Can I Have Doubt and Faith at the Same Time? With Mary Jo Sharp [Episode 112]

Do you ever feel like Doubting Thomas gets a bad rap in Scripture? I sure do!

If you’re struggling with doubt, you aren’t alone. Former atheist Mary Jo Sharp shares her story. [Click to Tweet]

That’s why I think some renaming is in order. What if we start calling him “Seeking Thomas” instead? Because, friend, the truth is that doubt isn’t shameful. It’s not the worst thing ever—it really isn’t. Jesus even said, “… seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7).

So, today, if you’re struggling with doubt because you feel the ever-present tension between the beauty of salvation and the dark side of human nature, you aren’t alone.

In this episode of the 4:13 Podcast, author and former atheist Mary Jo Sharp is here to encourage you. She shares her story of how she came to faith, why she then began to doubt, and what led her back to belief again.

Mary Jo is an Assistant Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University and the founder and director of Confident Christianity Apologetics Ministry. She’s been featured in Christianity Today’s cover story, “The Unexpected Defenders,” and is an international speaker on apologetics, focusing on love and logic to uncover truth. She lives with her husband and family in Portland, Oregon.

You’ll hear a candid and approachable case for believing in God when you really want to walk away. It’s both logical and loving. So, if you, or somebody you know, is struggling with faith and doubt, this episode of the 4:13 Podcast is for you!

3 Practical Ways to Have Faith When You Feel Doubt

  1. Be brave enough to ask questions. Thanks to the influence of Mary Jo’s high school band director and his gift of a Bible to her, she went from growing up as an atheist to trusting her life to Jesus while in college. It wasn’t long after this, though, that a negative experience with a pastor’s wife planted distrust in her. Mary Jo found herself increasingly skeptical of those who professed the Bible as true because she didn’t see them living what they said they believed. This led her to question, “If these people don’t believe this is true, why do I say it’s true?”

    But instead of simply walking away, Mary Jo continued to ask questions and to seek answers. She says she looked for books that answered questions such as, How do I know God is real? or How do I know Jesus rose from the dead? The more she sought answers, the more she was convinced that the Bible was true.

    Doubt doesn’t disqualify you from God’s presence. He always gives an open invitation to you and your questions. [Click to Tweet]

    If you’re struggling with doubt right now, it’s okay to ask questions. God isn’t put off by them. He can handle your doubt. He’s endured questions from people throughout the Bible who had trouble believing. One example is John the Baptist. The way Jesus responded to John’s questions while John was in prison shows God’s kind response when those of faith struggle with doubt (Luke 7:18-28).

  2. Realistically consider your alternatives. Mary Jo’s questions included considering the other options to faith. She pondered: What’s the other side of this look like? If I say there’s no God and I walk away, what am I actually stepping into? Do I really believe there’s no hope? So, in addition to reading books, she also listened to debates between Christians and atheists. These conversations helped convince her that not only was Christianity true but it had better answers for life—especially in the area of suffering.

    Mary Jo says that she needed to know why suffering was happening to handle it when it was happening. But atheism doesn’t even have a basis for understanding what good and evil are. Christianity, though, helped her understand suffering because it teaches that what God created was originally good (Genesis 1:31). Yet we’ve used these good gifts that He’s given us—such as our free will—to do very bad things. Suffering is the consequence of billions of humans over time, engaging in acts of evil.

    The doubt you’re feeling may have to do with suffering. Maybe it’s because of a hard situation you’re walking through, or it’s a result of witnessing so much pain and evil in our world. If that’s where you are today, remind yourself that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. You live in a fallen world. But, even in this sinful world, you still have a good God who loves you, who sent His son for you, and who promises never to leave you (Hebrews 13:5).

  3. Look to God rather than people. As Mary Jo asked questions, she wasn’t sure she even wanted to find out the truth because she’d been hurt badly by the Church. She says her desires were messy. But there was a part of her who believed the litmus test for Christianity’s truth couldn’t be the hypocrisy or behaviors of believers.

    In her journey, Mary Jo realized that she needed to stop looking at Christians and instead look to Who God is. Romans 5:8 reminded her that Jesus did good to us when we weren’t doing good back to Him. And His teaching in Luke 6 told her how we’re meant to live and treat each other. So, she determined that even when she saw other believer’s hypocrisy, she’d remind herself that we all have the beauty of salvation in us alongside the ugliness of human hypocrisy. And, instead of trying to control the narrative of her life, she was going to trust God, Who’s really in control.

    It’s possible you have been hurt by other Christians too. You might be struggling to trust God because people have wounded you. Like Mary Jo, you can choose to look to Who God is and trust His perfect and unchanging character. He won’t let you down or hurt you. He’s always doing you good, even when you don’t understand His ways.

Friend, God always gives an open invitation to you. Doubt doesn’t disqualify you from His presence. So, bring Him your questions. Be honest with Him and with your trusted friends who are believers.

And remember, no matter where you are in your faith walk, whether your walk is smooth or bumpy, you can keep walking because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.

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