Have you ever had doubts? Here's a thoughtful quote ...
“I think the trouble with me is lack of faith. I have no rational ground for going back on the arguments that convinced me of God’s existence: but the irrational deadweight of my old skeptical habits, and the spirit of this age, and the cares of the day, steal away all my lively feeling of the truth, and often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address. Mind you I don’t think so – the whole of my reasonable mind is convinced: but I often feel so.”
Who said that? ... an honest man ... C.S. Lewis.
"'Lord, I believe, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24)!'
We don’t know the name of the man who said those words to Jesus. Whoever he was, his words capture perfectly the anxieties of many Christians. They have discovered in Jesus Christ something far more wonderful than they had ever dared to hope. God often seems very close in the first days of faith. Yet nagging doubts sometimes remain. Can I really trust the Gospel? Does God really love me? Can I be of any use to God? Deep down, many Christians worry about questions like these, often feeling ashamed for doing so. And so they suppress them. They hope that they will go away. Sometimes they do – but often they don’t.
We often call Thomas 'doubting Thomas' but all of the disciples believed only after they saw Jesus, and even then, some of them still doubted (see Matt.28:17). Doubt is normal! We are frail, sinful, finite and limited creatures. We can’t see the full picture. We are so small ... and God is so much bigger than we think. The apostle Paul put it this way: “We see through a glass darkly.”
It is surprising how many Christian prefers not to talk about doubt. Some even refuse to think about it. Somehow, admitting to doubt seems to amount to insulting God, calling his integrity into question … on the one hand, you may think that admitting doubt is a sign of spiritual or intellectual weakness; on the other, you may be reluctant to admit those doubts to your friends, in case you upset them, perhaps damaging their own faith. Many Christians suppress their doubts. They think that it is improper to own up to them or they are afraid they will look stupid if they do.
One of the reasons why so many Christians have difficulty coping with doubt is that they confuse it with two quite separate ideas, which at first seem similar but are actually rather different. In the first place, doubt is not the same as skepticism, which is the decision to doubt everything deliberately, as a matter of principle. Secondly, doubt is not the same as unbelief, which is the decision not to have faith in God. Unbelief is an act of the will, rather than a difficulty in understanding.
Doubt often means asking questions or voicing uncertainties from the standpoint of faith. You believe – BUT you have difficulties with that faith, or are worried about it in some way. Faith and doubt aren’t mutually exclusive – but faith and unbelief are.
Doubt is something experience by ALL Christians, young and mature. It is probably a permanent feature of the Christian life. It’s like some kind of spiritual growing pain. Sometimes it recedes into the background; at other times it comes to the forefront, making its presence felt like a vengeance ... Doubt is a symptom of our human frailty.
Alistair McGrath says, “Doubt is an invitation to grow in faith and understanding, rather than something we need to panic about or get preoccupied with.”
More tomorrow ...
[These thoughts on doubt have been gleaned from Alistair McGrath's excellent book Doubting]