Many people struggle with their faith at different times in their lives. Some of the most committed and godly leaders have struggled with doubts, just like everyone else. The very essence of faith is to believe in that which we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). As physical beings, we tend to put faith in what we experience with our senses. Spiritual realities are not tangible and must be experienced outside our senses. So, when that which is tangible and visible seems overwhelming, doubts can shroud that which is invisible.
The first aspect to consider is the object of faith. The word faith has become popular in recent years, but the popular meaning is not necessarily the same as the biblical meaning. The term has become synonymous with any religious or irreligious adherence, regardless of whether there is foundational truth upon which to base such adherence. In other words, someone could claim “faith” in dandelions for spiritual healing, and that claim would be considered equally viable to the Christians’ claim that the Bible is God’s inspired Word. So, when struggling with “faith,” it is vital to define the object and reasonableness of that faith. All faith claims are not equal. Before we can be secure in our faith, we must answer the question: my faith is in what?
Many hold to the idea of having faith in faith. Faith itself is seen as the object, rather than God Himself. The biblical purpose for faith is to bring us into the presence of God. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” We can only find Him when we come to Him through faith in His Son (John 14:6). Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” God does not bless half-hearted attempts to know Him. He desires that we pursue Him with passion, the same way He pursues us (1 John 4:19).
However, God understands our inability to exercise the faith we need at times. In Mark 9:24, a man admitted to Jesus that he wanted help with His unbelief. Jesus did not rebuke the man, but healed the man’s child anyway. He honored the man’s desire to grow in faith and was pleased that He, Jesus, was the object of that faith. So, if we have the desire to believe what the Bible teaches, then we have the right foundation for continuing to fight for faith. God has given us countless evidences of His existence and character (Psalm 19:1; Luke 19:38–40). Jesus fulfilled all prophecies necessary to validate His claim to be the Son of God (Matthew 2:15–17; 27:35; John 12:38). The Bible has been proven true over and over again for thousands of years. We have all the evidence we need, but God leaves the believing up to us.
It can be encouraging to remember that, when we struggle with faith, we are in good company. Elijah the prophet experienced such a struggle. One of the greatest prophets of all time had just called down fire from heaven, killed over 400 false prophets, and outrun King Ahab’s chariot—a feat that would have been the envy of any Olympic gold-medalist (1 Kings 18:36–38, 46). Yet the next chapter finds Elijah hiding in a cave, depressed and asking for death (1 Kings 19:3–5). After all those miracles, he gave in to fear and doubt because a wicked woman hated him (1 Kings 19:2). During times of stress and exhaustion, we can easily forget all that God has done for us.
John the Baptist was another who struggled with faith when at the lowest point in his life. Jesus had called John the greatest prophet (Matthew 11:11). John had been selected by God before birth to be forerunner of the Messiah (Luke 1:11–17, 76). He was faithful to that calling all of his life (Mark 1:4–8). Yet even John, after being imprisoned and sentenced to die, struggled with doubts about Jesus’ identity (Luke 7:20). He sent messengers to ask Jesus if He was truly the One sent from God. Jesus did not rebuke John in his weakness but instead sent him a message that only a student of the Scriptures as John was would recognize (Luke 7:22). He quoted from Isaiah 61 and reminded John that He alone had fulfilled that Messianic prophecy.
We learn from these heroes of faith that God is patient with us when we desire to believe (Psalm 86:15; 147:11). When we experience times of doubt, we must immerse ourselves in truth. We can bolster a sagging faith by reading scriptural accounts of God’s miraculous interventions, listening to encouraging sermons, and reading books that appeal to our reason by authors such as C. S. Lewis or Lee Strobel. Podcasts by apologists such as William Lane Craig or Dr. John Lennox can also add fuel to the fire of our faith.
But the greatest power to overcome doubt comes from the Holy Spirit Himself, who “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). We can cry out as the man cried to Jesus, “I believe. Lord, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). And we can expect Him to answer.