“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.
Ron Edmondson is pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, KY, a church leader and the planter of two churches. He thrives on assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron’s specialty is organizational leadership, so in addition to his role as a pastor he consults with church and ministry leaders. He is married to Cheryl and they have two adult sons. Follow Ron on Twitter or at his blog.
I believe the word unbelief is referring to our doubts, and doubts are a part of the human experience — even the Christian experience. As emotional beings, we struggle at times with ourselves. I can be my own worst enemy. I believe, but then, just a Peter in the boat, when I take my eyes off Jesus, my emotional side overpowers my reality side. The truth I know and teach every Sunday is clouded by my circumstances. My current view of the world causes me to doubt.
I love the raw honesty in 1 Kings 19 when Elijah is running from Jezebel. The prophet who had seen God do such incredible miracles through him was ready to die over the threat of one person. And, Jezebel didn’t even give credit to God when she cursed Elijah. She said, “May the gods punish me…if I don’t make your life like the life of one of them.” She was an enemy of all Elijah had taught against and yet Elijah fell into a deep depression. I love that James says, “Elijah was a man just like us.”
Believing is accepting truth. God is who He says He is and God will do as He says He will do. Period. It’s a recognized reality that regardless of my complete understanding, or what anyone else may claim, I choose to put my trust in God. I choose truth. I choose His reality over even my own. I choose to believe He alone is God – and there is no other.
Belief and doubt are closely related – and yet they are far apart. Belief and doubt have to do with where we are with realizing truth in our life. But, belief is based solely on reality. There is no gray area. Doubt is shaped by how I feel at any given time. It has to do with my ability to always choose reality. Belief is the constant. Doubt is the temporal.
Obviously Bible reading places truth within our mind. The Psalmist said, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” If belief is in truth – and it is – then we must saturate ourselves with truth. Prayer is our direct communication line with God. God desires our faith to be strong. The more we commune with Him the more the Spirit of God can guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. We were also built for community. We need others to sharpen our iron and keep us grounded in belief. Finally, serving others reminds us of the faith we hold. Philemon 6 says, “I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ.” Sometimes until we share we don’t understand all the good things we have through our belief in Christ. Sharing our faith solidifies faith in our mind.