Deborah submitted the following:
I’m … currently going through emotional doubts about God. It scares me so much that I have sleepless nights and panic attacks because I’ve been a Christian since childhood. I need my faith back and I need to believe again.
Here are some responses from Rich Knopp:
Deborah, thanks so much for your submission on the Room For Doubt website. I greatly respect your honestly and openness about your struggles with faith. There is no simple four-step process that will guarantee the revival of your faith, but it’s worth considering some things that might help.
First, it might help to reflect more specifically on what’s contributing to your doubts about God. You characterize them as “emotional doubts,” which could be quite different from “intellectual doubts.” Even so, sometimes emotional doubts are generated by underlying intellectual doubts. If this is true in your case, then you should try to identity the most significant intellectual doubts and then seek some help with those. Our website has a number of articles and videos that address various topics. If you can see how your intellectual confidence in God can be strengthened, then perhaps that will help you with the emotional doubts you’re experiencing.
But perhaps you just feel separated from God and you can’t identify any specific intellectual doubts that are involved. If this is the case, then I think that focusing on some theological truths might help. For instance, sometimes people have emotional doubts because they just can’t genuinely accept that God can or would truly accept them as they are. They feel that they are just never good enough. But it can be of tremendous value to be reminded of God’s unconditional love that is based in what God has done for us through Christ, not on how good (or bad) we feel. Do you believe that this is really true—that God really loves you that way? If so, then perhaps this truth will become more a part of your emotional self. “WOW! I’m really forgiven because of what God already did.” How might that amazing truth change your emotional connection to God?
Second, remember that doubts are inevitable and unavoidable. The fact is: we do not have absolutely certain knowledge about anything. (The story line in the Matrix movies helps drive that point home.) If this is true, then there is always some range of doubt that is legitimately present. Even very strong Christian believers often—and properly—admit that they sometimes have some doubts about a particular belief. For instance, if we cannot know with absolute certainty that God exists, then periodically admitting that there are doubts is an understandable acknowledgement. If we cannot know with absolute certainty that Jesus was raised from the dead, then it makes sense to admit that there is some range of doubt that can periodically arise.
So what?! Just because we don’t have absolute certainty on such things does not mean that we cannot have adequate evidence or experiences to have sufficient confidence that God exists, that He truly loves us unconditionally, and that Jesus was raised by God’s power and makes that resurrection power available to us.
Third, I believe that one of the most important considerations for someone facing doubts about God and all that comes with the Christian point of view is to think seriously about what the ALTERNATIVES offer. How does the Christian perspective compare to other perspectives and ways of life?
It’s not just a matter of asking: How sure can we be (or not) that the basic Christian claims are true? It’s also a matter of asking the same kinds of hard and critical questions of the alternative interpretations of the universe and of life. How do they compare to fundamental Christian claims?
For example, if someone does not believe in a personal and Creator God, she must still try to account for the existence of the universe and of life itself. What are the “best” alternatives? Well, people like Stephen Hawking essentially claim that the universe somehow created itself. The atheist philosopher, Alex Rosenberg, just says that the universe came into existence “for no reason at all.” It “just springs up … without any cause at all.” But how is that so compelling or so satisfying?! I think we have a LOT of reasons to doubt those alternative explanations. (For more on this line of thinking, see my article, “Explaining Origins: Alternatives to Cosmic Intelligence”.)
My point here is that when we compare the alternative explanations, I’m convinced that the core claims of Christianity are the BEST EXPLANATIONS available. They make the most sense intellectually, evidentially, historically, existentially, and culturally.
I suppose I would reverse your situation and say that, if I did NOT believe in a personal, loving, Creator, I would be having sleepless nights of panic attacks myself. When you’re disturbed by your doubts about God, try to remind yourself that the doubts about the alternatives are just as troubling, if not much more so. Then, try to take comfort with the conviction that the Christian perspective really does provide a satisfying peaceful confidence that will allow you to rest better tonight … and tomorrow.
Thanks again for your post. I hope that this gives you some encouragement and greater confidence with your faith in God and all that He offers.
–Dr. Rich Knopp, Program Director, Room For Doubt; Professor of Philosophy & Christian Apologetics, Lincoln Christian University.