Faith can be difficult, and even biblical heroes struggled with doubt at times. However, their stories show how to persevere through uncertainty and grow in trust of God. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Many major figures in the Bible experienced doubts, including Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Thomas, and more.
But they provide inspiring examples of pressing through doubts and continuing to follow God.
In this article, we will examine the stories of several important Bible characters who doubted at various points. Learning about their experiences can help modern believers better understand doubt and develop strategies for coping when faith wavers.
Moses Doubted His Abilities
Initial Call from God
Moses grew up a prince in Pharaoh’s court, but fled Egypt after killing an Egyptian slave master (Exodus 2:11-15). He then lived as a shepherd for his father-in-law Jethro in Midian for 40 years. One day, while tending his flock near Mount Horeb, God suddenly called out to Moses from a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-4).
God commissioned Moses to go back to Egypt and demand Pharaoh to let His people go. What an intimidating calling for an 80-year-old shepherd! Yet we see glimpses of Moses’ leadership ability when he helped Jethro’s daughters chase away ill-intentioned shepherds (Exodus 2:16-17).
Still, Moses felt inadequate for the divine task.
Moses raised several objections to God’s calling (Exodus 3:11, 13; 4:1, 10, 13):
- “Who am I that I should go?” – He felt unworthy.
- “What is Your name?” – He felt unsure of God’s identity.
- “What if they won’t believe me?” – He doubted his persuasive power.
- “I’m not eloquent” – He thought he was not a good speaker.
- “Please send someone else” – He wanted to pass the buck.
Don’t we sometimes react like Moses when God assigns us challenging tasks? Our hesitations often stem from self-doubt rather than realistic appraisal of the difficulties. Moses fell into this common trap despite seeing God’s power in the burning bush miracle.
His mind clouded with disbelief more than the smoke from the bush!
Reassurance from God
The Lord did not reproach Moses for his doubts but patiently reassured him (Exodus 3:12, 14-15; 4:2-9, 11-12):
|“Who am I?”
|“I will be with you.”
|“What is Your name?”
|“I AM WHO I AM.”
|“What if they won’t believe?”
|God gave him three signs to perform.
|“I’m not eloquent.”
|“I made your mouth. I will help you speak and teach you what to say.”
God later allowed Aaron to speak for Moses (Exodus 4:14-17). Most importantly, He renewed Moses’ rod with power – a symbol of divine authority. As long as Moses depended on God rather than himself, he could fulfill his calling despite his limitations.
With God’s encouragement, Moses overcame his doubts and led Israel out of Egypt with mighty signs and wonders.
Gideon Struggled to Believe God’s Promise
When God first spoke to Gideon, he was full of doubts about God’s promise to rescue Israel from their enemies through him. Gideon came from a weak clan and felt he was the least qualified person to lead an army. He struggled to believe that God would actually help him triumph.
Gideon’s Doubts About Victory
The Bible first introduces Gideon in Judges 6, as he is threshing wheat in a wine press to hide food from the invading Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appears and greets Gideon as a “mighty warrior,” Gideon questions how God can call him that when Israel is so oppressed.
Gideon asks where all the “wonderful deeds” of God are that their fathers told them about, showing his doubt in God’s power and willingness to save them (Judges 6:13).
Even after Gideon destroys the altar of Baal as the Lord commanded, showing some faith, he is filled with fear when the men of the city threaten to kill him. He still seems to doubt that God could protect him (Judges 6:27-30).
When God asks him to fight the innumerable Midianite army, Gideon continues questioning how he could save Israel with his small and weak clan. He asks for miraculous signs over and over to prove God will truly be with him (Judges 6:36-40).
Tests with the Fleece
One famous example of Gideon testing God’s promise is by putting out a fleece of wool on the threshing floor overnight. First, he asks God that if he is truly going to help Gideon conquer the Midianites, to have the fleece be wet with dew in the morning while the ground is dry.
God graciously answers his request. But Gideon seems to have lingering doubts and asks to switch the test, for the fleece to be dry and ground wet (Judges 6:36-40). God patiently answers both his tests, showing he cares for Gideon in his doubts and fears.
Some debate Gideon’s laying out of the fleece as inappropriate “putting God to the test.” Others commend him for sincerely seeking confirmation on God’s will, not just a miracle show to prove God’s power.
Whatever one’s view, this vivid demonstration highlights Gideon struggling to gain confidence in God’s call on his life (source: Bible Study Tools).
God Patiently Reassures Gideon
While Gideon seems cowardly at first and his persistent requests for signs suggest deep anxiety and lack of faith, one must admire his honesty before God. The Lord knows and cares about Gideon’s fears and graciously reassures him, not rebuking him for having doubts.
God demonstrates great patience when working with imperfect, wavering humans and gently works to build trust and boldness.
When Gideon finally believes God’s promise and amasses an army, the Lord miraculously pares it down to just 300 men to decisively show Israel that He alone gives victory. God patiently bore with Gideon through his wavering faith until he became courageous enough to lead God’s army (Judges 7).
Though we all struggle with doubts at times, we can learn from Gideon’s story to boldly step out in faith in God’s power and gracious guidance.
Jeremiah Questioned His Call
Jeremiah’s Youthful Insecurities
Jeremiah was quite young when God first called him to be a prophet. Some scholars believe he was in his late teens or early twenties. At that tender age, it’s no wonder Jeremiah felt inadequate for the daunting task before him. He responded to God: “Ah, Lord God!
