.
- We don’t have to pretend they don’t exist or wrestle with such doubts on our own. The worst thing that we can do when we are struggling with doubt is to hide it or bottle it up. We must bring them before the Lord in honesty. He is big enough to handle our questions.
- We must ask God to move
- When we don’t believe that God is going to do what He has said He will do, or we don’t see how everything is going to work out, we must ask God to move. We are incapable of figuring everything out and working all things together for good. Ask Him for a breakthrough, ask Him to reveal Himself to you, and ask Him to give you faith. We, like David, can come before Him and plead, “consider me and answer me, O Lord my God” (v. 3). He is faithful to do so.
- We must remind ourselves of God’s goodness, and praise Him for being faithful
- David does an amazing thing at the end of this Psalm. He stops focusing in his questions, and reminds himself of the goodness of God. This is key to dealing with doubt. If all we do is talk to God about them, we aren’t going to move past troublesome questions. Like David, we must bring them before God but then speak the truth of what God says over our own hearts. He ends his Psalm saying, “I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (vv. 5-6). It is unlikely that David’s circumstances magically changed as he was writing this song. He is still enduring the trial as he writes these last two verses. But he chooses to look up, and proclaim faith in the God who is bigger than all of his questions, rather than to stay lost in his own doubt. We must do the same.
There isn’t anything wrong with having questions and experiencing doubt. It is simply what we do with our doubt that matters. We have a God who delights in knowing us and communing with us, and He does not turn away from us when we bring questions, fears, and doubts before Him. David, in the Scriptures, gives us the example of what to do when we are such wrestling occurs. We get to bring these things before God, ask Him to move in ways that only He can, and remind ourselves of the goodness and glory of God. He will move in us and graciously guide us, that is, if we are only willing to walk by faith and not always by sight.