How to Handle Your Doubt When Times Get Tough

Dealing with DoubtIf you’re watching the culture closely, you’ve probably noticed it’s increasingly difficult (and unpopular) to hold a Christian worldview in America. Fewer and fewer of us identify as Christians in what is quickly becoming a “post-Christian” culture. Some predict it’s only going to get worse, and I tend to agree. That’s why I’m so glad I’m a Christian evidentialist. If you’re a believer, your definition of Biblical “faith” will determine the way you process your own doubt and it will shape your response in difficult times. The God of the Bible admonished Old and New Testament believers when they struggled with doubt in times of crisis, and His and response was consistently grounded in His evidential nature.

The Christian definition of “faith” is not simply “blind,” unsupported belief. Instead, Biblical faith is a reasonable trust in what cannot be seen, given the strength of the evidence that has been seen. When God’s children floundered in their faith, He repeated called them to a reasonable trust in the evidence He had provided them. Let me give you two examples of God’s evidential response to doubt; one from the Old Testament and one from the New:

An Example From the Old Testament: When the Israelites struggled with doubt and fear as they faced hostile cultures and difficult times, God provided them with an approach to help them overcome their uncertainty:

“…you shall not be afraid of them; you shall well remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: the great trials which your eyes saw and the signs and the wonders and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the Lord your God brought you out.” (Deuteronomy 7:18-19)

God commanded the Israelites to recall the public miracles He worked when He saved them from the Egyptian army. Yahweh told the Jewish nation to remember how He parted the Red Sea, and He used this supernatural act as an evidential point of reference. He didn’t simply tell his people to remember their own subjective, personal experiences with Him, but He instead asked them to recall the miracles He performed publicly. He gave them the evidence they needed to confirm His existence, even when they were starting to doubt this reality. In tough times, the Israelites simply needed to recall the evidence. If their faith was properly grounded and properly evidential, they could withstand even the worst of times. For this reason, they were commanded to respond rationally rather than emotionally.

An Example from the New Testament: When John the Baptist struggled with doubt while he was incarcerated (and just prior to his execution), he sent his disciples with a question. Jesus provided the same time-tested approach to help John overcome his doubt:

Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the expected One, or do we look for someone else?’” At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them. Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” (Luke 7:19-23)

Jesus called John (and his disciples) to recall the public miracles He worked in response to John’s question. Jesus told John to remember how He healed the blind, deaf, lame and sick, and Jesus used these supernatural acts as an evidential point of reference. He didn’t simply tell John and his disciples to remember their own subjective, personal experiences with Him, but He instead asked them to recall the miracles He performed publicly. He gave them the evidence they needed to confirm His Deity, even when they were starting to doubt this reality. In tough times, John and his disciples simply needed to recall the evidence. If their faith was properly grounded and properly evidential, they could withstand even the worst of times. For this reason, they were commanded to respond rationally rather than emotionally.

Jesus often pointed to the evidence of his miracles to encourage those who had doubts. He once told his observers, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves” (John 14:10-11). Jesus’ followers remembered the evidence (“the works themselves”), and it gave them confidence even when their Christian worldview was unpopular and inconvenient. Jesus presented them with the truth and supported His claims with evidence. What option did they have, then, when things got tough? As Peter said, ““Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68).

Times are probably going to get tougher for us as Christians. Difficulty and doubt may be just around the corner. How will you respond? If you haven’t embraced a properly evidential view of Biblical faith, now is the time. Your definition will shape your response and your ability to stand strong, even in the midst of a crisis. If you actually know why Christianity is true (if you’ve examined the evidence), you’ve got a much better chance of survival. The Israelites and John’s disciples had an evidential point of reference, and by clinging to the evidence they survived their doubt. Before the crisis becomes severe, we need to review and master the evidence supporting the claims of Christianity so we can have a similar evidential point of reference. Don’t wait. Learn the evidence now so you can lean on the evidence later.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

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