Is Doubt A Sin? Can it be a Good Thing?

by Robert Driskell on April 29, 2013 · Print Print · Email Email

As Christians, many of us initially believed because someone else told us it was true. Our parents, grandparents, friends, co-workers, or someone else presented the Gospel to us, we believed it, and trusted Jesus for our salvation. The Holy Spirit confirmed that truth in our hearts, and we knew we were saved.

However, as we live out our faith, there will be times when we have doubts; when we are just not sure about something. Maybe we hear a preacher preach something that does not sound quite right. We may begin to doubt whether we understand as much as we think we do. On the other hand, it might be that we just do not ‘feel’ forgiven anymore for one reason or another. There are many reasons for doubt to arise.

They may be small doubts about relatively insignificant matters or they might be huge doubts about foundational doctrines of Christianity. Whether large or small, be assured, there will be doubts. Consider that John the Baptist, the appointed herald of Jesus’ coming, had doubts while a captive in prison (Matthew 11:2-4). This was not an expression of unbelief on John’s part, but a request for reassurance. Jesus did not rebuke John for asking either, but rather sent men to describe to John what Jesus was doing as evidence that Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Savior.

Doubt can actually be a good thing, if we continue to trust God, because it forces us to nail down why we believe what we believe. This doubt can actually cause our faith to be strengthened as we work through the issues that simply are not as clear as we would like them to be. By spending time understanding the deeper things of God, our faith and our relationship with Him is deepened.

What is Doubt?

Merriam-Webster defines ‘doubt’ as, “1: uncertainty of belief or opinion that often interferes with decision-making; 2: a state of affairs giving rise to uncertainty, hesitation, or suspense; 3: a lack of confidence” (1).

There is a big difference between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Unbelief is the opposite of faith and doubt is not unbelief. R.C. Sproul clearly points out the difference between doubt and unbelief when he writes, “An all-important difference exists, therefore, between the open-minded uncertainty of doubt and the closed-minded certainty of unbelief” (3). Doubt is still open to God’s guidance and teaching, unbelief has made up its mind against God.

Doubt …forces us to nail down why we believe what we believe.

Doubt …forces us to nail down why we believe what we believe.

Michael Patton writes, “Doubt is not unbelief. Doubt is the bridge that connects our current faith to perfect faith” (2). As I mentioned before, doubt can actually be a path to a stronger, deeper faith, depending on how we respond to it.

Doubt can certainly lead to unbelief if not handled the right way. Faith is a trust in, and a reliance on, Jesus’ saving work. Doubt is a lack of assurance concerning some doctrine, belief, or some other aspect of our relationship with God. Doubt is quite often found in the life of one who thinks deeply about the things of God.

Unbelief, on the other hand, is a rejection of the Truth of the Gospel. It is the point where one says, “I don’t believe this anymore, and I’m going to live for myself.” Some times, doubts that are not addressed by turning towards God for answers, end up with the doubter turning away from God altogether.

Why Do We Doubt?

Lack of knowledge

Sometimes our doubts are due to us simply not having all the facts, or the correct facts. If our understanding of Scripture is lacking or distorted, doubts may arise just because we do not fully understand what God meant by what He said. “All of us have our doubts because our knowledge is imperfect and incomplete. We must be willing to be honest about our doubts” (4). It is vitally important that we read and study the Bible.

Sin in our lives

Is our doubt caused by some sin in our life? If we are engaged in willful disobedience to God, we cannot expect to live victorious Christian lives. We will experience hardships, heartaches, and doubts simply because we have chosen to no longer abide in God’s will (John 15:10; John 8:31, 15:4-16).

Responses to Doubt

First, do not pretend that your doubt is not real; every believer at some time in his or her walk of faith has doubts. Too many think that it is a sign of weakness, or shallow faith, to admit that they have doubts and will instead try to hide them as they struggle. Instead of confiding in other faithful Christians, who will love them and pray for them, these Christians isolate themselves during the very time when they need support the most. The Bible tells us to, “…have mercy on those who doubt” (Jude 22 ESV). We must honestly admit it when we have doubts.

Second, do not think that your doubts mean that you are not saved or that God has deserted you. For some new believers, and even some seasoned old-timers, doubts can seem bigger than they are. Too often, they seem insurmountable, causing the believer to throw up his or her hands in defeat. One of the worst things a person with doubts can do is to believe that, simply because he or she has doubts about something, that everything they believe should be doubted. Just because one may have a question about one thing does not mean that all things are questionable.

Conclusion

As with many other aspects of Christianity, how we choose to respond to doubt determines whether it is a sin or not. If we choose to turn away from God in times of doubt, then yes, we would be sinning. However, if we turn to God in faith and trust, even in our times of doubt, then we would be expressing our love and dependence on Him when it most mattered.

