We have been hearing a lot about people struggling with doubt and even walking away from the faith. I remember as a youth pastor having one of the youth, who had seemed strong in his faith, come out as an “apatheist.” It was tough.
How we react when someone comes to us to us with their doubts is very important. What we do and what we don’t do may affect how this struggle goes.
What Not to Do
- Don’t condemn them for their doubts.
- Don’t make assumptions about why they are doubting (e.g. just wanting freedom to sin).
- Don’t say you know exactly how they feel. You don’t.
- Don’t say, “Just believe!”
- Don’t try to shutdown the conversation because of your own discomfort.
- Don’t hand them a book as a silver bullet.
- Don’t try to cast out the spirit of doubt. Yes, someone tried that on me once.
- Don’t pretend you have all the answers.
What to Do
- Take their doubts seriously.
- Love them unconditionally.
- Pray for them regularly.
- Ask them questions to find out the real source of their doubt.
- If they have sincere questions, answer to the best of your ability. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t have the answer.
- Treat them with respect no matter what direction they go on their faith journey.
It is difficult to watch friends or family struggle with their faith. Remember that even Jesus had people walk away from him (John 6) and he was right there.
Respond in a rational rather than an emotional way. This may be just a phase or it may be a long term struggle. Our job is just to support them and help them in any way we can.