Doubt can be one of the most terrifying experiences that a Christian can ever go through. It can challenge and test you at the most fundamental level. It can cause your entire world to fall apart and enter you into a spiritual nightmare—no, night-terror—that does not seem as if it is ever going to stop. There are many different types of and reasons for doubt. Christians can doubt God’s love, goodness, presence, and even his very existence.

This series is meant to help Christians dealing with doubt. This first post will be in bullet points. The next will be a more traditional format. Finally, I will share with you some of my own experiences with doubt.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t suppress your doubts and put them in a closet in the back of your mind. This is very easy to do and common among Christians. In fact, it is common among all belief systems. We seek to sustain our emotional high about whatever it is that we believe. Therefore, when something seems to militate against it, we tend to suppress these doubts. The problem is that the suppression of doubt can actually hinder growth in faith and set you up for a complete spiritual breakdown sometime in the future. It is only through learning to deal with our doubts properly that our faith can grow properly.
  • While I don’t think it is good to suppress your doubts, I do think that you should take a “break” from them now and then. Some of us like to deal with every problem, every battle, every adversity head on until it is vanquished. However, this often does more harm than good. It is kind of like problems and stresses in your personal life: you need to take some time away from them. Doubt can be thought of as a spiritual stress or spiritual depression. As I said, many think that they need to ride them until they subside, but I don’t think this is best. Therefore, as best you can, take a break from them every once in a while and enjoy and practice the faith that you do have.
  • Recognize that you are not alone in your doubts and struggles.  Everyone will experience some sort of doubt from time to time. Sometimes this doubt will be severe, challenging the very foundations of your life and even your sanity. But you are not alone. Such is the Christian life on this (fallen and flawed) side of heaven.
  • All doubt will be done away with one day. Enough for now on this.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to others about your doubt. Now this becomes tricky because there are so many Christians out there who will not understand because they have been taught for so long to immediately shove their doubts in a closet in the back of their mind. Therefore, they are probably in denial about them. As well, they may look down upon you for having them and/or question your salvation. However, there are many honest and very strong Christians out there who feel and give permission to express doubts. Seek out those Christians and talk to them about your doubt. This will be very comforting. It is only when you think you are alone in your doubts that you will be quickly overwhelmed though a sort of “spiritual panic.”
  • Understand that faith, like doubt, is not a black/white either/or issue. Doubt can be thought of as the bridge that makes up your faith and perfect faith. None of us has perfect faith. Doubt does not mean you don’t believe. Only if you have completely let go of the faith, spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, are you to be counted among those who don’t believe.
  • Know that there were many biblical spiritual giants that doubted. You may be asking a common question: :How can I know for sure?” Listen to what Abraham said after God had already told him that he was going to possess the covenant: “Oh God, how will I know [for sure] that I will possess it? (Gen. 15:8). Wait, shouldn’t it have been enough that God told him? Listen to John the Baptist after proclaiming Christ with great confidence at Christ’s baptism, John, who was called the greatest of all men: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for something else” (Luke 7:20). Think of what a conflict John must have been going through. He knew for certain at one point that Christ was the one. But after a time of God’s absence in his life (he was in prison getting ready to be executed), he began to doubt. No one will ever know the conflict that John went though at this time, but we cannot fail to recognize how significant this is.
  • Remember that not all doubt is the same. There are three different types:

Intellectual doubt.

Emotional doubt.

Spiritual doubt.

In the next post I will continue to deal with these.

Please be advised that this post is for Christians. Please reserve all comment for Christians.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    15 replies to "Dealing with Doubt – Part 1"

    • Tim Worley

      I’ve found Gary Habermas’s work on doubt extremely helpful. He delineates three forms of doubt (similar to the three above):
      1) Intellectual/Factual doubt: e.g., “Is there any evidence for God’s existence?”
      2) Emotional doubt: e.g., “I see the evidence, but I just don’t *feel* like God is really there”
      3) Volitional doubt: e.g., “I’m not interested in seeking God”

      Habermas argues that we get in trouble when we confuse the source of our doubt. For example, for the person struggling with emotional doubt, simply throwing evidence at the problem is unlikely to help much (in the short run, at least) – they need to learn how to manage runaway emotions. For the person struggling with factual doubt, exhortations to simply be more faithful (the prescription for volitional doubt) are not the main thing they need. Nevertheless, the three are often interrelated, so finding relief will often require addressing it from multiple angles.

      His books “Dealing with Doubt” ( and “The Thomas Factor: Using Your Doubts to Draw Closer to God” ( are available online, and really helped me through a period of intense doubt.

    • Nancy

      Thanks, Michael! I was just counseling a friend about this very issue this week. I’ll send him the link for this article. Blessings!

    • Steve in Toronto

      Doubt has been my constant companion for at least the last 30 years and I am going to offer some advice that is going to rub most of the readers of the Blog the wrong way. If your are someone like me who has never managed to developed a “settled faith” I would strongly suggest that you leave your mainstream evangelical church for a the conservative/moderate wing of the mainline (ELCA, PCUSA, ect) First of all you will be surprised at how orthodox you new minister is (yes there are a few heretics our there but it is in the interest of both the secular and evangelical press to make the problem seem a lot bigger then really it is and anyway the evangelical worlds has it’s own heretics i.e. Joel Olsten) second of all you will be delighted to find that you are now in an environment where you can talk freely about your doubts without being stigmatized as a heretic or a threat to unity. You might even find that some of the issues that seem like a big deal now (creation/evolution, the role of women in the Chuch, inerrancy, ECT) suddenly seem a lot less important. I am not saying this strategy is a cure all but at least you will be free to him honest with your fellow parishioners.

      Steve in Toronto

    • Lee

      Thanks for the post. I will be looking forward to the rest of this series.

