Losing Faith: 4 Things to do When Doubts Arise

Wes  —  July 12, 2017
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I would be surprised if there was anyone who had thought seriously about the claims of the gospel and not had some doubts. If we are honest about what the Bible asks us to accept, there will be times when we say, “Could all this really be true?” I’ve experienced times like that and I’ve known plenty of mature Christians – leaders in the church – who’ve gone through seasons of doubt and come out stronger on the other side. Here are four things you can do when you have doubts:

1. Pray

When you have doubts about God, one of the last things you feel like doing is praying; but it’s actually the first thing you should do. In fact, doubts often arise because we have been neglecting prayer in the first place. I recently read Rod Dreher’s book, The Benedict Option. He wrote,

“The 1960s media theorist Marshall McLuhan…once said that everyone he knew who lost his faith began by ceasing to pray.”

Pray prayers of supplication. Ask God to help you. Pray what the father prayed in Mark 9:24, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

Pray prayers of adoration. A compliment can rekindle a relationship. Spend some time praying about God’s beauty and majesty. Try praying Psalm 145.

Pray prayers of confession. Sometimes we “suppress the truth” because of our sinful desires. There may be sin lurking in our lives or hearts that we haven’t even admitted to ourselves yet. Spend time confessing your sins and surrendering your rebellious heart to God.

Pray prayers of intercession. Pray for someone else. When we pray for others, we are drawn out of ourselves and are reminded that there are other things going on in the Universe.

Pray prayers of thanksgiving. Don’t underestimate how much gratitude can reorient your heart toward God. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

2. Challenge the Assumptions of Your Doubts

Every doubt is based on assumption. If a boy says, “I would like to ask that girl out on a date, but I doubt she would go out with me,” his doubt is based on certain assumptions. He is assuming that he isn’t good looking enough, charming enough, or whatever. Maybe his assumptions are true, and maybe they are not. Assumptions need to be identified and challenged.

When you think to yourself, “I’m losing my faith; I just don’t know if I believe anymore,” then you need to identify the assumptions that are supporting your doubts and challenge those assumptions. Here is one example:

“I thought if I lived my life the way I was supposed to live, I would be blessed by God. But everything in my life is falling apart. Maybe God isn’t even real or maybe He hates me.”

The assumption that a person won’t have to suffer if he or she is living a Christian life is common, but it’s NOT based on actual Christian doctrine. Assumptions like these need to be identified and challenged. We need to ask ourselves, “Why do I assume that? Is that assumption based on truth?”

Even the supposed facts that skeptics and atheists throw out to undermine the Christian faith, are based on assumptions. Naturalistic scientists, for example, approach and present their research with unfounded assumptions.

When you have doubts, start challenging the underlying assumptions.

3. Engage with the Gospel on an Intellectual and Emotional Level

I recently visited with a young man who was about ready to give up on Christianity because he thought it was unfair. “How could there be only one way to God,” he asked, “and everyone else is doomed?” But the more we visited, the more it became obvious that even though he grew up in a Christian home, he had never really understood the Good News. He didn’t need a course in scientific apologetics. He needed to see the glory of the cross.

When first-century Christians began to have doubts or waver in their faith, the apostles pointed them back to the central facts of the Good News message. Read passages like Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:1-4, or 1 John 1:1-4. All of these books were written to Christians, struggling in their faith.

The gospel is not only true historically and factually, it also answers the deepest longings, questions, and fears of our heart, “Does God really love me? Does He know what I’m going through? Could He really forgive me for the things I’ve done? What is my purpose on earth?” As C.S. Lewis famously said:

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

For the Christian, everything should come back to the person and work of Jesus Christ. As much as I may believe in the six-day Creation week and Noah’s flood, my faith does NOT hinge on proving those things. My faith hinges on the empty tomb of Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-11).

I have seen too many Christians actually damage their faith by building their entire belief system around geological studies, dinosaur fossils, flood research, etc. These things have significance, but the apostolic way of reassuring a struggle faith is to point people back to the crucified and risen Savior.

4. Surround Yourself with Jesus’ People

When you’re struggling with your faith, you might be tempted to gradually withdraw from the church. It might be guilt, fear, or even anger. Sadly, it might be the behavior of other Christians that is a source of some of your doubts. But as much as I understand those feelings, withdrawing from the church is one of the worst things you can do.

You need to be with Christians in whom you can see the fruit of God’s Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is unspeakable power to spiritually refresh you when you are with people who are full of God’s Spirit.

Consider what the Hebrew writer said in Hebrews 10:24-25. When you are with a group of people who are stirred up to love and good works and who meet together to encourage each other, your wavering faith will be strengthened.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams