Most Christians sometimes doubt. I do, at times. You probably do too.
It bothers me profoundly. I am a confessed Christian, I pray, I talk with God, I love Christ as Savior. But there are seasons in my life that my faith is not very real. I have doubts, painful doubts. I try not to think of them. My heart seems empty. Believers, among whom I move, may not notice, but I am then certainly not one of God's exciting witnesses. Perhaps you have had those seasons? You may be called on to minister to people who also struggle with doubt. Following are some thoughts that may help you a bit in talking about doubt.
It is, in this respect, not helpful to follow the Heidelberg Catechism. In Lord's Day 32 it stresses that “by our good works we may be assured of our faith...” For people who struggle with doubt that is just one additional duty for which they feel utterly incapably.
The great reformer, Martin Luther, has said some noteworthy things about doubt. Luther was a man of towering conviction. But he also knew moments when faith seemed to have faded to a degree that there seemed nothing left. Especially during the decade of the 1520s, there were times that he felt deeply troubled. “His outlook on mankind was dark, the world headed for doom. The year 1525, especially, brought despair and conflict of soul, a year filled with painful rejection, and accusations from the Libertarian wing of the Reformation... His life hung on a silk thread.” (Studies in Dogmatics--Faith and Sanctification, G. C. Berkouwer).
Luther found his way out of those depressing seasons of doubt by dwelling on the great doctrine salvation by grace alone, not by works. Luther stressed grace a lot, grace that becomes the believer's through faith. Sola fide, sola gratia. Before the believer can DO something he has to BE something: a new creation through Christ's work.
That's how Luther came victoriously through the distressful 1520s. There were other factors that played a role in Luther' great strength to see the Reformation through. But important for him was his persistent clinging to the reality of being saved by grace. It had immense practical value for Luther. “When he went through the darkness of doubt, fear, and despair, he isolated himself with that reality: I am saved by grace. That's who he was. No longer certainty that flowed from his best efforts to please God. The answer to his paralyzing doubt lay in the reality of grace that was his in Jesus. That was the source of his new joy: I am saved by grace. That was the anchor of his personal well-being. Amid dangers and adversities he meditated on that grace.” (Luther zijn Weg en Werk, W. J. Kooiman).
When I doubt I feel vulnerable, and, therefore, no match for all the harsh demands of life. But realizing again that I am saved by grace, allows me direct access to God, regardless of my unworthiness. Because of that reality, God is saying of me: you are mine. And because I am His, He is my very help in trouble.