    • Kyle

      Good post!

      First, it should be pointed out that you can find Gary Habermas’ excellent little book, “The Thomas Factor” online for free (at his website). It deals with various types of doubts and how to handle them properly. Alister McGrath and Os Guiness have also written very good books on doubt.

      Second, realize that you are not in the only worldview that doubts. Everyone doubts, and I’ve had many conversations with Muslims, atheists and even agnostics who are plagued by their doubts about the nature of ultimate reality. The fact that you are doubting says nothing about the evidence itself, or even about the strength of your faith as much as it simply means you are human.

      Third, if you are an evangelical (or a Christian in the greater sense of the word), then don’t fear the questions. Most of the greatest minds in the last 2000 years and many of the greatest minds today are Christian. As such, it’s likely that your doubts are not unique, and are ones that have been dealt with before. If you continue the pursuit honestly and openly, I’m fairly confident that although your doubts may not totally go away, they will find sufficient answers. Others have gone through this (sometimes for years) and overcome it.

    • Sue

      I am a believer for 32 years from the evangelical camp and an older single female.

      I have experienced more doubt in the last few years regarding hopes for marraige than I ever have. I don’t talk about it as most people really don’t want to hear about it and at my age many are already divorced and can’t relate in the least.

      Most of the books and posts about singleness don’t really address the doubt IMO. Its always about waiting not the possibility that what you hope for won’t come to pass.

      Thoughts anyone?

    • Dr Mike

      To follow up on Kyle’s comment:

      Os Guinness’ book In Two Minds: The Dilemma of Doubt and How to Resolve It* made a point that I found to be quite helpful. He expounded on what should have been obvious to me, i.e., that doubt is not the opposite of belief – unbelief is the opposite of belief – but rather is being in two minds at once: belief and unbelief.

      Somehow this has always stuck with me (maybe because it is Jas 1.8?) and reminded me that doubt is a product of any mind that understands what is at risk in our faith and how eternally important it is.

      I look forward to more posts on this issue inasmuch as I work with clients who often wrestle with doubt's shadows.

      * I don’t know if this book is still available.

    • Dan Olinger

      Good post, Michael.

      As a college professor, I’m constantly dealing with people in the process of moving from “what my parents taught me” to “what I really believe,” and doubt is their constant companion. I’m regularly encouraging them to share their doubts–after all, the body of Christ is here to edify, and we can’t address a problem that we don’t know exists.

      Further, I find myself repeatedly assuring students that God is big enough to handle their questions. He’s not surprised or threatened by doubt, so go ahead and ask Him–argue with Him, if that’s where your mind and heart are. He can take it, and He brings His children out in a very good place.

      I look forward to the rest of the series.

    • Bernard Shuford

      As a perpetual doubt fighter, I have never yet read an awesomer blog post.

      Thanks for the many times you’ve helped settle my stormy seas, Michael. You rock. Not near as much as Jesus rocks, though.

    • Gisela

      Well, your next posts can’t come quickly enough! Bring ’em!

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Steve in Toronto: “I would strongly suggest that you leave your mainstream evangelical church for a the conservative/moderate wing of the mainline (ELCA, PCUSA, ect)”

      I would strongly suggest otherwise.

      All the mainline liberal denominations are shrinking and it’s because of bad theology and bad practices as a result of that bad theology. They are compromisers in the worst sense. Mainline liberal denominations are in various states and stages of heresy and apostasy and getting worse.

      Look at the Anglican Church in Canada and The Episcopal Church in the United States.


      Doubt your doubt.

    • Steve in Toronto

      Hello Truth
      I knew that sooner or latter some one would raise to the bait. I should have guessed it would be you. First of all don’t be too smug about the numerical decline of the mainline. A number of demographic trends that are more or less theologically neutral hit the parts of the country where the mainline was strongest first (late marriage, smaller families raising skepticism and secularism) when these trends hit the bible belt I suspect we will see similar declines in evangelical congregations. And anyway if large congregations were a sign of God favor how do you explain Joel Osteen? I divided my time this holy week between two churches in North Carolina one was a (relatively) conservative Episcopal church the other was a (relatively) liberal PCA church where my Dad is an elder. Both were vibrant healthy churches. It true there was more silver hair among the Episcopalians but this church was 200 years older then the relativity young (20 year old) Presbyterians both churches had lots of young families. Tell me Truth what would your advice would be to a 40 year old Christian baptized in the swimming pool of a Baptist summer camp 30 years ago and who in spite of the best efforts of many fine Christian pastors, teachers and evangelists (some very well known) has failed to find any peace about such “secondary doctrines” limited atonement, eternal punishment in hell, inerrancy, evolution ect? Would you rather I just left the church? Sometime it feels as if that’s the choice. When I hear a conservative Protestants (such as my Dad) speak with such assurance about what seem to me very debatable secondary points of doctrine the hair on the back of my neck stands up. How can you be so sure your right?
      Steve in Toronto
      P.S. My own church (The Anglican Church of Canada) has lots of problems but God is still using her to work great and mighty deeds and her voice is heard in many places that more conservative voices would be reflexively dismissed.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Steve in Toronto,

      Inspect the overall fruit of mainline liberal denominations. I’ll repeat the same thing I wrote before:

      All the mainline liberal denominations are shrinking and it’s because of bad theology and bad practices as a result of that bad theology. They are compromisers in the worst sense. Mainline liberal denominations are in various states and stages of heresy and apostasy and getting worse.

      Look at the Anglican Church in Canada and The Episcopal Church in the United States.

    • […] feelings threatening to overwhelm our trust?  This is a three part series on dealing with doubt (part 1, part 2, part 3). This is a post I found on the site CHRISTIAN DOUBT, but I slightly altered it […]

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