Doubting God (the most important thing you can do when you experience doubt)

If you are honest with yourself you’ve probably found yourself doubting God at least a few times in their life. I’m convinced everyone has doubted, will doubt, or knows someone who has doubted their faith. Doubt is common and most people will experience some level of doubt at some point in their faith journey.

The question is, what do we do when we doubt?

A while back I wrote a blog post called, Faith and Doubt (and how they coexist). That article focused on how doubt is not the opposite of faith, rather a part of faith. What I want to do here is focus more on what we should do when we find ourselves doubting God.

So, what should we do when we doubt our faith?

The answer is found in John (my favorite Gospel). I know everyone is obsessed with John 3:16 and rightfully so. It’s a pivotal verse in John’s Gospel. But I think the end of John 6 is actually one of the most important passages in John.

The Turning Point

If you haven’t read John 6 you should go read it. We will be focus on the end of the passage, but the whole chapter plays into what happens. 

In John 6 the disciples are at a turning point. They are at a crossroads. They have seen Jesus do some pretty amazing miracles and put their lives on hold to follow him. But they aren’t fully devoted yet. 

It’s in this movement that they were deciding if they wanted to go all-in or to go back to their normal lives. In this passage, the disciples have an experience where their doubt almost took them out. And not just their faith. In this situation had they had given into doubt we would have never even heard of them. They were teetered on the edge of obscurity.

The disciples are at this crossroads. And Jesus is about to teach his most difficult message yet. In that moment the disciples have to decide if they should stay or if they should go. 

Often in our times of doubting God we will face a similar crossroads. We will have to decide if we are in or out. Let’s see what the disciples did.

The Hard Teaching 

Jesus had just feed 5,000 people the day before. And in this culture food was scarce so this miracle was a BIG deal. So the crowd followed him. Not so much because they recognized who he was and wanted to be his disciples. No. They wanted more bread! 

Rather than give them bread Jesus decides to do some teaching with an illustration of… Bread. 

We look at this teaching in John 6:53-59 with our knowledge of what Jesus did on the cross. We know bread represented his body that would be sacrificed on the cross. But those listening didn’t know about that yet. And they were freaked out. And left. All of them. And you probably would have too. 

If some dude tells to eat his body and drink his blood you are going to back away slowly and then run the second you get a chance. And that’s exactly what happened. 

“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” John 6:66 

Everyone left. It’s just Jesus and the 12 disciples. 

To make matters worse when the crowd leaves the threat of the authorities coming in to nab Jesus increases. 

The disciples have to be thinking, what do we do now? Jesus just taught this really strange teaching. Everyone left. We are in increasing danger… So now the disciples have to choose… Do they stay or do they go? Do they actually believe what Jesus is teaching? Or will their doubt take them out. 

It’s at this moment that Peter asks the most important question that anyone facing a crisis in their faith should ask. If you are facing doubt, this is THE question you need to wrestle with.

Peter’s Question

As Peter is wondering what to do Jesus turns to him and says , “So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ ” (John 6:67) I love that question. It shows Jesus’ humanity, his vulnerability. Are his closest friends going to leave too? 

After a moment of reflection Peter has his answer… “Lord, to whom shall we go?” John 6:68

What an incredible question. Here’s what Peter is asking… If not Jesus, then who? If not Jesus, then what?  (paraphrasing Andy Stanley here) 

If you haven’t read Andy Stanley’s Book “Irresistible” you should pick it up!

What Peter recognized, that you and I often forget, is that when you step away from Jesus you step towards something else. Peter is saying there’s nothing else we can go to, you are it Jesus. He goes on in John 6:69 to say you are where there is eternal life, we can’t get that anywhere else. 

Peter knew that while everything didn’t make sense and even though there was danger to his life there was no other place he could go. Jesus was it. In that moment he decided to go all in. 

The Most Important Question You Can Ask

If not Jesus, then what?

In my doubt, this was the question that it came down to. There were times where I wanted to step away from my faith. It just didn’t make sense like it used to. But the one thing I could never figure out was if not Jesus then what? I had nowhere else to go. There were times when Christianity made little sense to me. But it made more sense than anything else. Where else could I find what Jesus promised? My answer was the same as Peter’s, nowhere. 

So I stayed. I couldn’t walk away because I had nothing to walk to. No where else could I find the words of eternal life. 

I get that might seem like a copout answer. You shouldn’t stay just because you can’t go. But those moments are crossroads. Are we going to bail because it’s tough, or will we stick it out because we want to be with Jesus. When we decide it’s Jesus who we want, things start to turn. You don’t have to wallow in your doubt permanently. 

You Have No Idea

Let’s go back for a second… Before Peter decided to go all in and follow Jesus, he had a choice. And in that moment he had no idea what lay ahead of him. He had no idea how things would play out. He had no idea what God was going to do through him. He had no idea what he was on the verge of walking away from. 

Andy Stanley says it this way, “He had no idea what hung in the balance of his decision to follow Jesus or to walk away.” Peter had no idea. He had no idea all the things he would do and all the way God would use him. He had no idea what he almost gave up, what he almost walked away from. And I imagine years later he looked back on that decision thankful he took the risk and shuddered to think that he almost give it all up.” 

I’ve been there too. In my doubting times, I had no idea what I almost gave up. What I was about to walk away from. But I’m so glad I didn’t walk away. And I’m convinced at the end of my life I will be glad I stayed with Jesus. In the good times and the bad times. The reality is you and I have no idea what hangs in the balance (for us and for others) on our decision to follow Jesus or walk away. 

If not Jesus then who? 

Additional Resources

Don’t forget to pick up Irresistible!

Jeffery Curtis Poor
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