Faith and doubt. So often we think these words are opposing poles on the belief scale, but are they? Is it possible to have faith in God, yet still struggle with uncertainty? Many people say they have “stumbled” in their walk with God by doubting His existence, but is having a questioning mind proof that you aren’t a true believer, or proof that you could be a real one? In this book, John Ortberg masterfully approaches the subject of faith and doubt not as a dividing line between hostile camps, but as a razor’s edge that runs through every soul.
Doubt is one of those tricky topics that most of us try to avoid in conversation. It just seems as if it cuts too close to the bone of our deepest fears: that everything we believe could be untrue. But we can be so hypocritical. Generally all of us in Christian circles tend to turn our noses up at doubt – on the outside – but if we were brutally honest, we’d feel just like Mr Ortberg himself:
There is a part of me that, after I die, if it all turns out to be true – the angels are singing, death is defeated, the roll is called up yonder and there I am – there is a part of me that will be surprised. What do you know? It’s all true after all. I had my doubts.
But doubt, surprisingly enough, is proof there is truth. We must have truth, therefore we doubt. If we didn’t doubt, we’d just be sucked in by every carnival delusion that comes along. And none of us want to be deluded. So doubt can actually be a useful tool for us finding the truth. All the same, none of us have enough tangible evidence to really prove that what we believe is undeniably true; that God is really there, that Jesus really died, and that there really is a heaven or hell waiting for us after we die. So when our doubts get to that point, what do we do? What do we believe?
Herein lies the key. The crux of this whole book isn’t to persuade you that God is real. It isn’t to eradicate your doubts, or give you inarguable evidence that your faith is legit. Rather, it teaches you the importance of belief. Life is a clock ticking down to zero, and we have to make our bet before the time is up. Where will we cast our lot, for God or against Him? You can’t go through life without making up your mind on this issue, and whatever decision you end up running with, will effect how your life is lived – and its ultimate outcome. Though in the end the truth does matter, the more pressing issue is that everyone on earth is in a metaphorical plane that is going down, and all of us need to grab a parachute and jump. We need to decide. We need to choose. This is the leap of faith. We can make up our minds to jump without being certain of our landing.
This book was a gem. I loved how it covered everything, and didn’t leave any stone unturned: those hard questions that cause people to doubt there is a God, such as deaths, sickness, abuse, etc., the intellectual arguments, the philosophers, the atheists, the great men of faith. They are all rolled into this package of a book and pondered over carefully in a way that invites you to think for yourself. I found so many of the questions that were asked and answered to be very heartfelt and insightful. I did feel as though the book lagged a little in the opening chapters, however, as it was addressing popular athiests’ arguments against God, and different philosophies that I hadn’t ever heard of. So if you have more of a clue than me for the intellectual side of things, you will probably do just fine with it.
In closing, if doubt is ever something you have pondered or had trouble with, I would definitely recommend this book for you. Will it solve your problems and relieve your struggle with uncertainty? No. However you may discover a peace in knowing that regardless of your doubts, you can still choose to believe. It’s important to remind ourselves at times that we will never have all the answers, and that an uncertain faith is not a useless faith, but it is a faith all the more precious for believing in spite of the doubts. I’ll leave you with this final gem from Madeleine L’Engle:
Those who believe they believe in God but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God Himself.
Published on 28 April, 2014. Last updated on