THINGS THAT CHRISTIANS CAN'T TALK ABOUT - Pt 1 - Doubt

home > Pastor’s Desk > 2023 > August 04 > THINGS THAT CHRISTIANS CAN’T TALK ABOUT

There are several things that Christian’s can’t talk about — not because Christians are incapable of doing so, nor because they are forbidden from doing so, but because they can’t bring themselves to talk about it. Perhaps this is because when a person is redeemed from their old way of life, all his or her negative aspects are expected to be done away with as result. But this is not everyone’s experience. Sometimes, life gets messy, messed-up, and quite frankly – massively disappointing for some. Thus, believers who are supposed to ‘have it all figured out’, feel they can’t talk about: their doubts, their depression, their fear of death, and their marriages that are at risk of divorce. Their reluctance to do so could be because they might be thought of by other Christians as “weak”. But sadly, this reluctance to talk about their struggles with someone they trust only tends to compound their struggles. As a pastor it troubles me to see believers struggle like this. So, I would like to pastorally share some thoughts about this taboo topic of doubt in what will be part 1 in this short series of pastor’s desk articles of four taboo topics that Christians can’t talk about.

 

DEFINING FAITH

“I’ve been having lots of doubts lately.”
You just need more faith!

Unfortunately this kind of problem<>solution conversation happens way too often. It reveals two bigger problems. Firstly, it fails to appreciate that there are different kinds of doubt; and, secondly, it seems to misunderstand what faith is and the role it plays in dealing with doubt. Consider how this conversation might have gone – 

“I’ve been having lots of doubts lately.”
“How so?”
“I keep praying and God doesn’t seem to be answering my prayers.”
”Anything else?”
“Well yes. It’s got me wondering whether I’m really saved or not. After all, if I was really saved then God would answer all my prayers, wouldn’t He!”
“How do you know that God is not answering your prayers?”
“Because what I’ve been praying for hasn’t happened yet.”
“I see. Sometimes even those people in the Bible went through what you’ve been going through – with unanswered prayers and doubts about whether God really loved them – and I think that what you’ve been experiencing is pretty normal for most believers. Do you remember what happened to John the Baptist after he baptised Jesus when he saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus and then heard the booming voice of the Father from heaven?”
“Yes. He was later locked up in jail and then sent messengers to Jesus asking if He was really the Messiah.”
“That’s right. His prayers had not been answered and he was perhaps wondering whether God loved him anymore.”

Not every admission of doubt should be treated with a dismissal such as “You need more faith!” Let’s look at the two problems this kind of dismissal reveals.

1. THERE ARE DIFFERENT KINDS OF DOUBT

¶ Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him,
“Are You the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?”  And Jesus answered them,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.
And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.”
¶ As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John:
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?
What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing?
Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’
¶ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.
Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Matthew 11:2-11

John the Baptist’s doubt was circumstantial (his circumstances where negative). He was imprisoned and was probably despondent. But even at that low point, he remedied his doubt by asking for reasons to keep believing. Jesus did not condemn him for having doubts. In fact, he paid John the Baptiser the highest compliment (Matt. 11:11). Some doubts need a pastoral response that provides reassurance.

2. THERE ARE DIFFERENT KINDS OF FAITH

Some people regard faith as ‘believing things that cannot be proven’. There are, of course, some things that I believe for which I cannot prove are true. For example, I believe in the proposition that: my wife loves me. I feel that I have good reasons for believing this is true. But I can’t support my faith in this proposition with mathematics or a piece of objective evidence. All I have to rest my faith on the belief that my wife loves me is my thirty-seven-year friendship with Kim in which I have observed her self-sacrificing for my happiness and welfare; and, her daily testimony when she tells me, “I love you.” Faith can be based on what we have experienced when it aligns with supporting evidence.

I have faith about some things that I have never seen. I have never physically seen Jerusalem. But I have faith that it exists. Of course I have seen photographs and film footage of it, but there is a risk I am prepared to take in the work of photographers and journalists that they are being truthful. Added to this visual evidence, I also have the eye-witness testimonies of people in whom I trust who have actually been to Jerusalem. Faith can be grounded in the eye-witness testimonies of those who are trustworthy.

