If I just read my Bible more, I’ll have deeper faith. If I’m more involved in the church, I won’t have so many questions. If I just do more, I won’t have all these doubts about my faith. I can’t have doubts because that’s the opposite of faith.
Does that sound similar to the running monologue in your head? Let’s settle something: Doubt is not the opposite of having faith. Unbelief is the opposite of faith. Jesus never called us to never doubt or question things. In fact, He encourages you to ask the tough questions.
What’s the difference between doubt and unbelief?
If you’ve ever been told that you can’t have faith if you have doubts, then it’s time to check your source. Who gave you that piece of advice? That information is so far from the truth. The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, but unbelief. What’s the difference between the two? Here are some ways they vary:
- Faith requires questions. There are some things we can know, while there are other things we will never know. For example, you may never understand why your loved one died so young. And we will probably never fully understand mass suffering in scenarios such as natural disaster or tragedy. We will always ask why — and that’s OK.
- You can only have doubts about something you already believe. Oh, dang. That’s a good point. This is further proof that doubt isn’t the absence of faith. Doubt is questioning that faith.
- Unbelief is spiritual blindness. Not only is unbelief spiritual blindness, it’s also resistance toward God. You can move from a position of unbelief to one of faith, even if you still have doubts.
Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith. It’s important to understand the difference between doubt and unbelief. Discerning the difference between the two can enable you to set the record straight for others who may be struggling with doubt as well. A biblical example of how unbelief is the opposite of faith (and not doubt) is Job and his wife. The couple was faced with enormous hardship in tragedy. In one day, they lost everything — their seven children, their business, wealth and their property. Job and his wife reacted quite differently from each other, too. Job, heartbroken, turned to God to wrestle with the why of it all. His wife, on the other hand, said, “Curse God and die.” Job doubted, while his wife’s unbelief was exposed.
What is faith?
It’s not uncommon for people to share unsolicited advice after or during hardship along the lines of “Just have enough faith” or “Keep the faith.” But those phrases aren’t incredibly helpful, especially when you’re wondering if your doubt is going to make you lose your faith. Here’s what the Bible actually has to say about faith:
- Hebrews 11:1 (NET) — “Faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.” You’ll know you have enough faith: when you pray, because you prayed, and He then meets you the rest of the way.
- Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) — “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
- Matthew 17:20 (ESV) — “He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.’”
Faith starts out small and grows over time. It’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised and fed well to increase in strength and power. So, how can you grow your faith? Here are some ways:
- Pray — Spend time each and every day praying. The Bible calls us to “pray without ceasing,” so while praying may feel awkward in the beginning, it can grow to be like second nature to you.
- Read your Bible — The best way to combat your doubt is to know your Scripture. Taking the time to read and memorize your Bible will help you have the answers you crave when tough situations arise.
- Find community — We aren’t meant to do this life alone. Find a community and get involved. Learn from those around you and lean on them in times of need. Your community will help you grow in your faith because “iron sharpens iron.”