It's Okay to Doubt God

It’s Okay to Doubt God

Doubt is the feeling you get when you’re not 100% sure about something. All of us feel doubt about something whether it’s the future, your ability to succeed, or a relationship. But many of us also doubt God.

For many Christians doubts about God can be a traumatic experience. It could be doubt about the existence of God, identity of Jesus, nature of the afterlife, or the reliability of the Bible.

Those are all doubts that I’ve intensely wrestled with. I’ve read book after book about the creation and context of the Bible. Sat up wondering late into the night about whether or not God really exists. I’ve agonized over cups of coffee with friends about how someone can really know if they’re saved and what being saved even means.

Where we go when we doubt God

Whenever I doubt God one of my favorite places to go is the book of Psalms. You see, often in Christian circles doubts can be looked down on. I’ve been in groups of Christians where someone’s faith and relationship with Jesus was put in question simply because they had an honest question about the Bible. Many of us grew up in unhealthy environments where doubts were something to be hidden and ashamed of rather than expressed, explored and engaged with.

This brings us to the book of Psalms. In this book of songs and poems the writers often struggle with their own fears and doubts God. Pay attention to this closely. The writers of the Bible had doubts about God that they wrestled through, so you’re allowed to do the same.

I’ll say that again. The writers of the Bible had doubts that they wrestled through, so you’re allowed to do the same.

Here’s an example. In Psalm 44 the sons of Korah write a psalm about what God is like. In verses 4-5 they write:

You are my King and my God. You command victories for Israel. Only by your power can we push back our enemies; only in your name can we trample our foes.

A bit violent, but other than that pretty standard for the Psalms, praise to God about one of his characteristics, in this case his power and authority. In fact, in this whole opening section the authors want you to be crystal clear about one thing. What is that? That God has complete authority in all situations so every success and victory belongs to him. This is a great reminder to us: that our victories, our achievements, our gifting do not belong to us. They were gifts and tools given to us to be world changers and life givers.

Where is God now?

But this isn’t all that the Psalmists have to say. They make this claim that victories come from God, but something has gone terribly wrong. Check out v. 9-10:

But now you have tossed us aside in dishonor. You no longer lead our armies to battle. You make us retreat from our enemies and allow those who hate us to plunder our land.

So enemies have come against God’s people, but God allowed them to loose in battle. You can hear the hurt, the disbelief, the pain in their voice as they write this. Maybe you’ve had a situation like the Psalmist. You believe that God is who he says he is, you trust Jesus, go to church and serve from time to time. You’re a generally good person living a fairly Christian life. Then life turns upside down. You loose a loved one, there’s a bad diagnosis, someone looses their job, your spouse, friend or child forms an addiction and you’re left staring up at God in disbelief and anger wondering what went wrong.

The writer of the Psalm is left scratching his head as to why these terrible things have happened to them. v. 17-18 says:

All this has happened though we have not forgotten you. We have not violated your covenant. Our hearts have not deserted you. 

We have not strayed from your path. As far as the Psalmist are concerned the terrible thing that happened to them was not because of something bad that they had done. What happened to them was not a punishment.

God is still for you, even when you doubt God

If you’re like me, you may feel like you deserve the bad things that happen to you. Maybe your failures made God angry, and now you’re suffering. While our actions do have consequences, it’s important to remember that God is for you, not against you.

So the Psalmists recognized something so powerful that you need to understand. Sometimes the bad things that happen to Christians are consequences, not punishments.

Now that may seem comforting at first, but it’s not to the Psalmists. You see, what they realize is that if this was God’s punishment, then they have to diagnose the problem (what did they do wrong) and then try to solve the problem to get on good terms with God again. There’s comfort to having a plan, a formula.

The problem is that this isn’t a punishment so these authors are at a loss as to what to do. They are wrestling with having their world drop out from under them and have no idea what to do. They doubt God and they doubt themselves.They are living out the definition of doubt that we started with. They aren’t 100% sure about anything.

Well that’s not entirely true, sorry I just lied to you.

God welcomes our doubt

They are 100% sure about one thing. The Psalm closes with this Rise up! Help us! Ransom us because of your unfailing love.

They have one thing to hold onto – God’s unfailing love.

They know that in the middle of their fears and doubts, that God loves them and cares about them.

From this I think we can learn something powerful. I think our current church culture has pushed us to believe doubt is a bad thing. We’re conditioned to not do anything unless we know all of the possible outcomes. When it comes to our faith in an unseeable, unknowable God it can be easy for westerners to fight through a lot of doubts.

What this Psalm does then is two things;

1. It invites us to wrestle with our doubts.

Can you perfectly explain the trinity or the nature of Jesus and what it means to be fully God and fully man? If not then you wrestle with some doubts. Doubts aren’t something to ignore or hide from. They’re to be explored, poked, and engaged with. Find people and resources that challenge what you believe and you’ll become stronger in your faith as a result.

2. It calls us to lean on what we do know in the midst of what we don’t know.

I grew up around a lot of lighthouses. Lighthouses were a point of light in the foggy darkness that gave sailors a reference point so that they wouldn’t crash into the rocks. On a dark stormy night where 99% of the sky was dark, foggy, and treacherous a lighthouse provided one solitary tiny dot of light that made all the difference in the world. A sailor didn’t need 100% visibility to navigate well once it had seen the lighthouse. The sailor just needed to lean on what he did know (where the lighthouse was) in the midst of what he didn’t know. If we remember that God is good and that he loves us and that the core identity of every person on earth is a loved child of God then we’ll find we’re able to doubt God without fear of crashing our faith.

Psalm 44 ends with a plea for God to save them. It doesn’t have a happy ending. Sometimes we have terrible things happen to us, and there’s no real closure. The authors of the Bible recognized this and had fears and doubts about it as well. So don’t be afraid to doubt God. Find scripture and resources to help you process. Talk to trusted friends as you wrestle through your doubts.