Hard Questions, Real Answers Part 1: Is It Ok To Have Doubts?
On Sunday 6th March at our morning service, we started our new series 'Hard Questions, Real Answers with a talk called Is It Ok To Have Doubts? In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
If you would like to listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
We used a youtube clip Called Let It Go for Mums at the start of our service.You can watch that by clicking here.
Our reading this week was from Colossians Chapter 2 verses 1 to 8. You can read that by clicking here.
Talk Notes and Summary
Doubts about God, if not properly dealt with, can be destructive to those who already follow Jesus and a barrier for those who aren’t yet following him.
As a teenager my life was filled with doubt about God, my circumstances led me to doubt that the God I began to believe in was in fact a loving and caring God. Instead I began believing he was an unfair and harsh God.
The truth is we all have doubts, particularly when it comes to matters of faith. I want to help everyone understand that having doubts are not something to hide or to be ashamed about, but something we need to learn how to process and deal with.
In the Bible we can read about a great figure who doubted God, Thomas. Thomas was one of Jesus’ own disciples and friends. He spent years watching Jesus do miracles, he did life alongside Jesus but he struggled to believe that Jesus had be raised from the dead. He only began to believe when he physically was able to see and be with Jesus again. Another giant of the very first churches and one of Jesus’ first followers was Paul; Paul had significant doubts about God too. We read in the Bible about how Paul questioned God on many occasions.
Paul used his past doubt to allow him to write to several of the first churches to challenge and inspire them. In his letter to a church in Colossae (which can be read by clicking here) he wrote to followers of God, but this doesn’t mean that what he had to say is only relevant to those who already believe in God. For those of you who wouldn’t call yourselves Christians, this message is still relevant to you. We all have doubts, whether we believe in God or not.
Paul’s desire was that the people he was writing to would have the benefits that come from knowing God through Jesus. He makes it clear in his letter than he understands that often we can doubt God. He mentions how his wish is for them to have complete confidence in God’s plan.
Paul recognises though that in the middle of the great benefits that come from knowing God that there is an element of mystery about God, that we don’t always know every finite detail of our lives. The Bible isn’t written as a text book, there are not always straight forward answers to the questions we have. In God’s plan there are hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Doubt can easily creep in because we’re not always able to work out every little detail.
Paul recognises that the Colossians may be deceived by well-crafted arguments and by empty philosophies. Those same well-crafted arguments can send us now in the 21st century to a spiral of doubt, cynicism and unbelief.
Paul explains though where these mysterious treasurers are hidden, where they can be discovered. He explains that we can find out many of these mysteries through Christ himself, that in Jesus all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge can be found. He highlights that knowing Jesus is key to staying strong in our beliefs about God, Jesus is the connection that keeps us strong when we doubt, and he supplies us with his spirit on this earth. Jesus is the thing to become rooted within in order to build up and strengthen our faith. When we stay close to him, the mystery of God starts to become clearer.
For those of you who would not call yourselves Christians and might be doubting God’s existence or his ability to be the God other people are telling you he is, you might find that when you start to look for God in the middle of your doubts that your burdens of doubt begin to lighten. That this mystery of God slowly becomes revealed to you, as you seek to find God it will become easier to stand strong despite the doubts you are facing.
God’s plans do not always make logical sense to our human brains and mind sets. The same was true for people who knew Jesus also; many people in Biblical days would have and did query why Jesus had to die. Many proclaimed that if he was in fact the messiah that he should have been able to save himself. God’s plans aren’t always easy for us to understand, they often feel like they leave room for us to doubt God, they leave us with hidden treasures and mystery.
Our doubts will never pass us by; we will never stop having doubts about ourselves and about God. But when we are rooted deeply within Jesus these doubts are not the focus of our attention. They cannot override the love that God has for us.
Even Jesus himself showed signs of doubt at times, in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus talked to God about his upcoming death upon a cross, he called out to God are you sure this has to be done? Jesus doubted God’s plans. Even upon the cross he showed signs of feeling abandoned, doubting God’s presence with him. When we doubt we’re putting ourselves in the same position Jesus did. We have to rely on our beliefs and roots within God to stand strong through our doubt and choose to stride forward with our lives.
Doubt is conquered when we focus our eyes on Jesus. When we’re not able to focus our own eyes, we need those other people to help us, to focus for us, to point us to Jesus or to be Jesus for us. We all need to be supporting one another but particularly for those of you who would call yourself Christians you need to accept the challenge to be Jesus for others when their doubt is too strong to find him.
Doubts don’t disappear overnight, because of my teenage years there are still times I doubt my ability to stand strong in my love for God, times when I fear if things all went wrong again that I would crumble. But I have learnt to see that these doubts are just my own fear.
Everybody has doubt, but it’s where we choose to focus our eyes throughout those doubts that truly matters.
Tell others about your doubt, support others within their doubt, take example from Paul and learn that in the middle of our doubt we can do fantastic things to support and love others.
Show up to things designed to focus you on God, talk to him about the things that you struggle with.
For those of you who don’t know God, why not ask him to join you? Your doubt will seem much smaller when you can focus your eyes on a God who can be an incredible, strong and wonderful support.
It is ok to have doubts but remember that through God we can walk through those doubts.
Questions for Reflection
1. Can you think of any situations or circumstances in your past that have stirred the emotion of doubt for you personally?
2. How did you deal with those emotions? Do you think you would deal with them differently now looking back?
3. Do you feel able to communicate with God when you’re feeling doubt? Or does it become difficult to focus on Him?
4. We all have someone who we know is experiencing (or have past experiences of) doubt. Can you highlight who those people are and in what ways they may be experiencing doubt? Are there any ways in which you can support them?
5. Could you put in place a plan for future doubts, or for when past doubts return? Could you meet with a group of people and share you experiences or challenge a close friend to focus you back on to God when you’re going through times of doubt?