Most of us are familiar with the experience of doubting God. Sometimes this doubt is simply a temporary passing of questions when difficult circumstances arise; at other times doubt takes hold of our hearts for reasons known or not known, but yet we cannot shake that awful feeling of doubting God.
I recently read God in the Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond A Shadow of Doubt by Os Guinness. The title intrigued me. Really, I thought, one can claim to have assurance of faith beyond the shadows of the questions I sometimes have or that my counselees face? I’m so glad I read the book. Guinness describes faith and doubt like this: “to believe is to be ‘in one mind’ about trusting someone or something as true; to disbelieve is to be ‘in one mind’ about rejecting them. To doubt is to waver between the two, to believe and to disbelieve at once and so to be in ‘two minds.’” (pg. 23). The implications of this are hugely comforting because suddenly doubt is no longer “opposite of faith” (pg. 25) but a struggle to understand faith and God. Doubt is acknowledging that the promises of God are real, but so are the very real concerns, questions, and at times even the evidence that seems to contradict God’s promises.
Although doubt does not necessarily lead us to unbelief it is very serious and must not be treated trivially. Doubt can actually be a marker of how seriously we take our faith (pg. 29). And doubt has an objective antidote because it’s rooted and grounded in God. “God is the answer to all doubts” and as a result, “this means that assurance of faith comes directly from knowing God and only indirectly from understanding doubt” (pg. 32). What follows in the next seven chapters deals with general areas that doubt can arise and Guinness prescribes the antidote to each of the doubt areas. Doubt areas can arise from ingratitude, a faulty view of God, a lack of commitment, and unruly emotions. Finally, Guinness tackles the two prominent questions we all likely have at some point in our prayers to God: “why, O Lord?” and “how long, O Lord?”
I highly recommend this book. It’s challenged me to take my doubt more seriously rather than simply trying to bury it or ignore its existence. As I’ve dealt with my own doubt, I have rediscovered God’s patience and gentleness. God really does not “break a bruise reed or snuff out a smoldering wick” (Isaiah 42:3).
After reading God in the Dark, I have just one action point that I’d like to stress, one action point that I have taken action on. In today’s information age we have wonderful books on topics of various issues and concerns, but one category of books never seems to be popular: theology. After reading God in the Dark I’m convinced we all need to study God Himself with more intensity. We live in an age of “how to” and “doing.” But when doubt crashes in, all the how-to manuals and all the doing will come up empty and hollow if they are not rooted and grounded in Someone. We need to know God because faith is not blind. Guinness writes: “Christians do not say, ‘I do not understand you at all, but I trust you anyways.’ Rather, we say, ‘I do not understand you in this situation, but I understand why I trust you anyways. Therefore I can trust that you understand even though I don’t.’ The former is a mystery unrelieved by rationality and undistinguished from absurdity; the latter is a statement of the rationality of faith walking hand in hand with the mystery of faith” (italics original, pg. 168). And that is what we strive for.