How to Deal with Doubt and Make the Choice to Believe

Is God real? Can He be trusted? Is He good? Is He for me? Where is God when it hurts? Is the Christian life worth it? When hard questions such as these present themselves, I and many others have discovered that you have the choice to believe.

Now hear me out. I’m not suggesting that the way to faith is bootstrapping your mind to believe something you don’t want to believe, something that goes against the evidence you see. Believing is not some kind of mental gymnastics you keep practicing, contorting your body (er, mind) to do unnatural things until finally you get some prize on the other end. (Don’t get me wrong; I love watching the gymnastics Olympic trials!)

Some Christians seem to behave as though faith is a kind of works. If you’re a “strong” person, and somehow believe long enough and hard enough, you will move God to do what you want. And if you struggle with doubt, you’re a “bad” Christian.

On the other hand, some Christians seem to think believing God is a feeling, and they just have to sit back and wait for it to happen. It’s God’s fault if they struggle with doubt. If He would just come through for them, they’d believe. Why does everyone else seem to get the goodies but they don’t?

Let’s unpack this belief thing a bit.

Biblical Examples

Belief in the Bible was not a blind ignoring of material realities. Neither was it a human bootstrapping effort. It was a choice to believe that God is Who He said He is, and to stand on His side.

The 3 Hebrews taken captive to Babylon were faced with a burning fiery furnace. When threatened with death they responded to Nebuchadnezzar, “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18, emphasis added)

But if not. Even if.

A desperate father brought his epileptic son to Jesus to be healed. His first request to Jesus was phrased, “If you can do anything. …” When Jesus challenged him, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

That’s the choice to believe.

Your Choice? Or God’s Work?

When you believe that God is good, that He is Who He says He is, it’s a somewhat miraculous coming together of God’s work in your heart and your voluntary choice to believe.

God tends to work this way often, “blending” divine power with human involvement. The Incarnation: Jesus who was fully divine became also fully human. The Inspiration of Scripture; God’s Holy Spirit came together with human writers in penning God’s words. God initiates. Humankind does not provide the power, but the human nature and will is not diminished or overcome. The coming together of divine and human is one of the mysteries we will only completely understand in eternity.

You cannot drum up this kind of belief by “trying harder.” But God does not override your will. As Philippians says, “Work out your own salvation. . . . For it is God who works in you.” (Philippians 2:12-13) God works, and we work.

So when you are struggling with doubt, or when questions seem to be overwhelming your mind, what do you do? Let me suggest these 3 things.

  1. Bring Your Questions to God

That’s what you do with your doubts, struggles, and questions. You could try to ignore or minimize them. You could try to drum up enough internal “stuff” to power through them. Or you could ruminate on them and nurse your misery. How’s that been working for you?

The thing to do with your questions is bring them to Jesus. God’s very best friends in Scripture did this. Moses. (Exodus 5:22-23) David. (Psalm 10, 73, and others) Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 12:1-4) Habakkuk. (Habakkuk 1:2-4) Mary and Martha. (John 11:21, 32) Jesus Himself. (Matthew 27:46)

Like a child with a parent, you honor God when He is the One you bring your toughest questions to. This includes questions about your salvation, your health, your marriage, your loved ones, your money, your future, your purpose, our crazy world, anything that troubles you.

  1. Stick Around

God’s best friends in Scripture (mentioned above) would never have experienced God’s answer if they had run out of His presence immediately. They had to stick around. That didn’t mean circumstances always turned out as they humanly wanted. But sticking around means you are open to an answer.

After my husband’s death I didn’t doubt God’s goodness, but I had plenty of Why questions. By sticking around in God’s presence I learned that He may not always provide intellectually satisfying answers, the kind that would hold up in an earthly court of law. But He Himself always becomes the Answer. And that’s the kind of Answer that matters when it counts the most.

  1. Choose to Believe

Like the desperate father you cry out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” You point your soul toward God, not away from Him. You grab onto whatever sliver of faith God has implanted in your soul and refuse to let go. You’re acknowledging your lack and throwing yourself on God, in some measure trusting Him to catch you because you have no other option.

This doesn’t mean your doubts or struggles are necessarily gone. It doesn’t mean all your questions are answered. You’re not denying what your physical senses are telling you; you’re looking for the rest of the truth. Like a toddler when they’ve been hurt or scared or confused, you run TO your Father and raise your arms for Him to pick you up.

That’s what the choice to believe looks like.

And I invite you to choose to believe today.

Your Turn: Where have you struggled to believe that God is Who He says He is, that He is good, and that He is for you? Have you experienced what it’s like to make the choice to believe? Leave a comment below.

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