Behold, I cannot speak, for I am only a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6). Any young person would be overwhelmed by the thought of speaking God’s messages to priests, kings, and entire nations. Jeremiah understandably had doubts about his readiness.
But God knew Jeremiah’s personality and capabilities, even in his earliest years, and He encouraged the timid prophet not to be afraid. God affirmed that He would empower Jeremiah for his mission (Jeremiah 1:7-8).
Ongoing Struggles with Doubt
Jeremiah continued to periodically struggle with discouragement and doubt throughout his long ministry. He felt rejected by family and friends (Jeremiah 12:6). He even accused God of deceiving him at times (Jeremiah 20:7).
Jeremiah was so depressed by the futility of his efforts that he determined not to speak anymore in God’s name (Jeremiah 20:9). But he could not contain God’s word; it was like a burning fire within his bones demanding release (Jeremiah 20:9).
So despite his recurring misgivings, Jeremiah faithfully declared the messages he received from God, often at great personal cost.
God Strengthens Jeremiah
In Jeremiah’s times of weakness, God did not condemn him but instead encouraged him. When Jeremiah complained of feeling deceived, God promised him mercy and protection, urging him to put his trust in Him (Jeremiah 15:11, 20-21).
When Jeremiah determined to give up his mission in despair, God assured him He would make him strong enough to withstand opposition (Jeremiah 1:17-19). And God twice instructed Jeremiah to literally buy properties in Israel just before they were seized by the Babylonians, reassuring him that Israel would return in the future (Jeremiah 32).
God gave tangible signs to Jeremiah to boost his confidence that His plans and purposes would ultimately prevail.
John the Baptist Doubted Jesus’ Identity
John’s Expectations of the Messiah
John the Baptist had big expectations for the Messiah. As Jesus’ cousin, John knew the prophecies and expected the Messiah to be a powerful political and military leader who would overthrow the Romans.
John preached about this coming king and told people to repent of their sins to prepare for his arrival (Luke 3:1-20). So when Jesus came on the scene, John baptized him, assuming he must be the promised Messiah (Matthew 3:13-17).
Jesus’ Unexpected Approach
However, Jesus did not meet John’s expectations. Instead of leading an uprising, Jesus taught people to love their enemies. He spent time with sinners and outcasts. His approach was gentle, not forceful. John was confused. He began to doubt if Jesus was really the Messiah after all (Matthew 11:2-6).
John expected the Messiah to bring God’s judgment, but Jesus brought God’s mercy. This wasn’t at all what John anticipated.
Jesus Reassures John
When John had doubts, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was really the Messiah. Jesus pointed to his miraculous works as evidence that he was the promised one. Then Jesus commended John for his vital ministry in preparing the way for him (Matthew 11:7-19).
Jesus reassured John that he was indeed the Messiah, even though he did not meet John’s expectations. Jesus brought the kingdom in an unexpected way – through humble service rather than military might.
In the end, John believed Jesus despite his unmet expectations. He declared, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). John surrendered his assumptions to believe the unexpected truth about Jesus.
His story reminds us that the Messiah often works in surprising ways that defy human expectations. Whenever we find ourselves doubting, we can take comfort that Jesus is still Lord even when our assumptions about him are proven wrong.
Thomas Demanded Physical Proof
Thomas’ Absence at Jesus’ Appearance
When Jesus first appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, Thomas was conspicuously absent (John 20:24). The other ten disciples ecstatically told Thomas about seeing the risen Christ, but he responded with stubborn disbelief.
Thomas’ initial doubt is understandable – the idea of a crucified man coming back to life defied logic and experience. His absence at Jesus’ first appearance denied him the visual, tangible proof the other disciples enjoyed.
Thomas’ Stubborn Doubts
Thomas flatly declared “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). He demanded empirical evidence – the very proof that would later earn him the nickname “Doubting Thomas.”
Though all the disciples struggled with doubt at some point, Thomas was unique in requiring physical evidence for belief. His stubborn skepticism highlights how the resurrection exceeded human understanding.
According to a Pew Research survey in 2020, Thomas’ doubts resonate with many today. An estimated 25% of US adults feel unsure about Jesus’ resurrection despite the biblical accounts.
Jesus Accommodates Thomas’ Need
When Jesus next appeared to the disciples, he went straight to Thomas and invited him to “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side” (John 20:27). Jesus accommodated Thomas’ desire for tangible proof rather than rebuking him for his doubts.
His patience and understanding led Thomas to exclaim “My Lord and my God! “, confessing his newfound belief (John 20:28).
Though the Bible honors those who believe without seeing (John 20:29), Christ did not ignore Thomas’ doubts. He met Thomas where he was, providing the evidence needed to advance his faith. Through touching Jesus’ wounds, Thomas gained a deeper understanding of Christ’s sacrifice of love on the cross.
The examples of Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Thomas, and others show that doubt is a common human struggle, even among great people of faith. Their stories provide hope that pressing through doubts, with God’s help, can lead to deeper trust and understanding.
When you experience doubts, remember you’re in good company. Approach God honestly in prayer, seek support from other believers, and ask God to reveal himself to you as he did for biblical heroes who doubted yet persevered by faith.