When There Are Doubts
Doubt is sure to come in the Christian life, but what you do with that doubt makes a world of difference. Some of us treat doubt as if it were the ball in a game of dodgeball. We are constantly ducking, diving and jumping as we try to avoid being hit. We don’t tend to read much about current events or stay up on the news, except for weather, traffic and the latest updates on new food at the Fair. We don’t like to engage others about difficult topics and we seal ourselves off as best we can from the hard things in life. We deal with doubt by doing everything we can to not deal with doubt.
At the same time, some of us embrace doubt too much. We act like the miserable kid in dodgeball who so lacks any confidence in his ability to dodge that he just waits at the back with his hands in his pockets until he’s hit and then yells, “I don’t even care!” though no one believes him as he sulks over to the sideline. In this error we nurture our doubt and feed it until it grows much too large for us. The doubt becomes so big that we don’t have room for much else. We move away from Christian community and we close our Bibles. We convince ourselves that we’ve tried all that before and it didn’t work. We stop calling it doubt and call it truth.
These are not the only options, though, when it comes to doubt. We needn’t avoid doubt altogether and we needn’t give ourselves over to it completely. The author Tim Keller writes, “A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.”
You don’t have to endlessly dodge or resign yourself to being out of the game. You can catch the ball. When you catch the ball in dodgeball, the thrower is out, you get to bring a teammate back from the sideline and now that ball is yours to hurl back at the other side. But the only way you catch the ball is by looking right at it and knowing that this thing the accuser means to use to knock you out of the game will soon become your tool to wield against his side.
We work through doubt best when we work through it fully. Wrestle with the doubt as long as it takes to fully work it out, but don’t ignore your resources. God’s word and God’s people are incredible gifts to you as you work through whatever is testing your faith. Also, remember that Jesus cares for you more than you probably allow yourself to believe in your doubt.
Look at the story of Thomas in John, chapter 20. Many refer to him as Doubting Thomas, though I prefer to call him Like the Rest of Us Thomas. He was one of Jesus’ disciples, one of the Twelve. He knew Jesus, had sat with Jesus, listened to him speak, but Thomas saw something that caused him to doubt very much what Jesus had said. Thomas saw Jesus die. According to this passage of Scripture, Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them after the resurrection and though they told him that Jesus was alive, Thomas said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” A week later, the disciples were together again and Thomas was with them. Jesus appeared again. With more patience than any of us deserve, Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas said, “My Lord and My God!”
This reminds us of our need to confess our sins.
Father, too often we are like Thomas. Though we have been with you and we have seen you do many great things, we still find ourselves disbelieving. We allow what our eyes see and our hands touch to overrule the truth of your word. We discredit testimony, even testimony of friends, and declare ourselves the only reliable judges of truth.
Father, this is a great evil. And we know that if we in the church regard sin in our own midst, our prayers will be ineffectual, so we confess our individual sins to you now.
Father, we thank you for Jesus and the example he modeled for us. When Satan sought to create doubt, Jesus, the Word of God, used the words of God to rebuff every attack. He did not doubt you on the cross, but trusted that you would not leave him in the grave. And now we, by trusting in Jesus, are blessed as those who have not seen and yet have believed. By your Spirit now, be pleased to align our thoughts, desires, and loves with your own, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.