is doubt a dirty word?

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When it comes to faith, is doubt a dirty word? I don’t think so. This past weekend I had the opportunity to share my thoughts about faith out of Hebrews 11, a chapter that has helped shape my definition of faith: “Being sure and certain about unseen hopes, promises, and realities.” 

An accurate understanding of faith and its role in our life is vital because, according to the author of Hebrews, God cannot be approached without it. Those who want to approach God have to believe two things:

  • God exists.

  • God rewards those who diligently seek Him.

Both make sense in light of faith being the prerequisite. There’s no need for God and, likewise, no need to pursue Him if (1) He doesn’t exist and (2) He does not reward (bless) those who pursue Him.

doubt it

At the end of my talk, I invited questions and was asked a thought-provoking one:

“Will you explain the role doubt plays when it comes to faith?”

I had to think for a minute before responding, listening to what was being said to my spirit. What I heard is: When it comes to faith, doubt is not a dirty word. In fact, doubt is not a lack of certainty. My understanding of this grew in the seconds after I heard the words come out of my mouth. Doubt, by definition, is a FEELING of uncertainty—not uncertainty. 

This means we can be certain about certain things, like (1) God exists and that (2) He blesses, rewards, and takes care of those who pursue Him. At the same time, we can feel uncertain about what, when, and how God’s going to do what He promised He would do. Doubt, then, does not have to be a lack of certainty.


We see a lot of heroes in Old and New Testament stories who blend faith and doubt:

  • Abram was certain God told him to go south. He was uncertain exactly where he was going and how or when God would honor His word and bless him.

  • Moses was certain God told him to lead the Israelites into the wilderness to worship Him. He was uncertain when and how God would get them to the Promised Land.

  • Esther was certain God told her to stand up for her people. She was uncertain as to what God was going to do or if it would cost her her life.

  • Phillip was certain God had told him to go out to the desert. He was uncertain what God was doing and why He would ask this of him. Thankfully, Phillip went. His encounter with the Ethiopian official is believed to be responsible for the Gospel reaching the African continent.

while waiting

Doubt is not a lack of certainty. Doubt is a natural feeling we all face while waiting for the rest of the story to unfold. I can be certain as to who God is, that He exists, and that He rewards those who pursue Him—all while waiting and feeling uncertain as to how things will unfold. 

While waiting, God wants faith. He wants our attitude and posture to reflect an inner belief—a sure and certain belief about unseen hopes, promises, and realities in who He is and what He has said about our future.

For those interested, here’s a link to my talk and the question that was asked.