Not long ago, one of my good friends rebuked me. Severely rebuked me. We were having a discussion about some issues in my life, and he asked me if I was trusting God.
Being the honest guy that I am, I didn’t want to automatically give him the nice Christian answer. I wanted to give him the honest answer.
After taking a moment to ponder whether I truly was trusting the Lord in this specific area of my life, I admitted to my friend that I didn’t really know.
“But Jim,” he said, “you know the Bible as well as anyone. You know the Bible says God is faithful and trustworthy. I’m really concerned about you.”
Our discussion went downhill from there. Although I acknowledged that the Bible says God is worthy of our trust, I admitted that I was I was struggling to do so.
“After walking with Christ all these years, how could you feel that way?” my friend persisted.
In the weeks since our discussion, I’ve had time to process this question a little more. How is it that we sometimes DOUBT the things we KNOW?
That seems strange, doesn’t it? Sort of an oxymoron. If we really know something, how could we also doubt it at times?
Yet the Bible is filled with examples of people who doubted things they clearly knew or should have known. Sometimes the result of their unbelief was catastrophic, but at other times God seemed to answer their prayers and bless them despite their doubt:
- Adam and Eve KNEW God’s goodness firsthand, but they allowed the serpent to sow doubts about God’s love and veracity (Genesis 3).
- Abraham KNEW God had promised to give him a son by Sarah, and he famously BELIEVED that promise (Genesis 15:6). Yet he fell prey to Sarah’s foolhardy idea to have a child by their servant Hagar instead. The Bible still commends him for his faith, but his decision to opt for “Plan B” has had horrific consequences on the Middle East ever since.
- John the Baptist KNEW Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and he boldly testified to that fact (John 1:29). But when he was thrown into prison by Herod, he began to have doubts. He had two of his disciples ask the Lord, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3) How could a man who was such a bulwark of faith ask such a doubt-filled question?
- The church in Jerusalem KNEW prayer was a powerful force, and that’s why they fervently prayed for Peter’ release from prison (Acts 12). But when their prayers were miraculously answered, it became obvious that there was lots of doubt mixed in with their intercession. They couldn’t believe it when Peter came knocking on the door—yet God had answered their prayers.
All of these are interesting accounts, and several of them are a counterbalance to the statement in James 1:6-8 that a double-minded person is “unstable in all his ways” and “won’t receive anything from the Lord.”
My favorite story about “doubting what you know” is found in Mark 9:14-29. A father had brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus’ disciples, asking them to help the boy. However, they weren’t able to cast out the demon, so the father went to Jesus.
The Lord told this desperate man, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (v. 23). That’s one of the greatest memory verses in the Bible, isn’t it? Notice that Jesus didn’t just say SOME things are possible, but He said ALL things are possible if we simply believe.
How would we have responded if we were the father in this story? Some of us are so religious that we would have automatically given Jesus the correct theological answer. We would have assured Him of our great faith and told Him just to get on with the exorcism.
But this man was more honest than that:
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (v. 24)
This worried father was certain that he believed. Yet he also knew that unbelief lurked within his heart, mingled with his faith. Isn’t this also true of us most the time?
Fortunately, Jesus answered his prayer and did help him with his unbelief. That’s certainly good news for us as well. Amazingly, when we come to God with an honest heart, presenting to Him both our faith and our doubts, He often will still work miracles.
So, what about YOU? Are you trusting God today? Do you need Him to help you with your unbelief?
You can be comforted in this: Whatever you may be going through, all it really takes is a mustard seed of faith to get the breakthrough you need.