“Do not disbelieve, but believe.” (John 20:27)
In the race of faith that Jesus has called you to run (Hebrews 12:1), doubt is a weight you simply can’t keep running with. You’ve got to drop it. Today.
But first, let me explain what I mean by doubt. Doubt is not synonymous with unbelief in the Bible — at least not complete unbelief. The Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus were full unbelievers (John 10:26). But the man who cried out “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24) was not a full unbeliever, but a doubter.
Peter gives us a picture of doubt when he walks on the water with Jesus and then begins to sink. Jesus says to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).
So doubt is not the complete absence of faith. It’s faith laden with weights of unbelief, which threaten to sink us. This is why Jesus responded to doubters like the man in Mark 9 or Peter in the water or Thomas after the resurrection (John 20:27) with firm but gentle rebukes calling them to stop disbelieving, while issuing blistering rebukes to the Jewish leaders (Matthew 23:33).
Going back to the metaphor of Hebrews 12:1, are you running with the weights of doubt?
I’ve just recently been laying aside sinful doubt-weights again. I have certain doubts that I have laid down repeatedly over the years and seem to have a tendency to easily pick back up. Sometimes I’m not even conscious I’ve done this till I recognize a certain kind of soul-fatigue being caused by doubt that certain promises of God are true in my case.
The longer we carry these doubt-weights the stronger their power over us becomes. We are often tempted to think that carrying the weights is a more “real” and intellectually respectable way to run. But carried long enough, they get heavier to the point that we wonder if the whole race is worth it or is, in fact, real after all.
If that’s you, don’t fool around with them any more. Drop them!
But how does one lay aside doubt-weights?
The first thing we do is repent. Doubt must be dealt with like lust or any other unbelief that infects our faith. Jesus’s word to us is “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Don’t be content to just tell Jesus how you’re struggling. Repent! Call doubt what it is: a distrust of God. Repentance has amazing power to break the spell of a sin weight.
The second thing we do (which Jesus says in the verse above) is believe. Remember what Jesus said to Thomas? “Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27).
Believing is a simpler thing than we often want to make it. I’ve just re-realized this truth. After tolerating certain lingering doubts for a while, putting them in the category of struggling against sin, I let go of them (i.e. laid them aside). And I was surprised (again) by how simple it was. It was not a rigorous intellectual exercise. It was simply obeying Proverbs 3:5–6.
If you’re wrestling with doubts, here are a few practical helps:
Soak in the Gospel according to John: “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). The whole book is about believing.
Talk about it with some close, trusted friends and have them pray for you. God designed us to be encouraged by others’ faith to have our pride humbled by having others help us fight our sin. Don’t hide out of pride.
If you’re having difficulty shaking deep, stubborn doubts, reading Os Guinness’s book, God in the Dark, might help you.
Read (or re-read) Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. I’ve just been listening to the audiobook after reading it years ago and have been so encouraged by Taylor’s childlike, hour-by-hour trust in Jesus. It may revolutionize your understanding of living by faith.
It’s time to lay aside the weights of doubt. They need not impede your race. Your Savior died to free you from them and he’s going to help you. Trust him. And keep running with your eyes fixed on him (Hebrews 12:2).