All of us have them.
We wonder if our efforts at work are being noticed. If we made the right career choice or if our college degree was worth it. Are we meeting our spouse or significant other’s needs? Am I setting a good example for my children?
Personally, I have multiple levels of doubt. I wonder about all of the above, plus wondering if I’m having a positive impact on the world as a Christian. I question my ability as a writer, both to write blog posts and articles that are engaging and truthful and also my ability to write sermons that are consistent with the Gospel and relevant to the lives of the listeners. (Okay so maybe they’re two sides of the same coin.)
You know who else had doubts? The disciple Thomas. The guy walked and talked with Jesus every day for 3 years. He watched Jesus perform countless miracles and listened to Him preach countless sermons. Yet, when the other disciples told Thomas, “Jesus is alive and we have seen Him!”, he brushed it off.
“I won’t believe it until I see with my own eyes the nail wounds on His hands.”
You see, Thomas was a passionate but cautious guy. He’d make a great mascot for Missouri because he wanted to see proof before he would throw his chips into the game. After 3 years as a student/protege of Jesus, Thomas was convinced that He was the real deal. So much so, that when Jesus predicted His death, he boldly proclaimed, “Let us go with Him! Even to die, if need be!” Jesus had proved to Thomas that He was the Messiah, the One sent by God to right the wrongs and save Israel and the world from itself.
But then He died.
Thomas was crushed. His friend and teacher was dead. How could this happen?! Saviors don’t die, do they? There were so many thoughts running through his head after the crucifixion: was Jesus who He said was? Had he been duped? And what now? Where did he go from here?
It was at this point that Jesus appeared to the group again, to calm Thomas’ fears. Jesus instructed Thomas to touch the wounds and to “stop being unbelieving and believe.” And he did! Interestingly, most translations render the phrase “do not doubt” but the word the Gospel author chose (ἄπιστος)is better translated “unbelief/unbelieving”. And I argue that changes the meaning of the verse. It goes from a command to stop doubting and have no doubts at all to a command to believe in spite of the presence of doubt and questions.
Jesus didn’t push Thomas away or reprimand him. Instead, He addressed his doubts. “C’mere! See for yourself!” and with his doubts soothed, Thomas went on to evangelize the Indian subcontinent, according to tradition. I firmly believe that God wants us to use our brains, to ask questions, dig deeper, and further our own understanding. He does not want us to be mindless robots, following orders without question.
Personally, I had to address concerns over science and faith. I had to hear from those who have grown beyond fundamentalist naivete and reconciled their faith with science. Voices like John Lennox, Ravi Zacharias, and Francis Collins were particularly instrumental.
Doubts are not bad. Properly utilized, doubts cause us to ask questions and grow in our faith, rather than detract from it. Don’t be afraid to sincerely ask questions, to read, listen, and learn from those who have gone before. Our intelligence is a gift from God that separates us from the animals and allows us to see Him more clearly. If only we seek Him out. So, take comfort in the disciple Thomas and follow in his footsteps. Believe in spite of your doubts.