Caught Between Faith and Doubt

By Joe Caruso Stories

To have faith is to trust or have confidence in something or someone. If I have faith that a ladder will hold my weight, I have no fear of climbing it. If a child, has faith that their father will catch them, they’re more than happy to jump into his arms.

Faith is necessary for us to take risks and move forward, in pursuit of something worthwhile. We need to believe that there’s a pathway to succeed. Otherwise, what would be the use of pursuing it in the first place? When we see that pathway, we’re more than willing to follow it with the confidence we can make it to the end.

But there are times when we lose faith and begin to doubt. The pathway we once so clearly saw, becomes cluttered and hard to find. How do we move forward when we lose our way? How do we regain the faith we once had? What happens when we find ourselves caught between faith and doubt?

There’s a popular story found in Matthew 14:22-33. It’s the story of Peter walking on the water with Jesus. This is a fascinating story of faith and courage, focus and distraction, fear and self-doubt, and the importance of a support system. 

The story begins just after Jesus fed the 5000. It was later in the evening and Jesus spent the better part of the day with a large group of people, healing those who were sick and miraculously seeing that everyone was fed before he left them for the night.

Jesus told his disciples to go on ahead of him in a boat. He wanted to spend some time alone with God. Jesus was distraught because he learned that day that his friend, John the Baptist had been killed. 

Just before the sun rose the following day, Jesus decided to meet up with his disciples. It was a windy night and their boat was already quite a distance from the shore. So Jesus, as it has been recorded, began walking on the water towards the boat.

When the disciples saw him, they were understandably terrified, thinking they saw a ghost. So, Jesus called out and reassured them who he was.

Faith and Courage: Verse 28

Peter enters the story in verse 28. Being the bold, courageous and impulsive man of faith, that he was, Peter called out to Jesus to prove himself by telling him to walk on the water as well.

This is faith in action. When we’re determined to pursue something worthwhile, all we see are the wonderful possibilities that lie ahead. The clear path forward fills us with faith. As our faith grows, so does our courage, and we boldly begin to move forward.

This was Peter’s state of mind at that moment. He had the “can-do” attitude. Of the twelve disciples in the boat that night, Peter was the only one with the faith and courage to take the leap.

So Jesus, as requested, called Peter to come out of the boat. And that was all it took to motivate this man of faith. Peter, immediately jumped out of the boat.

Focus and Distraction: Verse 30

As soon as Peter’s feet hit the water, he fixed his eyes on Jesus and began walking towards him. Peter was walking on the water! What must the other disciples have thought of this amazing spectacle? 

But just as everything seemed to be going perfectly, it all changed. While Peter was walking towards Jesus, he noticed the wind and waves around him and got distracted. 

Distractions will destroy our faith. By losing focus, we, like Peter begin to see all the obstacles along our path, that stand between us and our goal. The more we focus on the distractions, the bigger they get, and the harder it is to see the pathway forward. Eventually, the distractions are all we can see, and our faith diminishes. This ultimately leads to the next stage, fear and self-doubt.

Fear and Self-Doubt: Verse 30

When Peter saw the wind he was afraid, and immediately began to doubt himself. His attitude shifted from a “can-do” to a “can’t-do” attitude.  Once Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and placed them onto the wind and waves, he began to sink.

Just as faith will increase our courage, distractions will increase our self-doubt, resulting in a loss of faith and a lack of confidence to reach our goal. Once we lose our way, self-doubt will trick us into believing that we have no business doing whatever it is, we are trying to accomplish. “Things like this are meant for better, smarter, stronger, more qualified people than yourself,” self-doubt will say. “Who do you think you are anyway”, it will continue.

I’m sure Peter had this same feeling. But as he was sinking and the waves started circling around him, Peter took action once again.

Finding a Support System: Verse 31

In his fear and self-doubt, Peter called out. He called out to the only one who could save him that morning, Jesus. Even though Peter was out on the water, he was never, on the water alone. Peter had Jesus as his support system.

The Bible says that Jesus immediately reached out his hand to catch Peter, and the two, got into the boat together.

Proverbs 18:24 says that there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. If you have followed Jesus for any length of time, you’ll know that this friend has a name. His name is Jesus. He is our support system. 

So, what do you do when you lose your way, and find yourself caught between faith and doubt? You call out to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. He will catch you and pull you to safety whenever you call on him. We all need a support system.

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