Therefore, genuine faith is grounded not just in personal experiences but in experiences that are supported by the observable and consistent evidence of reliable witnesses – including yourself. This means that faith is “trusting the evidence”. This is why Jesus rebuked Thomas the apostle for his refusal to believe the testimony of those he knew could be trusted-

¶ Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them,
“Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails,
and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
¶ Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.
Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said,
“Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands;
and put out your hand, and place it in My side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him,
“Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20:25-29

 

DEFINING ‘DOUBT’

John the Baptist’s doubt was a cry for reassurance. Thomas’s doubt was a rejection of those whom he had known were trustworthy. But there is also false doubt where someone ceases to have faith – not because there are no longer good reasons to believe or good reasons to disbelieve, but because a person no longer wants it to be true. Paul refers to two of his former colleagues who “rejected and shipwrecked” their faith because they became more attracted to the enticement of what may have been sexual sin-

holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith,
among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
First Timothy 1:19-20

Yet, there is a kind of genuine doubt that comes from a lack of awareness of appropriate evidence. This kind of doubt requires evidences and good reasons for believing (1Peter 3:15-16).

Then there is a kind of doubt that is actually a spiritual attack which Paul describes as “the flaming darts of the evil one” in Ephesians 6:16 where the enemy lures the child of God away from the source of their spiritual strength – 

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith,
with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
Ephesians 6:16

This kind of doubt requires being reminded of what God’s Word says. This is why the enemy seeks to keep the child of God from reading the Bible, hearing and experiencing the preaching of God’s Word with God’s people, and sharing with other believers in their small group.

Every believer is going to be subject to doubts. Some genuine doubts might sincerely question God, His Word, and His love. Some other doubts may be masking a battle with temptation to gratify sinful desires. But there is a healthy way to deal with both of these kinds of doubts.

 

DEALING WITH DOUBT

Doubt is normal. Questions that arise from having doubts nearly always have a reasonable answer. Hopefully by now you have heard me say that if you are battling with, or not battling with, your doubts, you should talk with a fellow believer in whom you trust. If you are run-down and battling with illness or injury in which you are physically vulnerable, then let you small group know about it so that they can pray for and with you. The other week I spoke with someone in this situation and they shared just how difficult it was to read their bible each day and to pray. As I spoke with them over the phone and did two things. I shared with them what I had read in my Bible that day and how it had effected me. Then I asked If I could pray for them and did so. Sometimes when we are run-down we need the strength of another believer to have the grace to continue to stand (1 Peter 4:10). This is why our small groups, and interactions with our brothers and sisters in Christ each Sunday after our worship service is so invaluable.

Sharing your troubling doubts with another believer in whom you trust is not something you should feel you can’t talk about. And if you are someone who does have someone share the battle they are having doubts, then remember the exchange between John the Baptist’s messengers and Jesus, and how Christ had responded to them, and be gentle.  

¶ As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.
Romans 14:1

As I approach the sixth decade of following Christ and growing in my understanding of God’s Word, I am now more convinced than ever before that for every intellectual objection to GOD and His Word there is a reasonable answer supporting our belief in the God of the Bible and Bible itself. If you have any doubts about this, let’s have a talk.

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. Therese Stepanovic

    Thank you Ps Andrew, I really enjoyed reading that, yes I agree how we can all question our faith at times and struggle with reading our Bible and praying. It’s very important to have a fellow Christian we can talk to and trust. To have that support is a comfort we all need because we have to remember we are not all perfect in our walk with Christ. Thank God for church and fellowship with one another.

    Reply

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Follow Me AS I FOLLOW JESUS

We all walk a path in life that is set before us. We start with very little experience and knowledge about the purpose of our life and the world beyond us. All of humanity experiences joy, wisdom, strength, weakness, suffering and hardship, especially those who are “contending for the faith”. Knowing Jesus is a very special part of this life journey.

A CERTAIN GOD

We can be reasonably certain about many things. In fact, without this certainty about life, none of us could function. We can be certain that tonight the sun will ‘set’. Tomorrow the sun will ‘rise’. After the February 28th it will be February 29th. This year there will be international unrest and much political instability in many parts of the world. In the coming months global warming will be identified by politicians as the source of floods and wildfires. Several high profile international celebrities will die this year. Archaeologists will make a discovery that will require some aspects of history to be rewritten. And you will certainly have one of the most memorable moments in your life in the coming days. You see, there are clearly some things we can be quite certain about. However, there are some aspects about our future that we cannot be certain about, yet in those moments we can be certain about what we should do.

LOW COST LIVING

Turn on any TV or radio news lately and there’s bound to be a story about the current “cost of living crisis”. We all feel it. Initially most people accepted the widespread price-rises were caused by 2020-21 pandemic lockdowns. But whatever the reasons for the rapid price hikes over the past two years, every time we go to the supermarket we feel it again. While governments are striving to curb the impact of this cost of living crisis, there remains a way to enjoy low cost living. The key to this is recognising that the most valuable things in life are literally priceless. The path to enjoying low-cost living is to be found in Christ, and what He taught — and it begins with treasure.

