What Does the Bible Say about Doubt?

We all have doubts at times. One of my favorite quotes about doubt comes from C.S. Lewis: “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  We don’t want to doubt God, but they can creep in. Is doubting a sin? What does the Bible say about doubt?

What Does the Bible say about doubt- photo of person walking in the rain after dark through a rain spattered window

When I was doing my reading on Jesus’ experiences on mountains, I found this passage from Matthew 28:16-17: “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”

Wait, what? How could that be?  After all the times Jesus had appeared to them after his death, how could the disciples be doubting Jesus?

Hmm, there were no notes on the bottom of the page for these verses. My next step was to go to Bible #2, but the result was the same. Now that always piques my interest.

I was thinking of these first disciples and realized there were plenty of times they didn’t understand Jesus or ask him the right questions.  They sometimes thought about themselves over him and also grumbled about his teaching.

Sound familiar? If we are honest, I think there are times when we do the same today. I will find encouragement for you in these passages though, so read on!

Doubt in the Bible

For starters, it encourages me that the disciples, who walked and ate and traveled with Jesus more than anyone else in the whole world had these problems.  He was right there in front of them, they had studied the Scriptures, but they still didn’t understand.  They still had times of doubting Jesus.

It encourages me that God doesn’t use us according to how much we understand, but instead looks at what is in our hearts.

Dealing with Doubt

Mark describes the Transfiguration and tells us that Jesus had told the disciples not to tell anyone what they had seen until he had risen from the dead. “They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what ‘rising from the dead’ meant.” (Mark 9:10)

Instead of asking Jesus a question for clarity, they tossed around their own ideas. Don’t we sometimes do the same today? We don’t have to be brilliant bible students, but we can look for answers in his word.

Jesus and his word have answers to your questions. 

The Sons of Thunder

Jesus chose James and John as disciples and called them “the Sons of Thunder.” He doesn’t give a reason, but Jesus gives us our personality traits, so I trust his judgment. (Do you think he has a nickname for you and me?!)

Their bold and fiery nature comes out in Luke 9:54. They were traveling through Samaria and had met with opposition from the locals. They ask Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”  Whoa! That seems a bit extreme!

How do you respond to opposition or unkind words and actions that come your way?

Peter was impulsive, bold, and outspoken. When Jesus asks the disciples “Who do you say I am?” Peter quickly jumped in and responds, “You are the Messiah!” But he also lost faith and doubted Jesus when he walked on the water but began to sink.

When we take our eyes off Jesus, we begin to doubt.

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Doubting Thomas

Thomas is “famous” for his doubt about Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus doesn’t let Thomas’ doubt change how he feels about him. He comes to Thomas and asks him to touch his wounds as proof he is the risen Lord.

Jesus had seen Thomas use his courageous faith before by his willingness to risk his life to follow him. Jesus knew his heart and showed Thomas that even his serious doubt didn’t stand in the way of his faith.

Haven’t we all had doubts in our faith walk?

I’m so encouraged by the stories of the disciples. Jesus was the perfect Teacher, yet many times they had no clue what he was talking about. They complained that some of his teachings were “hard”, and at times they grumbled, but they didn’t leave him.

Peter said it best, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

Why Do You Doubt?

The disciple’s faith and having the patience to perfect that faith is a great example to us. Their alternative was to leave Jesus, thereby staying ignorant of what He meant. Instead, they kept their trust in him.

We cannot possibly have the mind of Christ, so the limitations of our human minds shouldn’t surprise us. But a lack of understanding should lead us to pray, search his word for answers, and ask the Holy Spirit for meaning.

Doubting Jesus

That leads me back to the Matthew verses where some disciples were doubting Jesus as the risen Lord (the Greek word was “hesitate”). 

It doesn’t seem so odd now. We all experience times when we don’t understand the mind of God. Wisps of hesitation or doubt sometimes pass through our thoughts. Sometimes we let them linger there.

We don’t grow a strong faith with answers to life’s questions in a day. The following verse comes to mind, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Only in heaven will we see the whole picture.

Don’t Doubt God

We will spend our whole lives learning. Be encouraged that impulsive Peter became one of the greatest leaders of the early church. The short-tempered John became “the disciple Jesus loved” and wrote one of the Gospels. We know very little about some of the disciples. But their names and a few details stay forever inscribed in history.

Overcome Doubt

Jesus used ordinary, flawed men to begin and carry out his ministry. He changed them into extraordinary men and can do the same for you and me. No confusion, doubt, or misunderstanding can stand in the way if we have patience and faith!



16 thoughts on “What Does the Bible Say about Doubt?”

  1. Yes! So many times we shake our heads at the disciples and wonder why they didn’t get it. But like you said, we’re right there with them, not understanding how God may be clearly working in our lives. Good food for thought!

    1. Thanks Jill! I have a little more sympathy for them after I dug into their stories a bit more. I saw myself!!!

  2. I love this! We recently went through all of the gospels again and the epistles and this is one thing that struck me. Especially when recalling the account of John the Baptist who sent his disciples to confirm that Jesus was actually the one God has sent. It is so encouraging to know that our doubts don’t limit God’s ability!

  3. This is definitely encouraging. It gives us very real examples of who Jesus used then and who He will continue to use now. He can use us even when we are not 100% sure all of the time.

  4. I love the fact that even though the disciples often doubted, Jesus still continued to teach and show them the truth. I know I’ve struggled with my doubts about things at times and it’s so reassuring to know that He loves us and continues to show us the way even so!

  5. I found this so encouraging. You’re right, we CAN look tonJesus and His Word for answers and we don’t have to be experts for God to reveal truth to us. It’s healthy to have questions and even better to seek answers!

    1. I used to think questioning was wrong- “the church knows best” was drummed into me… So what a blessing to know He wants us to ask, seek, and find Him!

  6. I also find the human failings of the disciples encouraging.. I think all of scripture in fact points to the fact that God loves broken, messy people. Knowing that gives me hope, because I’m broken and messy too.

  7. Great post! You are right — stories of the disciples and their weaknesses are so helpful to me, because I realize that God chose them in spite us (perhaps even because of) these weaknesses, and his glory was illuminated through them. SO inspiring!

    1. Thanks Jessica! The One who created us knows our strengths and weaknesses and uses both! He’s used me in both situations, and while I was a wreck when he called me to use my weakness, it became one of my most meaningful, faith strengthening moments!

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