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8 Vital Questions to Ask a Friend Struggling With Doubt

These are eight diagnostic questions I ask of those who are doubting their faith.

1. What are you doubting?

There are three primary things people doubt:

1) their salvation

2) God’s love for them

3) fundamental issues of the faith.

Included with the doubt of salvation is a subcategory: belief that they have committed the unforgivable sin. Which one do you find yourself doubting?

2. If it is a fundamental issue of the faith that you are doubting, which one is it?

The reliability of Scripture? The reality of hell? The exclusivity of Christ? The existence of God? Etc.

(This is important as, more often than not, people are having an emotional struggle, not an intellectual one, even if they don’t identify it as such. For example, 99 percent of the time, people doubt hell and Christ’s exclusivity not because they have found some compelling logical argument against it, but because it does not square with them emotionally. This does not speak to the legitimacy of the doubt, but to the source of its genesis.)

3. Tell me about this aspect of your personality.

Would you describe yourself as an intense person who tends toward compulsiveness or a laid back person with a lot of patience?

Here is another way, though at first glance it may appear to be odd, to put this (and this will be more relevant to some of us who remember the commercials): “How many licks does it take for you to get to the center of a Toosie Pop?” If you are old enough, you remember the commercial with the owl. The owl took two licks and then could not contain himself. He then bit straight into the middle. So it took him three. He was intense!

If you have to bite into the pop, you might be an intense person.

(Why does this matter? Sometimes, more intense people experience times of extreme doubt, often coming on acutely without any warning. This is especially the case when people have (or at least believe themselves to have) more  intellectually based doubts. Ironically, I find this most among young men who aspire to be apologists, believing that they must immediately and completely immerse themselves in every debate, book and argument that exists, both those for and those against Christianity. Eventually, this type of personality is prone to be a “spiritual emotional breakdown.”)

(In case you were wondering, there have been studies done on how long it takes to get to the center of a Toosie Pop. It appears to take anywhere from 144-411 licks to get to the core.)

4. Are there any medications that you have recently started taking?

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michaelpatton@churchleaders.com'
Michael received a bachelor of arts in biblical studies at University of Biblical Studies and Seminary in Bethany, OK. He received a master of theology degree in New Testament Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. Michael is the president of Credo House Ministries. He is also a speaker on Theology Unplugged, an Internet radio broadcast found at credohouse.org. He currently resides in Oklahoma with his wife and four kids.