How To Know Jesus Better

It’s a scary thought to realise that the Jesus we have been told about and worship may not really be known to us at all. We can ‘know’ about someone or something, but not really know them. In Christian circles it’s often referred to as head knowledge not heart knowledge.

Knowing Christ Better

As a church, this year’s theme is coming closer to Christ by getting to know Him better. I feel that I am “the least qualified person” to tell anyone how this is done — but someone else has already claimed this distinction – the apostle Paul. After decades of hearing directly from Christ, seeing extraordinary miracles, being taken to heaven temporarily, planting churches across the Roman Empire, he could still say I would give anything to really know Christ – even if it meant suffering like He did! (Phil. 3:7-10). Therefore, I could say: If you do this or that, you will then know Christ better – but in my view, it’s not as easy as that! How we develop our relationship with Christ is shaped by several factors including our personality, our life experiences, our physical health and fitness, and our relationships with others (especially our parents and particularly our father). In fact, I believe that there is a relationship between how we have learned to build relationships with others (and notably how we have learned to relate to those who are closest to us) and how we then proceed to have a relationship with God. Even though I have expressed my lack of qualifications in telling anyone how to have a closer relationship with Christ, I still can, like one hungry beggar to another hungry beggar, offer you a few of the morsels of food that I’ve been able to find.

SOME PEOPLE HAVE AMAZING BUTS

I know of several people with amazing buts. There’s Jo’, Mo’, Sam, Esther, Jerry, and others. Each of these people were gifted by God with an amazing but that changed there life and the course of human history. Sometimes these gifts came with a …then, or …God, or …the LORD. When it comes to the size of things, a but is a relatively small thing (in Greek it can be just two letters: de) but it can have huge implications and enormously great blessings for multitudes. I hope to show you how this was the case with each of the people I have chosen as samples, and then show you how God is your God of buts.

OPEN

What does the word ‘open’ mean to you? Like language itself, it is like any word in which the meaning only comes from the context in which it is used. I can think of at least 12 different understandings of this word, some of which I will point out, most I will not, and one that I focus on because it is prophetically important for where we are at as a church at this crucial time.

ONE THING I HAVE TO SAY

​I’m always amazed at the really cool events I’d organised for my kids to experience, so that they might have happy memories – but now they don’t remember it except the random comment someone made in the car trip on the way there or what snack was eaten. Conversely, if you make a mistake, well that one is remembered! Once I drove Andrew’s car and just lightly hit something so it ended up with an annoying 2cm scratch. The mistake is (still) there in full view to anyone who looks. Is Andrew going to remember this above the years of my devotion to him? (Not likely, but some people do remember the wrong for way too long!) If you had the choice, what one thing would you want to be remembered for? What one thing would you want your family to remember? It’s not often going to be the thing you have in mind.

‘Famous last words’ comes from the hope that you’ll be remembered for them. If you were given the privilege of being able to articulate as the important thing to say, to be remembered by all, what would it be? Would it be a reflection on your love toward someone? Would it be a directive on how to have the best life? Would it be that you wished you had done something? Someone once mused, ‘would your dying words be that you’d wished you’d spent just one more day in the office’? (Not likely.)

AT THE END OF THIS YEAR I WILL RECOUNT 12 WONDERFUL THINGS (An Explication of Psalm 9)

This is my last end-of-year Pastor’s Desk post. When the head of our Live-stream ministry, Sari, asked me what I was thankful for this year, my immediate answer was obvious and predictable. But since then, I have considered that I also have eleven other things for which I am grateful to GOD for. In this last ever end-of-year Pastor’s Desk please indulge as I share my heartfelt thanks to God and for those God has used to bless me this year.

HE WAS BORN A KING

The king who reigned over Judea when Jesus was born was Herod the Great. Herod had no legitimate claim to the throne of Israel. He was from an Idumean noble family who supported the Roman occupation of Palestine. As a reward he was appointed by the Roman Senate as the King of Judea. Despite his attempts to curry favour with the Jews, including several major public works programs (including completing the temple reconstruction) he was still largely unpopular among the Jews. Little wonder then that when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem with their large retinue and requested to view the birth of the prophesied King of the Jews, Herod was emotionally threatened by this revelation. Herod immediately ordered an enquiry from the chief priests and religious scribes.