The Benefit of a Doubt


“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)  

“And now my soul is poured out within me; days of affliction have taken hold of me.  The night racks my bones, and the pain that gnaws me knows no rest . . . My inward parts are in turmoil and never still; days of affliction come to meet me.  I go about darkened, but not by the sun . . .” (Job 30:16-17, 27-28a)


I have a confession to make, which many may think unbecoming of a pastor.

I am often overcome by anxiety.  I am periodically racked by doubts.  I find genuine joy ephemeral and elusive. 

I don’t think I’m alone.  I am sure some of you are blessed with good, simple, wholesome faith – and I would not have you doubt it.  You are blessed.  Rest in the supreme gift of your faith.  If you choose to read further, please do so in an attempt to understand and empathize with the rest of us.  For those who share my struggle, I hope my testimony might bring you some measure of encouragement.

It happened to me again a few weeks ago.  I read an article or two online, including the often outrageous comments, and I find myself wondering, “What if I’m wrong?  What if everything upon which I’ve staked my life proves untrue?  What if there is no God?  What if humanity really is nothing more than a magnificent, cosmic accident?  What if the principles I hold dear, the same principles I strive to instill in my children, are misguided?”  I found this line of questioning so disturbing that I returned to my office (I had been out for a run) and immediately began writing – and praying – and reading . . . not necessarily in that order.

At the top of the page in front of me I had written this phrase, “Key Tenets of a Christian Worldview.”  (Yes, I really write this way, even for my own personal reflection.)  Under that heading, I wrote too many things to enumerate here, but they began with such simple ideas as “God exists . . . God created the universe and everything in it . . . Humanity is the capstone of God’s creation . . .” As I continued writing and thinking, several additional questions arose, many of which I have yet to answer to my own satisfaction.  Yet, on the whole, I was struck once again by the power and majesty of the Biblical explanation of reality and human experience: how humanity can be so supremely gifted and yet so wretchedly wicked – all at the same time . . . how the universe can seem to fit together like some vast, intricate machine in one moment, and then surrender to seeming chaos in the next . . . how joy and pain can be so inextricably linked, even in the context of a single human life.

Perhaps I’ll explain my understanding of these things in another post on another day, but on this day my personal epiphany was singularly focused.  It was the realization that I would never have plumbed the depths of these convictions so deeply and with such personal satisfaction had it not been for my doubt.  Why else explore these issues?  Why strive to find just the right way to express a certain conclusion in a way that both makes sense and brings comfort? 

It is my doubt which drives me; even as it is my faith that sustains me.

In this sense, there has been and continues to be a very real benefit to the doubt with which I have so often struggled – so long as it drives me to the Lord and away from His enemies!  Pursued from within a relationship with Christ by faith, our doubts, voiced as sincere questions, deepen and strengthen our faith.  Apart from faith, however, our doubts can lead us further and further to sea, adrift in an ocean of isolation and despair.  Yet even there, in the wasteland, if we will but look to the distant shore, we will glimpse a risen Savior, busily roasting fresh fish over a small campfire, waiting patiently for us to jump from the boat and swim ashore – that He might dine with us and us with Him (John 21:1-14; Revelation 3:20).
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)