“I believe; help my unbelief” is my favorite phrase in scripture. It captures so much of what it means and takes to be a follower of Christ, encapsulating struggle, faith, doubt, obedience, wandering, and repentance. It is deeply theological and personal. For these reasons and more I wrote a book called Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not The Enemy of Faith (releases July 1 – Available at BarnesandNoble.com & Amazon.com) which explores what real belief is and its relationship with doubt in the life of a believer. The challenges of that tension are not unique to me; They’re nearly universal among Christians no matter position, maturity, or church tradition. In the weeks leading up to the release I will share the the thoughts and experiences of several friends of mine – authors, church leaders, writers, thinkers – who honestly answered five questions about faith and doubt.
Trillia Newbell is the author of Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves and United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity. Her writings on issues of faith, family, and diversity have been published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Desiring God, True Woman, Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and more. She has spoken at numerous conferences, churches, women’s retreats, colleges and seminaries. She currently is the Director of Community Outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Her greatest love besides God is her family. She is married to her best friend and love, Thern. They reside with their two children near Nashville, TN.
1) What does “I believe; help my unbelief” mean to you?
I don’t struggle with series of doubt. It’s not something that I typically battle with. Yet, when I am squeezed or when there is something unknown that I must wait for, it is then that my doubt is revealed. I believe and know God but in those moments when I am unsure I forget the One I follow and have to fight to believe his promises are for me.
2) Do you have a favorite Bible passage about belief and doubt? What is it and how has it impacted you?
This might be an odd or unexpected answer. My favorite passage about belief is actually about salvation. Ephesians 2:8 is a sweet reminder to me that my salvation is a gift. I believe the faith to believe is also a gift. Yes, there’s effort but I couldn’t muster up the faith to believe for salvation and I know I can’t muster up the faith to believe when I doubt. We walk by faith and not by sight. All good things come from our Father, including our faith to believe.
3) What is belief in God?
It’s interesting, my first thought went to James when he says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19). We can believe many things. For the longest we believed the earth was flat. But there is a difference in the Christian faith. We don’t simply believe—we believe, act, embrace, and worship as a result of this belief. Philosophical belief in God alone isn’t true belief; I think it includes worship, trust, and faith that come from God himself. In many ways, belief in God is seen in submission to God.
4) What do you see as the relationship between belief and doubt?
I have never met a person who hasn’t doubted at some point. So much of what we struggle with is because of our doubt. Anxiety and fear are two areas I see doubt manifest itself in me. Belief and doubt are often at war in our hearts and minds. I am thankful that even a small amount (mustard seed, perhaps) is all that we need to combat our doubt.
5) How can a person strengthen their belief in God?
Reading the Bible is essential in helping combat unbelief and strengthening our faith in God. But I think one of the greatest ways we can strengthen our belief is through prayer. Prayer is one of the most humbling exercises of faith for me. During prayer I must recognize that I am not my own, that I am dependent on another, that there is actually someone who is interceding on my behalf, that I need someone else and I am not self-sufficient. So, I’d encourage someone who desires to strengthen their belief to read God’s Word and to exercise prayer daily. And remember that God gave His son for us who doubt. Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus—not even your doubt.