In Mark 9:14-25, Jesus dealt with a man who had some faith although he still said to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 ESV). This man had faith, yet he also had doubts, he just was not as sure as he wanted to be. Our faith can always be stronger and, as we grow in our relationship with God, it will strengthen. Therefore, when we experience doubts, our reaction should be to trust God to guide, protect, and strengthen us as we struggle with those doubts.

No matter what doubts one has concerning the Christian life of faith, there are answers. Even if sometimes that answer is to simply trust God and His goodness. He never promised that we would know every answer to every question’ but He did promise that He would never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He also promised that, if we rely on Him, we would never be overwhelmed by anything (I Corinthians 10:13)…and that included doubts.

Take a look at this collection of verses about doubt:

Bible Verses About Doubt

Resources – The Holy Bible, English Standard Version “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (1) http: //www. merriam-webster. com/dictionary/doubt; (2) http://thegospelcoalition. org/blogs/tgc/2012/01/18/dealing-with-the-doubting/; (3) Sproul, R.C. Doubt and Assurance. (Baker Book House, 1993) p. 33.; (4) Burke, John. No Perfect People Allowed. (Zondervan, 2005) p. 56.



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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack Wellman April 29, 2013 at 11:29 am

Well done my friend. Surely I have had doubts and did discover that is was because of sin in my life and at other times, it was my circumstances. I do know that sin keeps us from the Word of God but the Word of God keeps us from sin (not perfectly of course). Thank you for another great lesson Robert.

Reply

Robert April 29, 2013 at 11:47 am

Thank you, Jack.
I sincerely hope this article helps encourages believers to trust God and lean on Him when doubts creep in. God bless you, brother.
Robert

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Trina April 29, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I really like this article by Robert Driskell “Is Doubt A Sin? Can it be a Good Thing?”
It’s been weighing heavy on my heart that this generation is being drawn into atheism at an alarming speed. I have a son who was once a boldy professed christian until he got involve in secular science in college and am watching him leaning towards unbelief. It’s hard to know when to keep quiet or when to speak up, about things I see him post and his lack of knowledge about God. I think I will send this article to him and hope it opens his heart back up to God. Please keep up the good work!

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Robert April 30, 2013 at 6:56 am

Thank you Trina,
I am pleased that my service for the Lord can help someone. Please feel free to send any article you like to those whom you think might benefit from them. Remember to keep praying for your loved ones…God can change their heart when all our efforts seem hopeless. God bless you.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Danielle Street April 29, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Robert,
Great post! This line stood out to me, “Doubt can actually be a good thing, if we continue to trust God, because it forces us to nail down why we believe what we believe.” There are times when doubt enters my mind as I try to follow God’s call for my life. I like how you reminded us to use these moments to deepen our relationship with God and strengthen our faith.
Many Blessings,
Danielle Street

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Robert April 29, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Thank you Danielle,
It is a great encouragement to me to know that my service to the Lord has affected others in a positive, faith-building way. God bless you.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Patricia Schneider April 30, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Great article with Scriptures, Robert! (Also clicked onto Pastor Daryl Evans article, “Bible Verses about Doubt.”) Absolutely love the “reminders” this site, WCWTK, provide in living a Christian life. Especially God’s Love for each of us!
Being a ‘babe in the woods” regarding God’s Wood, you and the other writers on this site have helped me tremendously! Thanks sooo much, Robert!
Always, in Christ, Jesus…Patty

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Robert May 2, 2013 at 7:09 am

Thank you, Patty,
As always its good to hear from you. I always try to include Scripture in my articles purely because I, myself, have no authority…all authority comes from God and what I know if revealed in His Word. God bless you.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Kevin May 6, 2013 at 9:39 am

thanks for this article, I really struggling doubt especially when I compare the genealogy of our Lord (matt & luke) and also the last words.

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Robert May 6, 2013 at 11:42 am

Hi Kevin,
Thank you for reading and commenting. Can you be more specific about the problems you have with Jesus’ geneaology and the last words (Jesus’ last words or the last words of Matthew and Luke?). God bless you.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Kevin May 6, 2013 at 6:26 pm

according to luke from david to joseph it’s 42 persons mentioned., while matthew it’s just 27 different names,
also the last word when I compared according to luke He said, … Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. (23:46), while john’s, … it is finished. (19:30),

Reply

Robert May 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Hi Kevin,

I found some things that might help with your questions. The genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 traces Jesus’ through Joseph to Abraham. The genealogy in Luke traces Jesus’ lineage back to Adam through Mary’s bloodline. John MacArthur writes, “Joseph was “the son of Heli” by marriage (Heli having no sons of his own), and thus is named here in Luke 3:23 as the representative of Mary’s generation” (MacArthur Study Bible, note on Luke 3:23-38. Crossway, 2010).

