"When you consider the issue of doubt, you recognize that in order to doubt, you must first believe! What you don’t believe, you cannot doubt … you simply deny."
I doubt it!! All of us have said such a thing. Skepticism or discernment as we evaluate what is true is a virtue. In Acts 17:11, Paul commended the Bereans for their “skepticism:” “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” The ability to “doubt” the veracity of something is part of the gifting by the Lord for rationality and epistemology.
When you consider the issue of doubt, you recognize that in order to doubt, you must first believe! What you don’t believe, you cannot doubt … you simply deny. Doubt is the exercise of the mind whereby you desire confirmation of what you believe. Hence, it is a means to the end of greater belief, and is helpful when the energy associated with doubt leads one toward confirmation and not outright denial. This is the very sentiment communicated by the father of the demoniac who came to Jesus and in response to Jesus’ statement: “All things are possible to him who believes,” the man “cried out and said, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.’” (Mark 9:23-24).
Perhaps the greatest generator of doubt in our lives is the perceived disparity that exists between truth and experience. When what we go through conflicts with what we expect, doubt is born. Of course, our perceptions of truth often fail to correspond directly with the actuality of truth. When the greatest prophet who ever lived experienced something inconsistent with what he expected, he began to doubt. His doubt didn’t drive him away from Jesus, but toward Him for the resolution of his doubt. He expected Jesus to come and right wrongs, conquer Rome, dismiss the ungodly and set up a Kingdom of righteousness. What he experienced was personal imprisonment at the hand of immoral people, and a distraction by Jesus in obsessing with befriending sinful people. John couldn’t quite understand and began to doubt: “Are you the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” (Luke 7:19b).
John had prophesied that Jesus was coming, announced when Jesus came, baptized Jesus, listened to the voice of God affirming His Son, and concluded that Jesus must increase and John must decrease. In addition, he proclaimed that the axe was at the roots of the tree in judgment (Luke 3:9) but nothing was happening. He thought he had a handle on what was going to unfold, but it didn’t … at least not in the time frame of John’s expectations. Hence, unfulfilled expectations of how and when God should work often produces doubt. Yet, John’s solution must be our solution - he turned to the Word of God to settle his doubts. He came directly to the source of God’s Word, Jesus Christ and sought clarification. Jesus took John directly to the Word of God and pointed to the prophecies of Isaiah to assure John of the truth (Isaiah 35, 61:1-2a). This is the way that doubt is fruitful - driving us back to the Word of God for clarification, instruction, and confirmation. Even as the Scriptures themselves inform: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17). If we fail to turn the Scripture and have our questions answered properly, we allow doubt to be a destination instead of a starting point. When this happens, “the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driving and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6b).
May our doubts launch us toward greater confidence in God and His Word!