Does questioning our faith mean we were never really saved? Are we allowed to have doubts? Where are these feelings rooted? What do we do when doubt becomes a stumbling block that hinders our relationship with God?
One of the most dangerous stumbling blocks of our faith is doubt. No one is exempt from its attack, and there will come a time in everyone’s faith walk where we will question God, often asking, “How can a God who claims to be love allow such evil and devastation to occur?” Due to this internal struggle, thousands of people walk away from God each year, claiming that the answers they found were not satisfactory and that they have found zero evidence of God’s existence.
There is nothing more disheartening than to hear someone, especially an influential believer, say that they no longer believe God is real. With testimonies being shared all over the world and personal experiences that are too extraordinary to question, it’s shocking that so many have shrugged all of these beliefs away as coincidence or fairytale, adopting another narrative that better confirms their doubts and allows them to walk away without a single glance back. Nevertheless, our beliefs do not come through other people’s testimonies, so if we lack identity and relationship in the Messiah, doubt’s grip will only tighten until it has chocked the faith right out of you.
“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Romans 10:17
While there are many Christians who are coming forward to say that they are struggling with doubts and no longer believe in God — Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson, for example — the announcement that has remained on my mind since it’s release is by the former lead singer of Hawk Nelson, Jon Steingard. With a long Instagram post that details the journey Jon has been on, he writes, “After growing up in a Christian home, being a pastor’s kid, playing and singing in a Christian band, and having the word ‘Christian’ in front of most of the things in my life — I am now finding that I no longer believe in God… The process of getting to that sentence has been several years in the making. It didn’t happen overnight or all of a sudden. It’s been more like pulling on the threads of a sweater, and one day discovering that there was no more sweater left.”
Reading Jon’s words was heartbreaking. With each swipe that continued his explanation, I noticed two things. The first was that not once did Jon mention searching for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ / Yeshua HaMashiach outside of Christianity and the church! Every time he spoke of faith, it was under the roof of religion.
He wrote, “When you grow up in a community that holds a shared belief, and that shared belief is so incredibly central to everything, you simply adopt it. Everyone I was close to believed in God, accepted Jesus into their hearts, prayed for signs and wonders, and participated in church, youth groups, conferences, and ministry. So I did too.”
While I will never tell someone to leave their congregation or that they are not saved if they call themselves a Christian, I do want to encourage you to look at your life outside of going to church and reading devotions or Bible plans. How do you live your day-to-day life? Are you seeking the Father in all that you do and truly working on having a personal relationship with Him, or is your faith totally dependent on those around you — your pastor, friends, like-minded believers, family, etc.?
As a child to missionary parents, I was surrounded by the Bible and Jesus from conception. Our lives are all about walking in Truth and spreading the Word of God around the world. From a young age, I saw miracles, felt the Lord speak to me, and watch as people were transformed after accepting Jesus into their hearts. However, despite witnessing all of this, I went through a season of doubt. Laying in my bed, trapped for months at a time in more pain than I could bear, I cried out to God, “Where are you?” and would wonder why He was allowing this to happen to me. In time, I learned the deeper strength He was teaching me and the path that was being paved with every step. One of the lessons I learned through this trial was that relationship does not equal religion. I might have called myself a believer and acted as though I was spiritual, but until I fully laid my life at the Messiah’s feet and allowed Him to take control of my life, I was not truly walking in the fullness of all that I had been called to do.
I’m so thankful to have parents who never shoved their beliefs down my throat; instead, they encouraged me to pursue the Father for myself. When I have questions, they’re always there to answer, though, most of the time, it’s only half-answers so that I can seek the rest for myself. This brings me to the second thing Jon mentioned in his post. Talking with his father-in-law, a pastor, one day, Jon asked about a certain passage of Scripture, and it’s validity to today’s culture. Rather than responding with language that Jon could understand, his father-in-law began by telling him that he would need to study the original Greek to understand what Paul was trying to say truly. Everyone in Jon’s circle seemed to have similar responses to his questions, creating a narrative that it was for them, the leaders and ministers of the church, to know and everybody else to just believe and not worry about as the study was too intense for mere “church members.”
