Problems with doubt

September 11 attacks

Part of terrorism in the United States and the War on Terror

A montage of eight images depicting, from top to bottom, the World Trade Center towers burning, the collapsed section of the Pentagon, the impact explosion in the South Tower, a rescue worker standing in front of rubble of the collapsed towers, an excavator unearthing a smashed jet engine, three frames of video depicting American Airlines Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon

Top row: The Twin Towers of the
World Trade Center burning

By Spencer D Gear PhD

On the “Response Form” to my homepage, I received this reply:

I have been distressed over this all year and have been truly worried that the Holy Spirit may not be with me, and I know that if one does not have the Holy Spirit they are not a child of God. I have had doubt and feelings and moments of unbelief throughout the years but I pray that my confusion and lack of faith was not symptomatic that I am severed from Christ. I realize you do not know me but if you have the time I would appreciate a response. I just want to repent and be sure that I am in Christ.

How should I reply?

Expect some doubts

We don’t live in a world with God’s kind of absolute knowledge. He has not provided us with a sure-safe way of avoiding doubt.

This is where our relationship with God begins and ends: “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Heb 11:6 NLT).

Be an honest doubter

God already knows that we are doubters. Our calling is not to pretend we have no doubts, but to trust Jesus even with our doubts. Do you doubt that God can improve your marriage? Have you become content with your anger or rudeness, suspecting that God cannot help? Do you trust Jesus, but puzzle over why Scripture and sermons don’t move you? Bring these doubts to the Lord and to trusted spiritual friends. Learn to help others be honest with their doubts by receiving your friends’ doubts with Christ-like tenderness (“Helps for Doubting Christians”).

Don’t run on your feelings!

Feelings depend on circumstances and are a very unreliable indicator of how you should live your life. When I feel good I’m likely to make decisions based on that elation. When things go bad in my life, I’ll feel down in the dumps. This is not the way to a godly life.

Throughout my Christian life of 55 years, I’ve had periods of doubt, mainly surrounding:

(a) The existence of so much evil in our world,

(b) My wife of 48.5 years committing adultery with the pastor of the church we attended in 2016, divorcing me, remarrying him, and dying of leukaemia 7 weeks later in June 2020. I had doubts about the authentic faith of my wife and my failing her in marriage.

My wife’s actions were those of a woman who had slipped in her faithful relationship with the Lord and with my failing to be a reliable husband.

I recommend the Focus on the Family article, “Wrestling with doubt and disbelief.”

The John 17:17 answer

John 7:17 (NLT) states: “Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.”

I read the Scriptures and find that their description of my world fits like a hand in a glove. This is called the teaching of truth.

Jesus said in John 14:6 (NLT): ‘Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”’

1.    I am the truth

  • He is not stating that He is the Messiah or Son of God in this instance. Although he is Messiah, that is not His point here.
  • He is not saying this is truth about Me.
  • He is not saying I am one way to truth.

He is saying: I am the truth. It could not be clearer.

2. What is truth? was Pilate’s great question to Jesus Christ (John 18:38).

One dictionary definition is: Truth is “genuineness or veracity”; “that which is true; a fact; a reality; that which conforms to fact or reality; the real or true state of things.”[1] Another dictionary adds that truth is “conformity with fact or reality; verity.”[2]

This is confirmed by my Greek word studies of aletheia which state: “John uses aletheia regularly in the sense of reality in contrast to falsehood or mere appearance … The revealed reality of God.”[3] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says of aletheia: “The word has an absolute force . . . not merely ethical truth, but truth in all its fulness and scope, as embodied in Him.”[4]

When we apply this to Jesus, this is an amazing statement. Jesus is saying, “I am ultimate reality. I am the root of what was, what is, what will come, I am the foundation of all that is genuine, factual and real in the world. Everything flows from Me.”

Jesus is the truth.

God revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex 3:14). To the unbelieving Jews, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58) and they wanted to stone Jesus. No wonder. He was not claiming to be like God, or sent by God, but he was claiming to be Yahweh — the “I AM.”

When I speak out against abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality; make a stand for justice for oppressed people; when I proclaim the atonement and salvation through Jesus Christ alone; when I practise biblical ethics on the job; when I write letters or articles for newspapers or magazines, my aim is never to promote my own opinion.

My sole desire is to proclaim Jesus Christ as the ultimate reality of all that exists and has existed and will exist.

We do the greatest disservice to you, and especially our young people, when we ask them to experience Jesus without an understanding that we are talking about truth.

The world wants to separate faith from knowledge and reason. Christians don’t want to mix faith with reason. “Thou shalt not think” seems to be the 11th commandment. And yet, what did the apostle Paul do when he proclaimed the Gospel? I read through the Book of Acts and this is the kind of language I appears:

  • explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead” (17:3)
  • “he was reasoning in the synagogue. . . trying to persuade Jews and Greeks” (18:4). cf 17:2,4; 18:19; 19:8, 26
  • solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ” (18:5). cf 20:21, 23
  • “This man persuades men to worship God” (18:13).
  • “He powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (18:28).

What drove Paul to be such a defender of the faith? Second Corinthians 5:10-11 (NIV) gives us the key: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (NASB).

Yes, Paul was a gifted apostle. Most of us do not have such a gift. But what drove Paul, must drive us:

All Christians will appear before Christ’s magistrate’s court one day to be judged for our rewards. If you know what it is to fear the Lord, you must be involved in persuading people of the God who exists, who they are before Him, and how they can be set free from a life of sin and enter into eternal life by repenting of their sin and trusting Christ as Saviour and Lord — this will mean that your life must be as salt and light in this world.

This is quite in contrast with the scientific world where a Carl Sagan, of the Cosmos TV series, could so arrogantly say: “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”[5] Western civilisation was built on the foundation that there is a God of truth who gives objective truth that is ultimate reality. This is the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Here are two recommended resources for an analysis of the nature of truth:


Doubts will come as a matter of being human and without the absolute knowledge of God. Answers can be found by pursuing them in Scripture and with the help of apologetics’ ministries.

We need to answer: What is truth? We will discover that it is more than the opposite of falsehood. It is that which conforms to reality and Scripture provides such a world view.

See my article, What is truth?


[1] Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (unabridged). Collins World, 1977.

[2] 2021. “truth.”

[3] Colin Brown, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Vol 3). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978, pp. 889, 891.

[4] W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. London: Opliphants, 1940, p. 159.

[5] In Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview (Vol. 5). Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1982, p. 439.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 September 2021.