You might have been scratching your head as you read that title. The BENEFITS of doubt?? Say what?
There are three categories of doubt - (1) the self-doubt we experience in our everyday lives, the doubt about a decision or direction we need to go in; (2) the intuitive-doubt, as I call it, which serves as a useful warning about a situation, a false teaching/idea, or about a person, (3) and, if you are an agnostic, a seeker or a committed Christ-follower - the spiritual doubt we all have about God and how He moves in lives, personally and globally.
There are two processes of doubt: (1) the kind of doubt that questions things in a constructive manner and which weighs the risks, pitfalls and dangers in a desire to make it work or to remove myself from the situation. To examine, to be sure. (2) then, there is a doubt that comes from a destructive kind of skepticism that dwells on issues and problems and can’t “move on”, with no attempt to see anything positive and which becomes an endless cycle of negativity.
As business women or as leaders in our ministries in the local or global marketplace, doubt can creep in from time to time, especially if things are not going as we had planned. I certainly have my own struggles with all forms of doubt from time to time. Certainly as moms, or as wives or even in our relationship with friends, doubt crops up. If you are struggling financially or not meeting your business goals, you might even be asking yourself whether or not this is the right business to be in. It is also true that we may have spiritual doubts about God and about how He answers or does not answer prayer in our everyday lives, business life, or in our ministry. Doubt sometimes slaps us in the middle
of a circumstance and “wakes us up”. Sometimes, it moves in like the fog on a London street corner, enveloping everything around us where we can’t even see our hand in front of our face and settles down around our shoulders with a heaviness we can’t shake. Occasionally, doubt can actually be the useful tool which serves as a warning light, much like what we see on the dashboard of our car when the oil light comes on. My husband has trained me that the minute I see that light come on, I am to pull the car over immediately and turn the engine off. Doubt lives on a very wide-ranging continuum.
Here are some definitions of “doubt”
1. Feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.
“Some doubt has been cast upon the authenticity of this account”
2. Uncertainty, unsureness, indecision, hesitation, dubiousness, suspicion, confusion
“I feel uncertain about my ability to do the job”
If you are breathing as you read this, you have had doubt; every human on the planet has experienced doubt of some sort. Some personalities are more, or less, prone to doubt. Humanism says that doubt is essential to life. Buddhism says, “Doubt everything. Find your own light.” Doubt is the thought-language of depression.
Counter to what other religions or our humanistic and postmodern culture says is essential, the Word of God makes it clear that ongoing doubt is a destroyer of life at worst, and, at best, creates anxiety and instability. James 1:6 says, “He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
However, I contend, it is out of the seeds of doubt whereby faith is birthed. Doubt is in the background of faith - the key is keeping it in
the background so that our faith overshadows and overcomes it! Another way of saying it, is that doubt for the Christian is that grain of sand that “irritates” us into prayer, which then grows into faith - a pearl of great value!
The strength of your faith is not measured by the lack of your doubt. I also think that denial keeps one “stuck” in doubt at a very subconscious level. I propose that the person who, admits their doubt, examines it and, despite their doubts, pursues Jesus and gives their doubt to Him, will be the overcomer and more resilient in life. I think of the Apostle Peter who certainly struggled with doubt. But in spite of his rocky start, he ultimately became one of our founding pastors and is still influencing people down through the ages around the world! Uncertainty is part of life but what pleases our Heavenly Father is when we bow down in humility asking for His wisdom and discernment to examine our doubt honestly. It is very similar to the act of courage despite incredible odds. A soldier who has been trained for battle, does not face war without fear, but puts fear in its proper place and pursues
victory in spite of those fears.
Bottom line: in a post modern and humanistic society, we have an ongoing love affair with certainty. Certainty does not require faith…but, it is in uncertainty that God calls us to go deeper than the doubt, and when our feet find the bottom, the solid rock of faith is what we stand on.
There is no other foundation more sure and true than Jesus Christ, His guiding principles for living, and the power of His Spirit dwelling within us. Regardless of the kind of doubts you struggle with, the origin for ALL doubt is FEAR. An appropriate acronym for fear has been stated as “False Expectations/Evidence Appearing Real”. Of course there are doubts that are based upon facts and truth. Sometimes they are helpful warnings. I actually think it's healthy to doubt. But inviting doubt in as a permanent inhabitant of your heart and mind, is nothing more than a ploy of the enemy of our souls. In other words, doubts should be “visitors” only, and not “residents”!
A healthy way to dealing with doubt begins with replacing the fear that drives those doubts, with a different kind of fear. The reverential fear of the Lord. Becoming a student of this kind of “fear” brings so many benefits and blessings with it - the deep understanding and abiding respect of Jesus Christ is:
The beginning of wisdom and good understanding (Psalm 111:10)
Fear of the Lord leads to life, rest, peace, and contentment (Proverbs 19:23)
Wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7)
The fountain of life (Proverbs 14:27)
Provides security and a place of safety for us (Proverbs 14:26)
Provides peace and strength (Isaiah 41:1)
Confidence about the future (Matthew 10:31)
At the end of the day, we do not have to doubt or worry of being alone, being too weak, not having a voice or not having provisions for all of our needs.
Psalms is full of the testimony of David and others trusting the power of God to make things right, which is the key to overcoming doubt and fear. Even Job, who suffered incredibly, said,“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15 NKJV).
So then, what are the benefits of doubt?
Doubt makes you ask important questions of yourself. Honest reflection is good for the soul and taking inventory has value. Doubt slows us down and forces us to evaluate the situation or the person.
Sometimes, doubt is the only thing that forces us to turn back to God - in prayer. In a soul-wrenching cry for help, for “Abba” - “Daddy”.
Doubt reminds us of our frailty and how much we need God and the understanding of His sovereignty in ALL aspects of our lives. It really is not all about us.
Doubt keeps us dependent on Him for wisdom, direction and clarity.
Doubt can push us towards depth and growth; and, move us out of the shallow end of the pool where we want “splash” around and wallow in our feelings.
Doubt is a call to ask two very important questions - Is this my plan and I am asking God to bless it? Or, is this His plan and I am partnering and joining Him?
- Sometimes, doubt protects us from making a bad choice or from
Obviously, self-doubt in particular, can create inertia, a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged,causing us to just get “stuck”, not being clear about our next step. Sometimes, you just have to “do the next right thing”, to move the barrier of doubt out of your way or to
However, ultimately, our belief system, false or true, is the engine which drives our fears and doubts. I love C.S. Lewis’ perspective when he says:
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
So then, how we use or misuse our doubts, will be reflected by our belief system and how well we understand the nature of God and His work in our lives. Our faith in His sovereign work in our life should be the filter through which we examine our doubts. Mark Batterson puts it this way. "DOUBT is putting CIRCUMSTANCES between you and God. FAITH is putting GOD between you and your circumstances.”
In the final analysis, apart from the doubt that protects, I believe doubt is what propels us towards a deeper faith and action, or increasing hopelessness and inertia. Ours truly is the choice in what direction we want to move. I pray you Godspeed and that you move towards Him.