Center for Cultural Discipleship

Faith & Doubt: 3 Principles for Riding the Turbulence

I hate to fly. It is a harrowing experience to glide in a tin can thousands of feet in the air, with no means of escape. I grew up in a military home, traveled, and spent years on mission trips around the globe. You would think I would be used to it by now. But every time I am in an airport, sitting in the terminal, I contemplate why it’s called a “terminal.” I envision the plane going down, fearful passengers, what I would say to the person next to me, and whether I would be brave at the moment. It just doesn’t seem natural. It helps that I learned how flight works. Jet engines force a plane to experience wind speeds that sheer across a curved wing, adjusting air pressure, and creating lift. But at the moment, my gut questions the plastic-looking wing out my tiny window.

On any day I am only 80% sure the plane is going to get me to my destination, less if we will travel over large bodies of water. Wouldn’t it be great if 80% of me could get on the plane and leave 20% behind? But that’s not how air travel works. It’s not how life works. It’s not how biblical faith works. All of me must get on the plane or stay behind. I must choose. Faith supports the doubtful, scared 20% of me that takes my seat, buckles up, and takes the ride.

Faith marks life. Faith is not exclusive to religion or spirituality. You can’t take a job and not take a job at the same time. You can’t walk down a wedding aisle and also walk away. You can’t send your kid to three different schools at once. We walk by faith every day. The question is not whether you have faith. Life choices will always involve faith or trust in something. The question is whether your faith is in something trustworthy. If I were only 20% sure the airplane was safe for travel and all of me entrusted my life to the plane and the pilot, I would be foolish.

So, how do we determine if Christ (the object) of our Christian faith is trustworthy? Here are a few principles to help on your journey.

  1. Biblical faith assumes the need to choose. Jesus speaks to the reality of having to choose a core life commitment. Are you the main character to the grand story of your life, or is your life part of the supporting cast in God’s story? It can’t be both. Either you judge right and wrong, beauty and horror, justice and oppression, or God sets the standard for these distinctions. You either live in God’s Kingdom or you make your own. Do you own your life or does God own your life? You must choose.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money- Matthew 6:24.

  1. Biblical faith is not 100% certain. Trust is never risk free, no matter how much we attempt to live in the illusion of objectivity, flawless rationality, and intellectual superpower. Jesus does not commend certainty; He commends commitment. He commends our trust in Him when we don’t know everything and don’t understand everything.

Immediately the father of the child cries out and says, “I believe; help my unbelief!”- Mark 9:24

  1. Biblical faith grows in surety. Years ago, my assurance in the safety of flying hovered around 55%. Carrying 45% by faith and stepping all of me on an airplane was terrifying. How did I move from 55% confidence to 85% confidence? Three things: evidence, experience, and fellow travelers. I learned about airplanes, the physics of flight, and pilot training. I have flown over and over, attesting to the reality of my evidence. I have heard the stories of others who travel far more than I do, and they are still alive.


Our faith in Christ is much the same way. God does not require blind faith without reason. He has given us a mountain of evidence to attest to the truth of the Biblical story: His word, history, manuscript research, philosophy, the life and person of Jesus of Nazareth, apologetic evidence, and the list goes on. Make no mistake, thousands of years of scholarly research and rigor support historic Christianity. You wouldn’t go to your electrician to explain medicine. Don’t go to random influencers to explain biblical faith. It takes ignorance ten seconds to make an accusation that requires a well-informed person to write a book to answer. If you have never encountered the body of Christian academic work, let me recommend a resource to you as a start. This is where the scholars hang out.

God also gives us experience. He gives us the experience of Himself. God does not offer us mere knowledge about the world, but offers us His very Spirit. As with the disciples, knowing Christ creates a history of lived experience upon which we learn to trust His leading and goodness. We take a small step of obedience and find His way to be life giving. We grieve a loss, cry out to Him, and find His presence in the silence. We read His word and find our hearts awakened to His voice. We repent of a deep wrong and find forgiveness. We experience Him in the world, in prayer, in quiet moments, in suffering, in joy, in repentance, and in obedience.

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
     but now my eye sees you; – Job 42:5  

God gives us fellow travelers. We live among our brothers and sisters so that we may be signposts for one another.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,- Hebrews 12:1

Remember, evidence, experience, and fellow travelers are all given to us by God. God warns us against building our faith on just one of these provisions. Evidence alone is not intimacy with Christ. Experience alone dangerously trusts in our sinful interpretations of life. Only knowing fellow travelers does not sustain our lives when turbulence hits.

Turbulence will hit. God’s faithfulness is often proven under turbulent conditions. When turbulence hits and your world is shaking, remember that doubt is not a threat to faith; it is God’s invitation to strengthen it.

Doubt is not a threat to faith; It is God’s invitation to strengthen it.

As you strengthen your faith with evidence, experience, and fellow travelers, you are meant to become a fellow traveler for someone else. A sure faith is not a source of pride or achievement, it is God’s generous gift. Be thankful.

A final warning: Biblical faith is not trusting in faith itself. That would be idolatry. My comfort level on a plane has no bearing on the plane’s ability to get me to my destination. My trust is in the plane and the pilot, not my feeling of confidence. God’s ability to run His Kingdom, care for you, love you, and show you mercy is the object of your faith. Your faith is not a source of power. We do not trust in our own faith. We trust in God and Jesus, whom He has sent. He is the source of all power. He is the object. So, when tempted to wonder, “Will God be good to me if my faith is not strong enough?” remember that the strength of your faith does not increase or decrease God’s goodness. Reality check: We are not that powerful.

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