“Scholars suggest several ways in which the genealogies of Matthew and Luke may be harmonized. First, one may preserve the genealogy of Jesus through Mary and the other through Joseph. Second, the custom of levirate marriage resulted in a child having different biological and legal fathers. Perhaps one genealogy follows the biological line while the other follows the legal. Third, one genealogy may trace David’s legal descendants who would have reigned if the Davidic kingdom had continued while the other lists descendants in Joseph’s specific line. A combination of these approaches is also possible” (Holman Christian Standard Study Bible, note on Matthew 1:7-16. Holman, 2010).

Concerning Jesus’ last words, the Gospels did not follow strict chronology. In other words, the Gospel writers often rearranged the sequence of events to fit their intended audience or to make certain teachings clearer. The Gospel writers included the things Jesus said and did that were pertinent to their Gospel, and they omitted others that were not. Jesus may have said much more from the cross, He certainly said and did much more in His life that was not recorded (John 21:25), therefore; under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel writers included what God wanted included, and in the manner in which He wanted it written (John 14:26).

I hope this has helped Kevin, feel free to respond. The whole reason this website exists is to encourage believers in their walk with the Lord. God bless you.

Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Robert May 7, 2013 at 7:06 am

Kevin,
I am very glad to hear that my small service has been a benefit to you. You have not offended anyone that I know of. Honest questions should not be offensive anyway. They should be asked. God bless you, Kevin. Trust God, He will never fail you.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Kenneth May 22, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Great article Robert. My mom told me the other day that my brother said he don’t know who or what to believe anymore. This is a common situation amongst young people nowadays. There’s atheism, masonry & illuminati conspiracy going on. Me & my mom who’s both saved pray that God send the Holy Spirit to my brother in Jesus Name to guide him to the light out of darkness. God bless. Amen.

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Robert May 22, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Kenneth,
I will be praying with you. God bless you and your family.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Jennifer July 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm

I find so much comfort in this article. I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior when I was 7 years old. I grew up with a family that praised God, and as I grew older I never forgot my faith, but at times I feel lost, and it does feel somewhat like doubt, and it makes me feel so guilty. I’ve been studying for the bar exam to become a licensed attorney, and studying 10-12 hours a day, everyday has created an enormous amount of stress and anxiety. But through this experience something happened, it reminded me that I need to put my trust in the Lord. Aside from my mom, I don’t have many friends who believe in God, and my husband, while he used to have a weak belief in God, is now completely lost. I’ve realized I need to make some changes in my life, and to maintain my relationship with God. I’m so glad I found this website! Thank you!

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amy December 20, 2013 at 8:52 am

Hello,

Please help me Robert. I am so full of doubt I do not comprehend whether it is possible for me to be saved. Sometimes I feel truly thankful to Jesus and it makes me cry but other times I just feel like I am lost and alone and nobody really loves or cares about me. I am going to church and I really like my church but it feels like there is so much bible, how will i ever get the chance to understand it. What I want to know is, am I saved through Jesus when I find it so hard to admit to others, or even to myself, that he is the truth? Am I saved even though I am so full of doubt? How is that possible? The bible is so definite: either your name is in the book, or it isn’t.

Thank you,

Amy

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Robert December 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Hi Amy,
I sense your frustration; however, let me reassure you that God loves you and is able to give you the assurance you seek.

There was a time that I struggled just as you are. One day I felt close to God and knew I was saved, but the next I felt like God was far away and I wasn’t sure about my salvation that day. However, I trusted in the promises of the Word of God; that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and, if I trust Him for that salvation and live for Him, then I am saved…period. My doubts did not clear up quickly, I wrestled with them for quite a while. But I learned that the right way to handle doubts is to focus on those things we have no doubt about: God’s love, His care for us, Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection that paid the price for our sins, and the fact that, as long as we are living such that we, “love the Lord with all our hearts, minds, soul, body, and strength”, we are secure in our salvation.

Amy, my advice to you is to stay in church, be honest with your Christian brothers and sisters (most likely they have experienced the same doubts that you are experiencing), continue to read your Bible and trust the promises in it, and know that you are not alone. Remember also that, feelings don’t always reflect reality. Just because I don’t FEEL saved one day does not mean that I’m NOT saved. If we trust our feelings more than God’s Word we will always end up in trouble.

God bless you, Amy. I hope this helps. You might also talk to your pastor. But, most of all, trust God no matter whether you feel like it or not. He will not leave you or forsake you.

Yours in Christ,
Robert

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