How can we better respond to those struggling with doubts? While we can not control other people, and it is ultimately the Holy Spirit that must do the work in someone’s heart….Our behavior does influence others. We don’t want to be a stumbling block, or the “last straw” that contributed to someone abandoning the faith. Here are some random thoughts on interacting with the “doubter” in your life:
- Seek to understand where they are coming from. What is it they are doubting exactly, and why? Doubts can be quite variable in nature. Try listening to them. Really listening. Simply being “heard” can be helpful to someone struggling, not just with doubts, but with a variety of issues. Talk less and listen more! Getting to the bottom of an issue can be the beginning of resolution.
- On that note, would a doubter feel comfortable sharing their doubts with you? We all need to be more authentic, and share our struggles in life. None of us has it all together. If we are being transparent, others will be more likely to be transparent too. Why is it that in Christian circles people seem prone to put on masks or a false front, and play pretend?
- Be willing to admit to them (and to yourself!) that some questions have no easy answers. Giving a pat answer to a complex question is not helpful, and can even be insulting to the person asking it. Imagine asking a deeper type of question that you have spent hours pondering, and then someone expects you to be content with a 10 word reply.
- Admit wrong doing. If the person is focused on past injustices of the church or was personally burned by a church or individual Christian, don’t go on the defense! Let’s face it – a lot of wrong has been done by the church! Admit it and acknowledge their pain. Maybe we weren’t personally involved, but haven’t we all done things to hurt the cause of Christ? A little humility and grace can go a long way.
- Be patient with the doubter. Everyone’s path will be a little different. Just because a certain book or idea brought resolution to your doubts, does NOT mean it will do the same for them. This is my personal area of struggle – I am impatient and want the person to respond sooner than later! But the Lord has been so very patient with me. It seems easier to be on the receiving end of patience or grace than on the giving end, doesn’t it?
- If the person’s doubts are in an area that you are clueless about, admit that. Don’t just blow hot air or be evasive. Honestly say that you have no idea what they are talking about. Then…either try to inform yourself in the area of concern, or find someone else who is knowledgeable about the issue who can speak with them.
- On that note…Seek to be growing in your knowledge of the faith. Too many believers have only a superficial understanding of what they claim to believe. Challenge yourself to go deeper. This will help ground you in your own faith, and better prepare you to interact with those in the world around you.
I welcome thoughts and ideas from others. If you have passed through the valley of doubt and come through with your faith still intact…what helped and didn’t help while you were still in the valley? If you are a current doubter on the verge of “leaving” (or have already left), what was your experience as you expressed your doubts to believers?