We all struggle with doubt. Some Christians struggle with doubt from time to time, and others struggle with doubt every day. We sometimes doubt because of our indwelling sin or because of the weakness of our faith. We sometimes doubt our salvation. We sometimes doubt God’s love for us. We sometimes doubt our election. We sometimes doubt in times of trial. We sometimes doubt that God hears us when we pray. We sometimes doubt that God’s promises will come to pass. And we sometimes doubt that God is really working all things together for our good. Adam and Eve doubted when they ate of the fruit, Abraham doubted when he had no heir, Moses doubted when he stood before Pharaoh, Israel doubted when they made the golden calf, David doubted in anger and fear when he did not take the ark of the covenant home, and Thomas doubted when he heard about the risen Christ. Throughout all of Scripture we see stories of God’s people as they wrestled with doubt. Yet God was merciful to them, and He is merciful to us. So ought we to have mercy on others who doubt (Jude 22).
Doubt is real, and we should not pretend it doesn’t exist. We need to be honest about our doubts before God in prayer and before one another as we pray for one another. Nevertheless, we should not celebrate doubt. Doubt enters our minds for all sorts of reasons, but ultimately, doubt is fueled by the weakness of our flesh and the pride of our hearts. Worry, fear, and doubt are close companions, and they conspire together to try to destroy us. Doubt is one of the enemy’s chief weapons in his arsenal as he seeks to undo us.
Doubt is a result of sin, and we sin when we wallow in the mire of doubt. But when we doubt, we ought not despair, become fixated on our circumstances, or trust our ever-changing feelings. Rather, we ought to gaze upward at the cross. We must remember the unchanging promises of God. When we look at our sin, we must lift our weary heads and look to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. For our assurance of salvation is not based on our circumstances, our feelings, or our perfection—but on our doctrine. Our Father is the source of our assurance, Christ is the ground of our assurance, and the Spirit is the sustainer of our assurance. And our assurance is not established on the strength of our faith but on the object of our faith, Jesus Christ. Therefore, when we doubt, let us remember that when Abraham counted the stars, he was counting you, me, and all those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.
Burk Parsons is editor of Tabletalk magazine and serves as copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology. He is on Twitter @BurkParsons.