Stand to Reason recently featured an article (“Faith Does Not Save You” by Amy Hall) which explained why feeling like we have weak faith shouldn’t make us worry that we have lost our salvation. At the end of it, Ms. Hall stated that when we feel like our faith is weak, we must turn our attention away from our fickle feelings and trust all the more that Jesus is holding onto us. However, we cannot rely on weak faith to trust in Jesus as the solution to our weak faith if our weak faith is the problem in the first place. Feigning the feeling of trusting Jesus harder when our faith feels weak so that He will hold onto us sounds pious, but the reality is that it does not get at the root of the problem.
While I agree with Ms. Hall that the feeling of weak faith should not make us question our salvation, I would like to amend her point to say that weak faith is a sign that we need justification for our religious belief in order to strengthen it lest we turn away from our religious belief altogether. To understand this, we must understand what faith is and what it means for it to be weak.
What is Faith?
Faith, from the Greek word “pistis,” has a few different meanings. It has an aspect of belief, and an aspect of trust. The aspect of belief is a cognitive one. When we reference “the faith” or “my faith,” we often refer to a composition of religious beliefs. When we refer to “faith in God,” we are describing a trust in a God who we already believe exists.
With these two meanings of faith in mind, the cognitive beliefs we have about God and religion and the trust we have in God, there are two ways in which our faith might be weak.
The First Kind of Weak Faith — Doubt About Our Religious Beliefs
The first way is if we question the truth of our beliefs about God and religion. We might question if God exists, if Jesus exists, if there really is only one way for salvation, if the books of the Bible are reliable, etc. All of these are doubts in various beliefs which require justification rather than blind trust. You cannot trust in something you do not believe exists or is not true. Nobody will ever put their trust in a parachute that they do not believe exists no matter how much we tell them to trust in it.
Addressing Religious Doubt
The book of John gives us a model of how Jesus addressed such doubt when John the Baptist sent his messengers to Jesus to ask Him if He was really the Christ. Jesus did not send the messengers back to tell John that he should just trust harder in spite of his weak faith. Rather, Jesus sent the messengers back to tell John the Baptist that Jesus was performing miracles. Jesus offered these miracles as evidence of His divinity so that John would have sufficient reason to justify his belief that Jesus was truly the Savior.
Therefore, the response to the first kind of weak faith is not the admonition to trust in Jesus or Scripture more since we cannot tell someone to trust something in which they do not even believe. Instead, we must give sufficient reasons to justify the religious beliefs making up our faith in order to strengthen our confidence in it.
The Second Kind of Weak Faith — The Inability to Trust God
The second way in which our faith may be weak is if we lack trust in God. In this case, the issue is not whether God exists but whether we could trust Him.
This could be due to plain lack of trust or to the belief that God has broken our trust. Even though trust does, sometimes, require a leap, there are still things we can do to strengthen it rather than just telling a person with weak faith to trust harder. For example, if we doubt that God could forgive a sinner as bad as us, we may strengthen our faith through the Biblical accounts of God forgiving men like Saul or the prisoners next to Jesus on the cross. If we doubt the doctrine of salvation by grace altogether, then our faith may be strengthened by reading passages throughout Romans.
If somebody not only lacks trust in God, but actively distrusts him because they believe God has broken their trust, then convincing them to trust God once more requires both emotional tact and Biblical literacy in order to speak the truth of Scripture in a gently persuasive way. Take, for example, a rape victim who distrusts God because He didn’t prevent it. Telling them that they just have to keep trusting and Jesus will hold onto them ignores the very issue causing the distrust in the first place, and such misguided council will likely cause more harm than good. Instead, we should kindly and prayerfully guide them through Biblical truth which can bring healing for the hurt that causes their distrust of God.
What if We Still Don’t Trust in God After Reading the Bible’s Answers?
If we read Biblical accounts which address the reasons for our lack of trust (or active distrust) and still find ourselves doubting, then it is apparent that we actually have the first kind of doubt. In this case, the root of the problem is not a lack of trust in God. Rather, due to personal tragedy or skeptical doubt, we lack reasons to believe the Bible is trustworthy when it addresses the reasons for our lack of trust in God.
The two kinds of weak faith are often closely intertwined with each-other. It is imperative that Christians understand the difference between the two so that they may give the appropriate response.
How Christians Should Respond to Weak Faith
Misunderstanding the kind of weak faith a person has can yield catastrophic results. I personally found this out during the time in which I doubted Christianity the most and left it. I doubted the very existence of God, the trustworthiness of the Bible, and the existence of Jesus. But well-intentioned Christians tried to “fix” my weak faith by telling me to just trust harder in things that I did not even believe. The result was that I became discouraged and, for a time, abandoned the faith altogether.
My faith was only revitalized thorough factual investigation into the existence of God, the life of Jesus, the history of the early Church, and the trustworthiness of the Bible.
Having become rationally persuaded of the Christian faith, I now find myself firmly anchored to God with unshakable trust.
It is the duty of Christians to provide the same anchor to those currently drifting at sea — tossed by doubt.
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