Is it OK to Have Doubt?

Have you ever doubted your faith in God? Have you ever wondered whether Jesus is truly the Messiah or the Son of God? The one who brings salvation to humankind? I did, and it was one of the loneliest times I’ve encountered. I had no experience with other Christians openly doubting their faith in God. In fact, I was so concerned that my hard questions about God’s existence would be received poorly, that I kept my doubt hidden; away from my family and friends, and definitely away from my church.

At the time, it seemed to me as though faith and doubt were in opposition. How could I call myself a faithful follower of Jesus if I had doubt?

If you’ve ever felt this way before, I hope what I’ve discovered through studying the Scripture will encourage you. I found that faith and doubt are not necessarily opposed for several reasons. Let’s look at three of those reasons.

Doubt is Common

Many heroes in the Bible had doubts about God or seemingly unanswered questions: Job, Abraham, Elijah, and Paul, to name a few. Yet, there is one person who specifically intrigues me because of his historical relevance to the question: John the Baptist. In Luke 7:18-28, John had been imprisoned by Herod, the tetrarch. John’s disciples reported to him about some miraculous healings by Jesus, who had even raised a man from the dead. Upon hearing this report, John told his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” He was asking if Jesus is in fact the prophesied Messiah.

John’s question, “are you the Messiah” is so powerful because John himself was the prophesied messenger of the Messiah. He had already proclaimed Jesus as “the One who is to come.” In John 1:29, he heralded, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” and in 1:34, “I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” If the prophesied messenger of the Messiah had doubt, it’s quite clear that the rest of us can as well.

However, Christians are not the only ones who doubt beliefs. Atheists, agnostics, and people of other faiths have doubts, too. C.S. Lewis, a former atheist, confessed that he sometimes experienced doubts about his faith after he became a Christian.[1] He also admitted that when he was an atheist, Christianity seemed, at times, “terribly probable.” No matter what you believe, Lewis says, you will doubt at some time. Doubt is common and we should expect to grapple with it at some time.

Doubt is Reasonable

Looking back at the passage from Luke, in context, we can see some of what caused John to question: Jesus wasn’t exactly what he expected the Messiah to be (Matthew 3:11-12).[2] The Messiah has brought the Kingdom of Heaven with him and that meant certain things to John, like the judgment of evil. Yet he was in a horrible situation, experiencing great evil at the hands of Herod. Where was the Messiah’s winnowing fork and His power? Where was His judgment?

Doubt is reasonable because things in life don’t go the way we think they should: our job, spouse, kids, finances, and more. Maybe the Christian life wasn’t what you thought it would be. Maybe you still struggle with addictions, selfish desires, or trauma from your past.  You might question God with the way things are going, and if so, remember John did this, as well. So, our reaction might be to distrust God or to further question His very existence.

Sometimes, it is just the existence of evil that can instigate doubt about a good God. The contrast of the present evil against the light of God’s goodness and the joy of salvation can cause a person to cry out to the Lord in confusion and desperation. Notice that neither of these are born out of malicious intent. These are part of our existence, of life. Not having God’s perspective on why things happen, we can question, why God, why? This is not sin. As we can see in the Luke passage, there is no evidence of Jesus rebuking John for any sinful action.

Yet, notice how John handled his doubt by getting an answer to it. He had a heart that was open to learning, which can help us continue to grow even through our suffering and pain.

Doubt is Instructive

We live in a society saturated with Internet influencers and fast access to bad arguments. It can seem overwhelming when we see and hear all the negative soundbytes criticizing belief in God. Our inclination might be to avoid discussion on hard issues altogether; or even to conceal our own questions. However, asking tough questions can yield incredibly positive results for our beliefs.

In Jesus’s response to John’s question, we see two types of responses: evidence and reason. From Luke 7:21-22:

“In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.'”

Immediately, Jesus evidenced His power of healing in the presence of the crowd. Then, He offered reason to believe He was the prophesied Messiah by quoting from Isaiah 26:19; 28:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1. He matched up His miraculous works with the prophesied activities of the Messiah.

Yet there is something else we can glean from Jesus’s response: Jesus is not opposed to answering our doubts by providing evidence and reason. He knows we are human and that our knowledge is limited.

Jesus Will Never Leave You, Not Even in Doubt

Finally, let’s not forget Jesus’s affirmation of John in front of the crowd (Luke 7:26-28). Though John, the messenger of the Messiah, publicly doubted Jesus, Jesus not only provided evidence and reason in response, but He went one step further by uplifting John’s character in public. Jesus treated John with love and tenderness during John’s time of doubt!

If you’re telling yourself you shouldn’t have doubt because it is the mark of faithlessness, you’ve listened to the wrong teacher. It’s time to get back to the Word of God and hear what the Creator of the Universe and Lover of your soul has to say about you in your time of doubt. He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b). He has bidden us: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

I cannot say that you’ll never doubt, for that is not likely in a world full of such evil. I can say that if you do, you will have access to the true foundation of love that will never change, despite your own valleys, wanderings, and wonderings.

[1] Lewis, C. S.. Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics) (p. 140). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

[2] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 295–296.


Published March 6, 2023