The loss of a job.
The end of a relationship.
The death of a family member.
Terrible setbacks, unforeseen events, and personal hardships affect us all. Sometimes we find ourselves wondering,
“God, why? Why me? Why now?”
Other times we struggle with hard questions or topics we can’t make sense of. That’s what happened to me recently when I read a couple challenging books. Perhaps you can relate.
The point is this: doubts affect us all. If you are a believer, you will at times struggle with doubt. Just like you can’t have light without darkness, I don’t think you can have faith without doubts.
So what should we do when doubts assail? Where should we turn when it feels like God is distant or even nonexistent?
Here are five suggestions that help me when I struggle with doubts:
1. Read relevant books
Through the years I’ve been blessed by so many excellent books that tackle difficult subjects head-on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched Amazon and found encouraging, timely books written by thoughtful Christian authors. Consider a book’s reviews before you buy it: obviously if it has hundreds of reviews and a 4- or 5-star overall rating, then it is probably a worthwhile read.
2. Include others in the journey
Books are great, but don’t forget the many wonderful people in your life. Siblings, parents, cousins, friends—open up to them and (when appropriate) ask if they’ve ever struggled with similar issues and doubts. It helps to have a kind listening ear and a partner in prayer. Plus, they may help you see your struggles in a different light or give you a timely piece of advice you hadn’t thought of.
3. Remember, you’re not alone
“Nobody else struggles with doubts.” “Everyone else has their spiritual walk figured out.” “This problem only affects me.”
These are lies, plain and simple. Even people in the Bible who encountered Jesus firsthand struggled to believe. Remember when Thomas was famously skeptical? And check out these verses:
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” | Luke 24:36-38
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. | Matthew 28:16-17
Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt. | Jude 21-22
Doubts are not new. They may be a new experience for you, but take heart—you’re not the first one, nor are you the only one who struggles with them.
4. Don’t expect a perfect faith
You’ve probably seen this formula:
Expectations − reality = disappointment
When we expect our lives to be smooth sailing, we will be disappointed, because the Christian life is not a cakewalk. Yes, we are exceptionally blessed, and God abundantly pours spiritual blessings upon us (Ephesians 1:3-14). But let’s be honest—we all have problems, setbacks, and hard times along the way. That’s part of life. So let’s buckle up and not cling to unrealistically rosy expectations.
5. Remember, God is still at work
He’s bringing you through this tough time for a reason. It may feel pointless or totally unnecessary, but God masterfully weaves our brokenness into beautiful things. When you come out of this difficult season, not only will you be able to look back and realize the lessons God taught you, but you’ll also be able to share your experiences and encourage others along the way.
“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” | Vance Havner