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Can faith and doubt co-exist?

May 8, 2007

There is a lot of change and uncertainty in my life right now. Through that I am thinking a lot about doubt, faith, and what it means to believe in and trust God. If we are not believing in God and God’s word, then aren’t we believing something else? Does that mean that if we don’t have faith in God, we have faith in something else? What are the affects in our lives if we doubt? Is questioning the same thing as doubting?

James 1:5-8 states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

In Matthew 7:5-6 “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.’”

According to James, anyone who doubts should not assume he will receive from the Lord, but Matthew tells us that even the tiniest amount of faith can accomplish a lot. Yesterday a friend was sharing how she struggles to trust God when he isn’t physically present. Since we don’t know with our head and eyes that he is there, we can doubt and feel we need to run our lives ourselves. We need to know and believe with more than our head and eyes, but with our hearts. Can I have faith, even the tiniest amount, that God will provide for me, my church, my friends, my family? Can I trust he will provide a job, heal broken relationships, overcome the pain of unexpected death, give direction where needed, overcome fear and trust issues? If I doubt, even a little, am I a double-minded person, unstable in all I do?

Tough questions! I am so glad God is bigger than I am and able to understand all of this. My prayer is like the disciples, Lord, increase my faith!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2007 3:37 pm

    I just stumbled upon your post as I was doing some research. I was moved. Doubt comes to us in different forms, and I’m unsure if all forms of doubt are what James is talking about.

    There is a difference, for example, between intellectual doubt and relational doubt. You touched on relational doubt when you used the word ‘trust.’ This word is probably a better translation of ‘faith’ in the New Testament.

    Intellectual doubt is different. And relationships depends in part on our intellectual understanding. There was some confusion about this in your post when you talked about believing with more than head and eyes but with the heart. We do need to understand with our minds. We have to. And ‘heart’ in the New Testament is not about sincere feelings as it is about employing the will to follow what the mind has found to be true.

    The Bible admonishes us in this over and over to “know” to “have knowledge” to “understand” to grow in “wisdom.” These are all words of the mind.

    If we have a hard time understanding God is trustworthy based on the evidence, then we’ll, of course, have a hard time trusting him. But that’s not a relational problem really. That’s an intellectual one. And it would be wrong for us to force ourselves to trust someone to whom we have no evidence of their trustworthiness.

    I often say when I’m speaking on the road that it doesn’t take faith to know God exists. There is plenty of evidence for his existence. It does take faith, however, to trust him. His existence is not all that I need. I need his love and his relationship in my life. And that’s the whole point of the whole thing.

    So go easy on yourself regarding doubt and remember what Jude said, “Have mercy on those who doubt” (verse 22). It isn’t a problem to ask questions when there is uncertainty. It is only a problem when we have the truth plainly in front of us and deliberately choose not to follow it or trust it.

    Perhaps a spiritual question to ask yourself is, “If I have a hard time trusting God, what do I need to study more to make me more sure of God’s character?” Or ask yourself, “How have I been wounded by others in a way that keeps from trust others, and therefore, keeps me from trusting God?”

    These kinds of questions may take us a lot farther than beating ourselves up with Bible verses. 😉

    James is right. Once we know the truth, we are always unstable in not trusting it. Once we know God can do something, we are unstable not to trust him. But, for James, it isn’t a matter of wanting to believe and not being able to. He is speaking to those who are able to but are hesitating their wanting to.

    And when you ask whether you will receive anything from the Lord, step back and remember again his character. He loves and he loves deeply. It is our own self-inflicting guilt that often keeps us from embracing that. James is touching more on those who are not embracing God’s love. Of course God cannot give anything good to the person who will not accept it. From the tone of your post, it sounds like you’re ready to accept it freely.

    Much peace to you,
    dale fincher

  2. May 17, 2007 5:14 pm

    Dale, thank you for stopping by and for sharing your insights and wisdom. I learn so much from hearing other’s views. I have never thought about or heard anyone refer to their being different forms of doubt, but your descriptions make sense. I was lumping everything together under one definition of the word.

    I didn’t mean to come across as beating myself up with scripture or being hard on myself, but I am going through a period of time where I am deeply grappling with scripture and trying to learn how to apply it to my life. I have been raised in the church and have been taught many things, but along the line I have failed to ask many of what I now think are the most important questions about why I believe, what it means for my life, and how to take all I know in my head and apply it to my life. I was raised in an environment of intellectual faith, but what I want now is relational faith. I want the love and relationship you talk about, and yet it is so easy for me to fall back into the intellectualism that has been a part of my life for years.

    You also suggested I ask the question “How have I been wounded by others in a way that keeps me from trusting others, and therefore, keeps me from trusting God?” That too is an issue for me because of a profound wound from the leadership of a past church that I have recently reopened for a new level of healing. I know I trust both God and man in my head, but sometimes my heart and my emotions can go in a different direction. Sometimes they aren’t convinced that what my head says is true.

    I agree that our doubts and questions may come from our own self-talk, guilt, cynicism, and contempt. I do accept God’s love freely, but I also believe it is a battle to live in it both in my head and my heart every day. That is my struggle, not believing in it, but living it. I think ultimately God wants us to do both and I know it will take me a lifetime to learn how to do it well. Thank you for being someone who crossed my path and made an impact in that moment.

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