Benefit of the Doubt


There it was. If I had tried to deny it before, I could not deny it now. My sweet, innocent, one-year-old baby boy had given me the “look.” If you have ever interacted with infants and toddlers, you know this “look.” The furrowed brow, the widened eyes, the intense glare—my son was angry, and he was angry at me, his “Dada.”

The first time I acknowledged that look, it hit me like a ton of bricks. All I had done was set aside my son’s favorite book so I could feed him—in fact, I was preparing one of his favorite treats. Yet, his response indicated that I had insulted him beyond repair. Not only had I deprived him of his possession, he believed I intended him woe and despair. He refused to consider that my actions may have proceeded from another intention, love or ignorance, perhaps. He did not give me the benefit of the doubt.

I was shocked, but it did not take me long to recall that this behavior is not isolated to infants and toddlers, fading away with passing childhood. On the contrary, it only gets worse. How often do we, as Christians, view our own lives and experiences and doubt God’s good intentions for us? How often do we experience some “slights” from our neighbors, Christian and secular alike, and perceive their actions as ignoble and caustic? Our sinful natures make us prone to doubt the motives of our Lord and our neighbors; they hinder our adherence to the two great commandments given by Jesus (Matt. 22:36–40).

The next time you find yourself in these positions—and you will—remember these truths: the Lord “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3) and delights to “give good things to those who ask him” (Matt. 7:11). If you feel slighted or confused by the behavior of others, give them the benefit of the doubt, for “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). Don’t you want others to do the same for you?

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.