Every morning, as I scan through over a hundred articles on Feedly, almost without fail there will be an article or two that has something to do with doubt. (I’ve even written a few myself). These are gritty and honest recollections of a not so smooth relationship with the living God. Some of them are more hopeful than the others—but at the end of the day the message is about the same, “We’ve all got doubts, man, it’s cool if you have them too”.
If a thing like blogging existed some 40 years ago I doubt our feed readers would be filled with articles about doubt. Doubt wasn’t cool. It was something that you hid. It was something that you battled alone. Or at least that is what I am told.
Since I’ve only been around for 33 years and have been exposed to the uglies of only a handful of churches, I’ll have to take the word of the all-seeing authors that can more readily say things like, “the unspoken message in many churches today is that real Christians do not doubt”.
But doubting is sexy now. Authenticity is one of the chief virtues of our culture. And so if we experience doubt then by all means we had better be real and express it.
But it’s a particular type of authenticity that is celebrated in our day. It’s not an authenticity that really cares about the deep things in your heart. You know, the things that you believe with every fiber of your being but you might not feel at that moment. Today’s authenticity cares more about the “what you feel in the moment”. If you feel it express it. Otherwise you aren’t being real.
Of course the biblical authors are every bit authentic. Just read through the Psalms and you’ll read things that are similar to our modern expressions of doubt. Just read Psalm 88. Most of the times we are at least given a little hope. Not here. It’s bleak from beginning to end.
But notice something. Psalm 88 is an individual lament—it is an intimate prayer to God that is made public for the benefit of others. It’s a prayer that we ourselves—when wrecked with such overwhelming troubles—can pick up and make our own.
This Psalm is not saying, “We’ve all got doubts, man, it’s cool if you have them too”. Psalm 88 isn’t exalting doubt as some sexy virtue. It’s a cry that says, “I’ve got/had doubts, man, let’s cry out to God and fight this together”.
We’ve made a jump in our thinking and practice that I don’t think the Bible invites us to make. We’ve assumed that because the Bible invites us to an authentic expression of doubt that being in a state of doubt is in itself an attractive virtue.
It’s Not a Sexy Virtue
Yes, it is a wonderful testimony to the power of God that he is able to keep our faith alive in the midst of doubt. And “Lord, I believe help my unbelief” is every bit an expression of faith. But let’s not pretend that such a doubt-filled expression is the apex of biblical faith.
Is it possible that rather than patting ourselves on the back as gritty doubters we might be in need of a rebuke? After all if we’ve seen the Lord work in a multitude of ways and then wet ourselves at the first sign of a storm, perhaps we are due for an “O you of little faith”, type of rebuke.
Is it possible that rather than surrounding ourselves in a community of others just barely hanging onto faith and exalting them as models of great faithfulness that we’d do better to surround ourselves by men and women of an immovable faith? I’m talking about the type of faith in Hebrews 11 that is the assurance of things hoped for. The type of faith that causes an Abram to leave his home. The type of faith that causes dear saints to endure immense suffering and still say it is well with my soul. Maybe these should be our models.
Is it possible that rather than giving full vent to our doubts and frustrations and calling it “just being real” that we ought to sit on our doubt for a season like Asaph did in Psalm 73?
Listen, if you are enduring a particularly difficult season and you are overwhelmed with doubt, then you need to know that God doesn’t quench such a faith. Your faith doesn’t need to be lively and strong for it to grab ahold of Jesus. God can handle your doubt. Pray through the Psalms of lament. Make them yours. Cry out to the Lord to penetrate the darkness.
But don’t pretend like your doubt is a sexy virtue that you need to keep around for awhile. There won’t be doubt in heaven. Doubt and darkness are things that Christ has redeemed us from. Faith is messy. I get that. But let’s not fall into the trap of calling our enemy our friend.
Doubt isn’t a sexy virtue.