So far in this series I have told you that it is important that we know how to doubt our faith and that we can look to the story of ‘doubting Thomas’ for help. I have also asked you to boldly recognize your doubt. Do not shy away from it, but acknowledge and be aware of the presence of doubts. This time, I want to suggest to you that you should remain faithful in your doubts.
Let’s look back at the story of Thomas.
24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.” 26 Eight days later…” – John 20:24-26a
One thing that amazes me about Thomas is that he remains faithful in his doubt. He was with the other disciples for 8 solid days even though they had seen Jesus and he had not. He does not walk away from the faith. He does not become an atheist. He doesn’t part ways with the other disciples simply because they had claimed to experience something he did not. He remained in community with the other disciples. And, he does so with no promise or expectation that he would ever get to see the risen Jesus. Yet, he continues to worship with them. He continues to pray with them. Thomas remains faithful, even in the presence of doubt.
One of the traps that I think we often fall into is thinking that doubt and faith are necessarily opposed to one another. What I mean by that is that we think that if we have doubts, then we must abandon our faith altogether. We fear that the whole Christianity thing falls apart. Any presence of doubt becomes evidence that Christianity is all a fairy tale that must be dismissed. No wonder we feel like we have to pretend like we do not doubt at all when we are at church!
The truth, though, is that you can have faith and still have the presence of some doubt. Remember the story of my professor? I had doubts, but I did not burn my Bible and become an atheist. My St. Bernard-looking professor introduced doubt into my faith for the very first time. His arguments against the existence of God were difficult and I had no rebuttal. I was stuck with a very clearly identified doubt. I remember praying a nonsense prayer, “God, if you don’t exist, I need to know that.” (Listen, I didn’t say I was the brightest student in the world.)
After these doubts were introduced to my faith, I met with the director of the campus Christian group. He assured me that there were answers to my questions. He then put me in a group with other people who had similar questions (either in the past or currently) and we began to process through these doubts together.
You know what happened? As I remained faithful through my doubts while in community with other believers, I began to get answers to my questions. I could talk and learn from other believers who were either going through the same thing or had dealt with the same thing. As a result, I began to see where my professor was wrong and how there was actually great evidence that God really does exist. And, my confidence grew.
You see, my concern is that often we run away once we have identified a doubt. But, the best way to deal with doubt is to remain faithful in the midst of it. Even Mother Teresa, who we laud as an icon of faith wrote copious pages about her doubts, uncertainties and insecurities. In one passage she cries out: “Where is my faith? Even deep down…there is nothing but emptiness and darkness…if there be God please forgive me.” She had doubts, but she remained faithful. Faith is not in the absence of doubts, but the action in the midst of doubts. You must remain faithful in doubts. What does that look like?
First, it means we remain faithful to God. Do not run away from God because of doubt. Do not suddenly reject him, or begin living as if He does not exist. Instead, trust Him and ask Him to show you what you need to know. Have you ever thought about the fact that you can invite God to be with you in the midst of doubts? He is not scared or threatened by your doubt. He will be with you and show you that He is faithful to give you everything you need to trust in Him.
Remaining faithful also means continuing in community with other believers. You will notice that is what Thomas did. He stayed with the disciples. He did not run away from those who saw the resurrection. He stayed with them. During times of doubt, we need other believers in Jesus us to encourage us. In the lack of our own confidence, we can rely on others to encourage us and strengthen us in our faith.
When God feels far away, let those who sense God’s presence encourage us that He is there. When we have questions that just do not seem to have answers, seek answers alongside other people who have had or do have the same questions. When we feel hesitant, invite others to give us the courage to live out our faith even in the presence of doubt. That is what it means to remain faithful in the midst of doubt. Yet, while remaining faithful is an important part of our dealing with doubts, it is not the end. Otherwise this would be a “blind faith” with no substance.
We will look at more in the next part of this series. But, before we do I want to cast a vision for something God has put in my heart. I long for churches should create “places of doubt” where anyone (Christian or not) can come and process through the doubts they have in a safe place. If we believe this Christian thing is true, this should pose no threat to our faith. And, I think it would open up honest dialogue and strengthen the faith of all who are part of the conversation. I think it needs to be the local church (not a para-church ministry) because people need to see their church is a safe place to ask questions and still yet be in community with one another.
Feel free to comment!