Sean McDowell on Why He Thanks God for His Doubts

Note from Randy: I’m very excited that author and professor Sean McDowell will be speaking at my church for an apologetics conference, May 3-4! I believe it will be faith-impacting, so I’m inviting a number of teens I know, including my grandsons, who along with their parents have already signed up. (If you’re in the Portland, Oregon area, or can travel here, you can learn more and register for the Reasons to Believe Conference, hosted by Good Shepherd Community Church. The session titles are: True for You, but Not True for Me; Evidence for the New Testament; Evidence for the Resurrection; and If God, Why Evil?)

Evidence That Demands a VerdictSean’s father Josh McDowell had a big influence on me and countless others through his writing and speaking ministry. I will never forget reading through his classic book Evidence That Demands a Verdict and how I used it in youth ministry and pastoring our church (Josh and Sean have thoroughly revised and updated that work, which I highly recommend). For decades I passed out his More Than a Carpenter to unbelievers and young believers more than any other book, and others obviously did the same since it has sold over 15 million copies (Sean assisted his dad in revising that book as well).

Many years ago Josh and I became friends, seeing each other in various parts of the country and getting together for meals and conversation. I love Josh and I love Sean, and I also love how as father and son they have teamed up in such remarkable, eternity-impacting ways.

Listen to what Sean has to say in the following article about how God has used doubt in his life, for great good (including impacting tens of thousands of people through his books, writings, and podcasts!).

Why I Thank God for My Doubts: A Personal Reflection

It might sound crazy, but I can honestly say that I thank God for my doubts. It’s not that I always appreciate having doubts. Sometimes doubts can be a burden. But even so, I realize something deeper about the reason God has for my doubts. Let me explain.

I am a consistent doubter. I doubt almost everything including purchases, beliefs, and my daily choices. It is simply the way I am wired (and probably also the result of having a father who constantly challenged me to think). To be honest, sometimes the doubts can seem crushing.

Why Thank God for Doubts?

The answer is simple: It’s doubts that drive me to seek truth. That’s right, doubts drive me to read, study, think, question, and constantly try to uncover what is true. It bothers me to not know something, and I tirelessly try to uncover truth about it.

Without my doubts, I doubt (yes, pun intended) that I would have written a 300+ page academic book on the Fate of the Apostles or helped my father update his classic book Evidence that Demands A Verdict, which is 700+ pages. I certainly am motivated to create resources that genuinely help people, but so much of my own drive comes from my personal doubts and skepticism. I want to be confident about what I believe.

A Personal Lament

A few years ago, I was lamenting that God didn’t give me more faith. I have a pastor friend who clearly has the gift of faith. He’s always optimistic about his family, faith, and church. No matter how dim things get, he’ll constantly say, “Don’t worry. God is in control. He’s got this.”

Yet, as much as I believe him, I still find myself thinking, “But how do you really know? What if God has other plans? Are you sure?” I just can’t help it. I question things. But why? Ultimately, I think there are two reasons.

The Benefit of Doubt

First, as I mentioned above, doubts motivate me to study, research, learn, and go deeper in my understanding. If I were not such a skeptic, I would probably never spend so much time trying to learn and educate other believers. If you have a weakness, have you ever considered how God may have a deeper purpose for it?

Second, and perhaps most important, my doubts drive me to rest in God’s grace rather than my own understanding. When doubts plague me, and I can’t resolve something in my mind, I am driven to God for His mercy. Jude 1:22 says to “have mercy on those who doubt.” And I often think of the powerful words spoken by the Apostle Paul, when he reflected on his own weakness: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

God uses our weaknesses to draw us into deeper relationship with Him and for greater personal sanctification. In fact, God seems to enjoy using our weaknesses and shortcomings, so that He gets the glory. These are life-changing truths for which I rarely doubt.

This article originally appeared on Sean’s blog, and is used with permission.

Photo: Unsplash

Sean McDowell is a professor of apologetics at Biola University, an internationally recognized speaker, and the author, co-author, or editor of over twenty books.