Spiritual doubt

You are either on the inside or the outside, black or white! If you’re not with us then you are totally against us. Sometimes it can be like that. But often we are more in between. Maybe you do not feel so convinced as those around you? Maybe thoughts or feelings are a bit “gray” or mixed? You doubt. Is it right to do this? Was it a good way to meet her? Is it absolutely true as he said it? Should I invest more in this relationship? Should we wait to have sex? Is what I believe in completely wrong? Am I worth anything whatsoever? Does life really have a meaning?


It is healthy with some skepticism and good to stop and ask critical questions to

ourselves and our surroundings. Otherwise we are like hay that whizzes around

with the wind, shapeless and colorless. I’d say it’s very healthy with a dose

of doubt toward strong authority figures, the tabloid truths and our own

prejudices. But there is also doubt of a kind that might be quite painful. Most

types of doubt pass by rather quickly, but not all. It can drain us until exhaustion.

Doubt may occur gradually and then become completely immersive, or it may be

there as a longlasting “murmur” inside us. 

Sometimes we revolve so much around in doubt, that we need to jump out of the spiral and pause our speculations not to suffocate from the issue. For certainly not all doubt is healthy and productive. But often it will be foolish to overlook the doubt. If we close the inside instead of talking to others about it, it may remain there as an open wound. Pherhaps sometimes doubt is a way for our own conscience to get us to stop because we need a change of direction? Pherhaps it can be an instinctive or God-given brake inside us?


We can have doubt because we have intellectual problem with something; pherhaps something is irrational to us or we don’t get the pieces to fit together. Other times it may be a feeling of insecurity which we can not explain, not related to logic or reason. Or because our experiences crashes with our theoretical model of something. For example, some find it hard to believe in a loving God when there is so much suffering in our world. But often we don’t have consciousness of our doubt. It is just there, somethimes sneaking up behind you and irritating the brain.


Religious doubt

Unfortunately, religious doubt – as many of us have experienced – are often not seriously met by the “true (non)believers”. One

could almost believe they were afraid to be infected by doubt. Often we feel almost a little inconvenient when one dares to come

with questions or doubt. Then the person with doubt may get a feeling that they’re less worth and not doing/thinking/feeling

right/enough. They feel like beeing second class believers. But doubt is natural and not a sign of a morally or intellectually inferior

personality. It is allowed to doubt! It’s quite naturally for some of us, when we see so many strange things happening in the world,

or when we cry out to a God that’s often invisible to us. To live in faith without seeing everything can be difficult.

We can read things in the Bible like “let him ask in faith, without wavering. For he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind”(James 1: 6). This may make many feel small with their doubt! The Bible have other citations with a negative focus around questioning faith, like Psalm 18, 26: “You are faithful to the faithful, wholeheartedly against each wholehearted man.” But do these verses tell us something significant about doubt or is it just a proclamation to have more faith? The first verse describes the situation when we are very uncertain and in doubt, and how it could limit our strength and deeper freedom. The psalms give us an essential key to understand the Bible’s warning against doubt: It can hurt us because it makes us less faithful in relationship with God and what we want to hold as true and right. Doubting God, Our fellow man or ourself can make us wobbly and passive. Religious doubt must be seen in relation with the understanding of the faith. Completeness and true Peace in christianity is primarily given through an active relationship with Jesus as God. If we doubt Jesus godliness or love for us, it will naturally prevent us from giving him confidence and seeking contact with him. But according to the Bible that does not prevent Jesus from seeking us, as illustrated for instance in Luke 15 with the story of the prodigal son.


Doubt is not the opposite of faith. The opposite is denial and rejection. One of those who followed Jesus up close, Thomas, was known as the doubter among the apostles. He doubted whether Jesus had been resurrected. Instead of being insulted by this man who didn’t believe or remember what Jesus had said earlier, Jesus asked Thomas to feel the wounds in the hands and side. In the disciple’s feeling of crushed faith and sorrow, Jesus met him and gave him reason to continue.


Spiritual doubt?

