It's no easy trip down the road of faith, especially navigating today's world. You're bound to hit some bumps along the way in the form of doubts popping up.
When they come, many of us naturally feel guilty, disheartened or even scared. But our reaction should be quite opposite- though doubts can be scary, they are normal and can actually be a great help in strengthening faith.
1. Doubt is not the same as disbelief
We often feel guilty for allowing doubts to pop up in our minds, especially if it's about something we thought we had strong faith in. But doubt is not disbelief, and you shouldn't feel guilty about it.
Disbelief is a mindset of, "This is not true," while doubt is a question- "What if the things I believe aren't true?"
Of course, doubt can lead to disbelief, but it can also lead to stronger faith. It all depends on how you react when those thoughts of doubt come up.
Doubt puts your faith through a test, and you'll come out stronger for it.
Doubt forces you into action. No one likes doubtful thoughts to linger, so you're urged to definitively find out whether something is really true or not. Those questions that come along with doubts beg to be answered, and your journey finding the answers is a faith-building one.
As most of us know from experience, doubt isn't a one time occurrence. It'll happen repeatedly throughout life, but that's actually a good thing. Repeatedly occurring doubts helps to freshen our faith. And when doubts do come, don't handle them with high skepticism; address them with high hopes. This leaves your heart more sensitive and open to answers.
3. It's actually strange if you don't have doubts
There is absolutely no shame in experiencing doubt. In fact, it's actually pretty strange if you don't have doubts creep up everyone once in awhile about the various aspects of your faith.
Faith is knowledge of things you can feel but cannot see. You can sense your belief in your heart, but you cannot perceive it with your five senses (sight, touch, sound, taste, smell).
Faith may be a matter of the heart, but doubt is a matter of the mind, and many times the two don't see eye-to-eye. Of course your mind is going to have doubts about the truth of things you have no proof of other than past feelings. After all, your brain is the skeptic in this heart/mind relationship. If you've never experienced doubt at all, you're not considering your faith seriously enough.
4. Doubt changes you from a blind follower to a seeing choice-maker
I was born and raised in my religion, and when that's the case, it's easy to have blind follower faith. In other words, I grew up with faith because the gospel I was being taught was all I knew- I didn't question it. Sure, I gained tidbits of true faith here and there, but my faith was never solid until after it was shaken.
Once I was older, I started having doubting questions such as, "Do I have faith because I know these things are true, or am I going along with a religion because I was born into it?"
My doubts made me realize I had never chosen my faith. Others who convert to a religion later in life make that choice because they started off their conversion with those questions of doubt: "Is this true or not?" I realized it was time for me to face those questions myself.
It tooks lots of time, study, conversations and prayers to address my doubt. But it was the best thing I could have done for my faith. The difference was black and white- I realized I had been more of a blind follower in my faith, but post-doubts, I had so much more clarity. It was such a relief to finally feel I was choosing my faith.
Take advantage of doubts
The next time a doubtful thought enters your mind, don't feel guilty. Acknowledge that doubts are not only normal but useful, and use them to your advantage to strengthen your faith and choose what you truly believe.