How To Deal With Doubt

Posted: July 23, 2013 in Apologetics, Christian Living, Doubt

question_head5A very hidden problem many Christians face is doubt. Doubt is the kind of problem you don’t want others to know you are having, for fear they will start treating you as an unbeliever or an apostate. “What! You are doubting God? You are doubting the inspiration of the Bible?” Well, many Christians do struggle with these issues, along with a host of others. Common questions may include: How can I know that I am a Christian? How can I know that Christianity is true? Why should I trust the Bible? How can I know God will forgive me? How do I know another religion is not true? This list could go on and on and on.

For some people, these doubts can be very troubling and produce tremendous inner turmoil. And anyone who is honest with themselves will realize doubt is part of the human experience, and specifically the Christian life. But what are we to do with this doubt? Is it bad? Does it signal a problem with our faith? Most importantly, how should we deal with it?

In order to answer these questions – which I don’t plan to do here in great detail – it would be helpful to first diagnose the type of doubt you are facing. Once you can understand the root of your doubt, you can begin dealing with it. Dr. Gary Habermas, professor at Liberty University, has written extensively on this issue. He has identified three specific types of doubts that Christian face – emotional, factual, and volitional.

Emotional doubt is often marked by “what if” questions. What if I am not a Christian? What if Jesus is not God? What if that Bible is not true? What if God will not forgive me? These questions are often rooted in emotions and feelings rather than facts. I personally struggle with this type of doubt, and it is VERY difficult to overcome. Emotional doubt is very similar to the experiences of those who suffer from anxiety or depression. You “know” the truth in your mind, but your emotions overpower those truths and you find yourself living in light of your emotions rather than truth. To overcome this doubt requires similar methods to overcoming anxiety and depression. (1) Talking to yourself instead of letting your emotions talk to you. (2) Diverting your attention to other things when doubt comes upon you. Thanking God for his goodness in your life or praising him for his attributes and actions are beneficial steps to overcoming moments of doubt. If you are a chronic sufferer of emotional doubt, these steps must become a way of life for you. Additionally, medical advice may be helpful and necessary if your doubt is linked to anxiety and/or depression.

Factual doubt is a form of doubt triggered by a lack of information regarding a certain topic. For instance, questioning your salvation  – often an emotional doubt – can also be prompted by a lack of Biblical knowledge. Answering the unanswered questions can remove the doubt and provide you with the security you needed (or point you in the direction of security). Factual doubt can also surface when someone challenges the truthfulness of the Christian faith. In these cases, Christian apologetics can be helpful. If finding answers to your questions does not resolve your doubt, most likely you are not dealing with factual doubt.

Volitional doubt has to do with one’s will – whether one is willing to believe or give up certain sins. Often people who begin doubting the Christian faith have unrepented sin in their life. They are unwilling to give up their sin; and since God and sin have no place together, one must go. Doubt then begins to surface – consciously and unconsciously – and the sin starts a path toward unbelief (Rom. 1:21-23). Therefore, when doubt surfaces, one should introspect and evaluate whether or not there is unrepented sin in their life.

The first step to overcoming your doubt – or helping someone else overcome their doubt – is to determine the type of doubt you are dealing with. Each species of doubt requires a different approach – approaches that are not interchangeable. So as a doctor must know the disease before he applies treatment, likewise you should understand your doubt before you treat it.

For more information on this topic, I would recommend The Thomas Factor, by Gary Habermas.

 

Jordan Tong

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