5 ways to point our doubting loved ones to Jesus

November 12, 2019

This summer I ended up in the hospital for 24 hours. In between running various tests, my nurse and I had some great conversations. She told me that she’s attended an evangelical church for 11 years and is actively involved in a women’s book study and a mom’s group, but is still plagued by doubts. “Everyone talks about prayer, but I don’t really know if I believe.” She brought up numerous difficult questions she was grappling with: How could a loving God send people to hell? Why were babies born to drug-addicted parents and then placed in their care? Why do people seem to suffer endlessly?

She had more questions than we had time to discuss in my brief stay at the hospital. but as I talked with her, I realized she has very little knowledge of what the Bible actually says. When I asked her how she thought someone becomes a Christian, she responded, “I have no idea.” 

How could someone who has been sitting in church for 11 years, attending book studies and moms’ groups, be so confused about what makes a person a Christian and what God calls us to in his Word? It made me wonder how many other people sitting beside us in the pews are plagued with doubts and confusion. 

So, how should the church respond to those doubting their faith? In the midst of a summer where a once well-respected Christian leader renounced his faith, former ministry friends have declared themselves “ex-vangelicals,” and my new friend at the hospital declared her confusion as to what makes someone a Christian, the questions are fresh in my mind. In the midst of a doubting loved one’s questions, then, here are a few ways we can help point them to Jesus: 

1. Listen before you answer. 

It can be easy to half-heartedly listen to someone because we’re already forming our response in our minds. Our self-centered nature focuses on making ourselves look good instead of listening and caring about the person sharing their heart with us. But truly giving someone our full attention, putting our phones down, evaluating what’s at the heart of their doubts will help us to provide a more genuine response. We can’t point someone to the Lord when we haven’t really heard what they’re struggling with. As James says, we should “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (1:19).

2. Respond with compassion, not fear. 

When it comes to someone we truly care about doubting their faith, we can feel shaken. The fear in our own minds and hearts causes us to be judgmental in our words and attitudes. We want so badly for them to believe that we forget to show compassion to their hurting hearts. Often when someone is struggling, there may be wounds from the past or a season of suffering that is causing their faith to be rocked. My nurse at the hospital readily admitted that she had watched so many people suffer endlessly with illness that it made her doubt God’s ability to answer prayer. 

Perhaps the biggest lesson of all for me from this summer is the reminder that those sitting by us in the pews week after week may not be Christians.

Just as the Lord shows compassion to our wavering hearts, so we need to extend the same compassion to others (Psa. 145:8-9). Our churches and homes need to be a safe place for believers and non-believers alike to express their uncertainties and doubts. We create a culture of grace when we welcome these questions instead of run from them and display the same mercy our Father has shown to us (Luke 6:36). 

3. Point them to Scripture. 

As we listen to our doubting friends, we need to know our Bibles well enough that we can point them to truth. We study, meditate, and memorize Scripture to both strengthen our own faith and be a witness to those around us. Philippians 2:12 exhorts us to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling.”  Even if we don’t immediately know what Scripture to refer them to, we should be willing to spend time reading and investigating where to direct them. 

Our Sunday school classes were recently studying the battle of Jericho. Our 16-year-old daughter asked a poignant question, “If God is a God of love and tells us to love our enemies, how could he command the Israelites to wipe out all the Canaanites, even women and children?” Her Sunday school teacher later emailed my husband with a more thorough answer to her question and with resources for her to read. He took time to invest in a difficult question of a young believer and strengthened her faith as a result. 

4. Pray for them. 

Most difficult questions don’t have clear, black-and-white answers. As I struggled with how to answer Sam’s questions at the hospital, I told her to pray God gives her faith. Faith is believing without seeing. Even though we’re to be diligent students of the Word, God needs to do a supernatural work in our hearts to grant us eyes to believe. Without a new heart, the promises of his Word will be meaningless, and the answers will be insufficient. Thankfully, Jesus invites us to pour our hearts out in the midst of our need: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8).

5. Don’t assume the person sitting next to you in church is a Christian. 

Perhaps the biggest lesson of all for me from this summer is the reminder that those sitting by us in the pews week after week may not be Christians. Even those in ministry may be struggling with their own doubts but are afraid to admit them. Ask God to keep us persevering in the faith, to have eyes to see and discern truth from error, and to show compassion to those struggling with doubt. He is the only one with the power to save and fill us with faith instead of fear. He is worthy to be trusted and has promised to complete the good work he began in us (Phil. 1:6). 

So often in our zeal for evangelism, we avoid the difficult truths of Scripture. We don’t want to offend, so we dodge the hard conversations. But in doing so, questions and doubts accumulate in the minds of others. Fears grow when questions are unanswered. Instead, we should help our loved ones turn toward the Lord, searching his Word and praying he would replace fear and confusion with faith and clarity. 

Stacy Reaoch

Stacy Reaoch is a pastor’s wife, mother of four and co-author of Making Room for Her- Biblical Wisdom for Healthier Relationship with Your Mother-In-Law or Daughter-In-Law. She’s passionate about studying the Bible and helping women apply God’s life-changing truths to their daily lives. Stacy lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24