According to the Bible, the devil tries to break down our trust of each other and God. It is important that we dare to be honest with our own doubt. The Bible preach we can always be honest to God. We cam talk honestly and directly to Him about everything. Many texts in the Old Testament tell of people who cry out to God with frustration, anger and accusation. He endures!  If there really is a God, then he proparly know our situation and life anyway! It might be good to release inner tensions through speaking out and by that verbalizing our thoughts, confusion, anger, joy and sorrow.  When completely stuck in darkness we can pherhaps even allow ourself to say to Him that we can’t think about Him for a while. And just leave ourself to God’s Grace?


For some it might be good to read the Bible when they have doubt, but not for others. Maybe they instead have more benefit from reading poems or a good book or being with other people. Many can get help by non-verbal symbols or by the christian sacraments such as lighting candles, picture meditation, going to communion, confession of sins to a priest/pastor followed by absolution, and more.


If we doubt and struggle with faith, it’s important to know that it’s allowed and often natural to doubt. Had the believers been more adept at recognizing and speaking of their own doubt, I think we could have helped eachother better with something many are struggling with.


Regarding doubt we can not put into words, Paul said the Holy Spirit pray for us and all that we have in our inner self – cf. Rom 8, 26:  “Likewise the Spirit also helps our weakness. For we know not what we should pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs that can not be expressed in words.”


Now and then there are situations where we may be able to choose to trust God despite things happening around us and the feelings inside ourself. It can be hard but rewaring to choose the step of faith despite “everything”.


Is the doubt from God?

When everything is allright we might feel confident and strong in our faith. We may feel strongly Gods  presence. Unfortunately, this can also lead to a self-centered, self-confidence so we start to go our separate ways – and thus move away from God’s ultimate plan for our lives. We can easily “forget” God when everything is going well, and it is perhaps part of the reasons that the western European world is more secular than any other part of the world? So when we eventually face adversity again, we could accuse God of being distant or absent, but pherhaps it’s we who have moved away from Him?


It may be some times where God give us trials of various kinds for us to learn something more about life, ourselves and our fellow men. Maybe we need to loose some misplaced pride or fanaticism that harm others and distances us from them? Maybe we must learn to trust God? Or we need to be prepared for something later? It’s very important to underline that this doesn’t mean that all the doubt come from God, or that we have doubt because we are far away from His will! Far from it. Some doubt is not good at all. The Bible describe a God that want fellowship with us and for us to be happy. Much destructive doubt prevents us both of those things.


Doubt from Satan?

Doubt can be a healthy attitude in regard to many things when it make us think more thoroughly before we throw ourself into something. But doubt can have a purely destructive side. The Bible say there are other spiritual powers in the universe than God. It describe a fallen angel called Lucifer or Satan that according to Christian belief is a power fighting against God’s will. The word Satan means “enemy” or “adversary” and “devil” means “false accuser”. He is described as masterful deciever that seek to create discord and doubt in relation to God and in relation to our fellow men.


The creation myth in Genesis is an example of this. Satan first get Eve to doubt God’s plan and he seeds discord between Adam and Eve: “Now the serpent (…) said to the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? The woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it …  And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not be die! (…) Then she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave her husband (…) Adam and his wife hid from God … When God called Adam and said to him: Where are you? He replied: I heard you in the garden and I was afraid … Have you eaten of the tree whereof I commanded you not eat? Adam said: The woman whom you gave me to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.“(From 1 Exodus chapter 3.)


The Bible say the devil want to get us in trouble and will get us to turn against each other and against God. Jesus parable of the sower also illustrates how he wants to snatch away the truth, cf. Mark 4:15: “But by the wayside where the word is sown, and when they have heard, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.”


Unfortunately the net of lies is often camouflaged and very difficult to see. 2 Cor 11, 14f say: “And there is no wonder, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light! Then it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness. The devil can for example deceive us by filling our attention to other things – from television to shopping and other activities. Or he may dress in a quasi scientific, political or neo-religious garb. And as Revelation 12, 9 states about his goal: “… called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.”


So the Bible teach that doubt can be good, sometimes even godgiven, but also purely destructive. The best way to meet doubt as a christian is by being honest with some other christians, God and yourself!