Beware of becoming this person! When someone comes to you with questions about faith, do you seek the Holy Spirit for an answer, or have you memorized complicated doctrine that will probably confuse any new or maturing believer? There is no greater way to grow doubt than to surround yourself with people who only speak of conspiracies or technicalities in the Bible, stating no personal testimonies of the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives. Biblical doctrine is important, but it should never be the foundation of our faith. When someone is asking about the reality of God, they’re not asking for a chronological understanding of the Aramaic, Greek, or Hebrew language; they are seeking encouragement to build their identity and foundation, growing closer to God with mentors who can guide them along the right path!
Yes, Yeshua reprimanded Peter for doubting (Matthew 14:31), and James 1:5-8 speaks about those having doubts not entering the Kingdom of Heaven; but, I want to let you know that this does not mean you will be cut off from God if you are struggling to believe in His Truth while seeking Him and straining to hear His voice. If that were the case, the Bible would look extremely different. “We need to doubt the doubts and believe God,” as my dad likes to say. Through our struggles, God remains the same, and when we learn to trust in Him and open our eyes to the things He’s doing within, and around us, the struggles that once held us down will become the stepping stones we need to reach the other side!
So, how can we encourage our friends or family members who are struggling with doubt? Maybe you’re also questioning God’s existence and purpose for your life. You are not alone in this. There are plenty of people in the Bible who also doubted God, yet through them, He did some incredible work! Abraham and Sarah became the parents of great nations (Genesis 17-18); Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 3); the Israelites were cared for, though their rebellion and doubt did cause their generation to miss entering the Promised Land (Exodus-Joshua); Gideon helped bring victory over the Midianites (Judges 6); Martha watched her brother be raised from the dead and was one of Yeshua’s disciples (John 11). The list could go on, but we can’t move one without mentioning Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 13). They saw the same land as the other ten spies, yet doubt did not have a hold on them, though they were surrounded by men who questioned God’s promise to the Israelites.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
I have never been so sure of the Father’s existence! By letting go of expectations and surrendering my life to be used for the Kingdom of Heaven, I now have a new, more fulfilling purpose. I am not the person I used to be. I’m no longer the lukewarm believer who would tell people that she loves Jesus one minute and the next would go off to do her own thing, making excuses when someone would question if her decisions pleased God. How did I get to this place? Through trust, prayer, faith, dying to my flesh, and a lot of mediation and discussion!
It’s time to stop being ashamed of our doubts and struggles and begin to share them with those around us (God especially). If you feel like you are not getting answers or hearing static when you talk to God, I encourage you not to give up. Sometimes, it takes sitting in the silence and letting go of all we know to understand who our Savior is.
Use the questions below to dig deeper into where your doubt is rooted or as a tool to begin conversations with those around you. I will be praying that doubt will not win and that God will reveal Himself to you in a way that will shake your world, transforming the person you thought you were into someone whose identity is solely planted in Yeshua!
- Have you ever questioned if God was real? What did you find?
- What do you base your faith on? The Word, Yeshua’s love, freedom, or revelation?
- What evidence has God has shown you that He is real? Through an encounter you’ve had with the Spirit, healing, deliverance, or through a friend’s testimony?
- Why do you believe in God?
- Is there something you hold onto when doubt comes?
- When you see death, sadness, and evil in the world, how do you feel about it? Do you question or blame God when you see these things?
- What has God done in your life that has shown you His love, presence, and truth?
- Are there things you struggle with and continue to question God about?
- If you are living according to the Word, do you ever wonder why blessings get taken away, and people look at you like you’re the bad guy?
- Which Bible verse encourages you when your faith waivers?
- Name something that symbolizes your faith? Is it a parachute, a lifeline, an ornament?
- People can speak countless words into your life, but truth with and relationship comes from seeking God for ourselves at the end of the day. How do you search for Him? How often do you seek Him?
- What do you call yourself when people ask who you are? Do you have a title?
- Where do you place your identity?