Honest Doubt

Lindsey Jodts, Groups Pastor, South Barrington | December 12, 2023

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
Matthew 11:2–6

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:24

I’ve always been what I call a “fair-weather journaler.” I don’t have a steady, consistent rhythm of journaling, but instead use it as a practice (for better or worse) when things feel really distant, disconnected, or desperate. The downside of this is that I don’t have a specific journal to hold my thoughts and prayers; instead, I have journal entries scattered throughout notebooks, planners, and whatever else I have on me at the time. The upside to this is that I frequently (and unexpectedly) stumble across my moments of quiet cries to God, often the hardest, most doubt-filled words I express. Each time I encounter one of these entries, I am blown away by my honesty and the kind response of God I experienced in the aftermath. 

The prayers aren’t always answered as I’ve asked them, but often, something has shifted—whether it’s the way I feel inside the circumstance, a piece of clarity I didn’t have before, a transformation of my heart, or a complete redemption of the situation. What’s always consistent, however, is my willingness to be brutally honest with God—including (and most often) doubt—and God’s consistent response. Perhaps it’s in our most honest moments that God’s heart is the most moved to respond. 

Jesus made a clear call for our belief (John 3, John 6, John 11) but also gave us room to be honest about our doubt. When in a desperate situation, John the Baptist began to doubt who Jesus really was and sent his disciples to ask for confirmation. Jesus asked them to share all that was happening in Jesus’ ministry as a way to remind John of his past faithfulness and hope. When a sick boy’s father came and asked Jesus if he could heal his son, his interaction with Jesus led him to declare, “help me overcome my unbelief!” to which Jesus didn’t condemn him, but instead responded and healed his son. 

As we continue in a season of advent that invites us to reflect on the miraculous moment of God-made-human, the reality of a Messiah, and the possibility of worldwide hope, it is natural to experience doubt. It might be doubt about God’s power in a specific situation, that God sees and loves you as you are, or even that there is hope for the world in light of all that is happening in it. It’s natural to doubt—so natural, in fact, that Jesus acted with kindness, compassion, and hope to those who were the most honest about their doubts. 

Bring your honest doubt to Jesus, and trust that he will look to you with kindness and the chance to remind you of his goodness. 

Next Steps

Where are you experiencing doubt? Spend some time in prayer, naming your doubts and being honest with God. Once you have taken the time to be honest, give yourself some time to sit quietly and listen. Make space for God to respond, and trust that your honesty is not only safe with God, but wanted.