Doubt in Faith

What do you do with your doubt? Do you ignore it? Are you ashamed of it? Do let it rule you? Is it your boss? What can you do with your doubt?

I’m speaking in chapel this morning at Southwest Baptist University on the passage in Psalm 73 where Asaph, the worship leader for Israel, get’s real. He gets real, real quick. This isn’t one of those chapters in the Bible that gets plastered on t-shirts and bumper stickers.

Most of us don’t celebrate doubt. I think that’s part of the problem. We treat doubt like it’s the plague. Like we should avoid it all cost. What if we’re wrong. What if doubt can be a good thing?

I like to tell my classes that the students I worry about most are the ones who never talk about their doubt. That’s because when a student expresses doubts, I know they are taking their faith seriously. The only way to avoid doubt is to ignore it and never reflect deeply or critically about why you believe what you do.

For Asaph, Psalm 73 is a confession of conflicted beliefs. He believed (1) God is good, and (2) God is mainly good just to the people who love him. Because the real world didn’t line up with these two beliefs, he experienced what psychologists call cognitive dissonance, a confusing experience where our ideas don’t fit well with life. Listen to how Asaph described it:

God is indeed good to Israel,
to the pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet almost slipped;
my steps nearly went astray.
For I envied the arrogant;
I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
(Psalm 73:1-3, CSB)

It was unthinkable that those who didn’t love God also experienced God’s goodness. It even seemed they experienced more of it. Part of Asaph’s problem is a skewed perspective. He says the wicked have it easy and don’t experience difficulty (Psalm 73:4-5). Sometimes our doubts come from this same place, a wrong appraisal situations. That’s why we should be careful of rushing into a new way of seeing the world, a new worldview or set of beliefs, without thinking carefully about what’s driving our doubts.

It was in reflecting on his doubts in the community of faith, that Asaph considered another perspective. If God exists and is good, then perhaps there’s more to the story (Psalm 73:16-17). He also came to terms with the reality that wicked people have challenges and concerns in life as well (Psalm 73:17-19). It could be, one’s health and wealth are not the final arbiters of truth. Asaph seems to have come to this conclusion at least.

So, Asaph comes back to a couple simple truths he knows deep in his soul. First, no matter what his doubts are, he knows God is with him (Psalm 73:22-23). Second, Asaph knows, no matter what life holds in store, God will receive him when he dies (Psalm 73:24). Asaph’s doubts — based on the prosperity of those who don’t believe in God — are replaced with a simple trust that God is always with him in this life, and that in the life to come, Asaph will go to be with God.

The opposing ditches of doubt are to ignore them on the one hand, or to let them rule you on the other. Deal honestly with them. Let them expose conflicting beliefs. Let them press you to think critically about the way you see God and the world, and drive you forward in your pursuit of truth.