Doubt is debilitating. One author recounts the struggles of a girl named Laura who felt that she couldn’t believe:
“I don’t know’. I can’t do this, Don. You don’t understand. I can’t do this.”
“Can’t do what, Laura?”
“Be a Christian.”
“Why can’t you be a Christian?”
Laura didn’t say anything. She just looked at me and rolled her tired eyes… “There is this part of me that wants to believe. I wrote about it in my journal. My family believes, Don. I feel as though I need to believe. Like I am going to die if I don’t believe…
Laura sat silent for a while. She sort of mumbled under her breath. “I can’t do it.*
Unfortunately, this kind of struggle doesn’t just affect non-Christians. More believers than we realize struggle regularly with serious doubts. And doubt can catch us by surprise, striking us when we least expect it. Often it comes like a pernicious opportunistic infection, just when we’ve suffered deep loss or are at our weakest.
And for that reason, whether you’re struggling today or not, it pays to be prepared. Here are three practical steps you should take when serious doubts attack.
1) Get help.
Doubt has its own anatomy, and that differs by the person. Each struggler has a unique shape to their struggle. You should find someone who has come through challenges that mirror your own. The primary types of doubts I’ve encountered have either been more academic (philosophical, scientific or historical challenges) or experiential (sudden tragic losses that bring God’s nature into question). Find someone who has been through that as well.
One of the fastest ways to languish is to be isolated. There are answers to your questions – they do exist. Find someone who will listen and who can help you.
2) Be candid.
Candid with other people is fine. It can’t hurt. But more important is to be candid with God Himself. The clearest biblical precedent is Job. While God worked with him to address his doubt, the text also takes great pains to make it clear that Job’s response was right. In other words, you don’t have to first coat your prayers in the things you think you’re supposed to say. The point of prayer is to talk. God already knows the struggles, questions, doubts and fears inside anyway. Put them them out there before Him. It’s then that He can address and help you.
3) Fill your mind with truth.
In my darkest days, I realized that the questions were bigger in my mind than God. Granted, that not surprising—my mind was working hard to solve a problem. But it’s also unsurprising that doubts will seem bigger than truth when all you think about is doubt. You don’t put off eating until you’re already healthy again.
Even with the questions still before you, push forward. Open your Bible and read. If you can’t read, turn on an audio Bible. Make a daily goal. Push yourself to let the truth seep in, even if you have questions.
Because the power of God’s truth is self-authenticating. The truth itself enters your heart and changes you. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
Don later received a surprise email from his friend, Laura:
I read through the book of Matthew this evening. I was up all night. I couldn’t stop reading so I read through Mark. This Jesus of yours is either a madman or the Son of God. Somewhere in the middle of Mark I realized that He was the Son of God. I suppose this makes me a Christian. I feel much better now. Come to campus tonight and let’s get coffee.
The days of doubt are long and dark. But there is light on the other side; there is hope. Get help. Talk to God. Discover the truth.
Taken from Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller (Thomas Nelson, 2012), pg. 52-54, 58. This book is otherwise extremely misleading and Mr. Miller has gone on to make some highly dubious decisions. I in no way recommend this book.