Ivy Baker Priest served as the Treasurer of the United States under Dwight D. Eisenhower and as Treasurer for the state of California under Ronald Reagan. She was credited with saying, “I’m often wrong, but never in doubt”. It’s a funny comment, that I’ve heard others use, but it also has a ring of truth to it. For many people having doubt (or at least expressing doubt) is unacceptable. This attitude is especially prevalent in many churches, where doubt is treated as a lack of faith or the mark of an immature Christian. Not only is this sentiment wrong, it’s dangerous. Here are three important things to know about doubt:
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It’s impossible to think deeply about things without having doubts. Doubting and questioning things is how we test their strength and more important, it’s how we take ownership of belief ourselves. Everyone has doubts. Not everyone expresses them. What many churches are unintentionally telling people when they warn against doubt is “don’t think too deeply about it” or “if you do think about it and have doubts, hide them”. Neither of those paths leads to growth. Honesty and humility are the beginnings of growth.
Doubt fuels faith
Doubt doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has no faith. Doubt can actually fuel a growing faith. When we doubt, we ask questions. If we can ask honest questions and seek out honest answers, our faith will grow. We don’t have to be afraid of questioning God. In fact, the writer of Hebrews stated, “(God) rewards those who earnestly seek him.”1 Doubt can turn to seeking. It doesn’t mean that you are failing, it may simply be an opportunity to think more deeply and search more passionately.
Honesty is more important than certainty
I get nervous when someone tells me that they have all of the answers. When this comment is made in reference to God, it’s especially terrifying. God is bigger than we could possibly imagine. Our brains can’t possibly wrap all the way around all there is of Him. Learning more about God most often creates humility instead of certainty. There are things to be certain of: God’s love, perfection, care, etc… But, one of the most important things we can be certain of is that we don’t know it all. Doubt can be the start of seeking new answers and new growth.
Doubt isn’t to be feared. It doesn’t mean that everything you have believed is false, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t love God. It simply means that you are thinking and open to whatever God may choose to show you next. So don’t run from your doubts. Take them to God. Share them with friends who care for you. It may be the start of something incredible.
1 Hebrews 11:6b (ESV)