Doubt & Unbelief

Doubt– Undecided; inclined to distrust; to suspect; fear; consider unlikely

Unbelief– withholding of or lack of belief

Doubt and unbelief have often been equated together; but in fact, they are different. Many Christians, if they are like me, struggle with doubt at times.We read in the last post that even Peter began to doubt he could walk miraculously on the water when the wind began to cause him to fear; and, James 1:8 warns that, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” One definition of doubt is that a person is undecided–wavering between trusting and distrusting; between believing things will turn out for good or believing things are unlikely to result in good–they become double-minded. The irony is that our distrust often ensures that, in fact, things will not turn out well. As we begin to doubt what we already believe, we become more and more unstable in our ways; that is, we grow emotionally and spiritually weaker until we fluctuate in our resolve to act in faith. Doubt is a struggle with uncertainty regarding what we believe; while on the other hand, unbelief is a willful decision not to believe; a decision to withhold trust.

James 1:6-7 teaches that we must pray in unwavering faith to receive what we ask from the Lord; therefore when we are doubtful, we block or hinder receiving the very thing we are asking for. And, when we do not receive or have our prayers answered, it often leads to more doubt, creating a vicious cycle of reinforced doubting that results in wavering faith– double-mindedness. Jesus asked believers (His disciples for example) on more than one occasion why they doubted Him. Perhaps we should ask ourselves the same question when we are wavering with uncertainty: “Why am I having this doubt?” We might discover, if we are completely honest with ourselves, that our reasons are weak and unfounded.

As that point, we can do battle to overcome our distrust:

  • Gather scripture that addresses our areas of concern and meditate on its truth; then submit our doubt to biblical authority and truth by refuting the arguments for our doubt with scripture
  • Pray for help in fully believing in the perfect character of the Lord… His goodness, power and love
  • Reflect on God’s faithfulness and answered prayers throughout our past
  • Remember God’s promises regarding our trials
  • Do whatever the Holy Spirit counsels us to do to overcome distrust so that prayers are prayed in bold faith, so that we can confidently proceed