“I believe; help my unbelief” is my favorite phrase in scripture. It captures so much of what it means and takes to be a follower of Christ, encapsulating struggle, faith, doubt, obedience, wandering, and repentance. It is deeply theological and personal. For these reasons and more I wrote a book called Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not The Enemy of Faith (releases July 1 – Available at BarnesandNoble.com & Amazon.com) which explores what real belief is and its relationship with doubt in the life of a believer. The challenges of that tension are not unique to me; They’re nearly universal among Christians no matter position, maturity, or church tradition. In the weeks leading up to the release I will share the the thoughts and experiences of several friends of mine – authors, church leaders, writers, thinkers – who honestly answered five questions about faith and doubt.
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. His books include Journey to Joy, Jonathan Edwards and Justification, No Other Gospel, and The God-Centered Life. He is also the president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries.
I think this indicates the struggle of faith in the face of adversity or counter-factual evidence that might suggest that what is believed is not true. It is an assertion of faith (“I believe”) with a recognition that that faith is wavering (“help my unbelief”). I think it is a more common condition of the human heart than we sometimes acknowledge, and its remedy is found in the person of Jesus.
I love the story of “doubting Thomas” in John’s gospel. He is so sure that what he needs is crystal clear empirical evidence – sight and touch. But when he meets Jesus he is driven almost immediately to worship: “my Lord and my God.”
We often think that belief is a ‘thing’ when in fact the ‘thing’ is what is believed. In other words, faith is empty hands. Faith is surrender. Faith is commitment. But is not that which fills the empty hands, nor that to which we surrender, nor that to which we are committed.
Indubitably, there are some versions of doubt that are nefarious. Doubt is by no means always benign, in fact it is sometimes downright cancerous. We should not doubt the promises of God, we should not waver with unbelief, we should march boldly into the Promised Land and not fear that in those hills “there might be giants.” On the other hand, some forms of doubt are more an expression of the honest realization that this side of glory we walk by faith not by sight. Who is there who has never wondered how the end that God intends is good when in the midst of this particular evil? The frank appraisal of our situation, and the honest assessment of our emotions, and the authentic description of the state of our soul is not sin. “Why are you downcast O my soul?” is a question that a Psalmist can ask, and by asking find the answer: “Put your hope in God.”
They cannot, only God can. And therefore the means to strengthen our faith is to call upon God’s power to do so: through prayer, through the Bible, through the church, through listening to the preaching of the Word, through repentance of known sins, through active evangelism and care for the poor. Remember: it is not the size of your faith that counts, but where it is placed. Faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain when such faith believes in a mountain moving God.