DEALING WITH DOUBT

“Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 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” – John 20:24-25

Imagine following a man for three years, listening to and learning everything He said and believing in His promise to usher in the Kingdom of God. In this Kingdom, He would be King and all of His followers would reign with Him over all the earth. Now imagine watching this same man, with your very own eyes, being mocked, beaten, cursed, hung on a cross, and killed by the oppressive rulers of the day.

Welcome to the story of Jesus’ disciple Thomas, who has just witnessed the horrific murder of his friend, teacher, and ultimately Savior. We can now begin to understand why Thomas was skeptical, to say the least, that Jesus had actually risen from the grave. Thomas was scared and confused and would not believe in the resurrection until he had literally placed his fingers into the holes in Jesus’ body made from the nails that placed Him on the cross.

I want you to know that if you are someone who has struggled with doubt, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Not only did Thomas doubt the resurrection, he likely doubted everything Jesus claimed to be! Was Jesus really the chosen one of God? Was He really the Son of God? Was He actually able to take away people’s sins? Surely the God of the universe could not die on a cross? Jesus could not have been God…

If someone who spent three years physically with Jesus could doubt these things, surely it comes as no surprise that we would struggle with these same things 2000 years later! But just as surely as there was a cure for Thomas’ doubt, there is hope and a cure for ours today.

Often in the church, one of the hardest things to do is to admit that we are experiencing some type of doubt. We fear telling our closest friends that we are struggling and that we have questions, because we believe that if we aren’t 100% confident in our faith, that we might be seen as a ‘weaker’ Christian, or worse… not a believer at all. So we sweep our doubt under the rug and pretend like we are fine, all the while allowing our doubt to control more and more of our thoughts as it pulls us away from the truth.

The doubt that Christians struggle with can come in many different forms. Sometimes it looks like doubting a specific characteristic of God, for example, “Maybe God is not as good as He says He is?” Or maybe we think that “God doesn’t love me?” Sometimes we doubt that God is working in our lives because we are still struggling with the same things we have been fighting for years! Or maybe we don’t believe that God can even be real because of all the evil and hurt we have seen in the world and in our lives. 

When faced with doubt, it is important to take action against it. At the root of every doubt there is a lie that we are believing, a truth that is not being believed, or a struggle that we are allowing to block us from God. The longer we are passive in fighting our doubt, the deeper the roots will grow in us, and the more detrimental it can be to our faith. 

But as we see with Thomas, doubt can be overcome.

“Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he 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 answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:26-29

One of the first things we need when facing doubts is community. Even after Thomas publicly doubted the resurrection of Jesus, he remained with the other apostles. It would have been easy for the death of Jesus to lead Thomas away from his community; just like it’s easy for us to run from our community when we experience not only trials, but doubt. We are so much stronger when connected to the body of believers who can encourage us, answer questions, and pray for us. When Thomas doubted, he did not run from his community, but continued to spend time with them. As we face our doubts, it is so important that we allow our brothers and sisters in Christ to know what kind of doubts we are struggling with and allow them to help point us back to the truth. 

So when we see one of our friends struggling with doubt, we are called to show them mercy. Jude 22 instructs us to “have mercy on those who doubt”. God’s desire is for all of His children to stand firm in our faith and to believe without doubting. The apostles could have condemned Thomas for not immediately believing and allowed him to fall away, but they knew that what Thomas needed was to be cared for and encouraged by his friends. As we see a brother or sister struggling, we are called to come alongside them, showing mercy. Our job is to listen to their doubts, and then to speak truth to combat their doubt in love and kindness reminding them of the Gospel. 

It’s also important that we remember who God is and who we are in comparison. God is an eternal being and we are not. He is all-knowing and we actually know very little compared to Him. As we grow in our relationship with God and knowledge of Him, we need to understand that there are certain things that we will not fully comprehend as we think about our faith. It is easy to allow one small doubt to control more and more of our thoughts and time, eventually growing into something that can cause it to be hard for us to trust or believe in God.  Just like Thomas whose doubt stemmed from an inability to comprehend how Jesus could have risen from the dead, we too are called to trust God with what we cannot completely understand.

Finally, I want to say that ultimately the greatest weapon against our doubt is none other than seeking Jesus. Jesus desires a relationship with each of us and the beauty of it is this: He doesn’t wait for you to come to Him in perfect faith but is willing to meet you where you are! When we seek Jesus in the midst of our doubt, He is faithful to seek us and to comfort us in our hurt. He was gracious to not only reveal Himself to Thomas but to actually do the very thing that Thomas had requested. Thomas was able to feel His risen Savior’s wounds and in turn, had his own wounds healed.

In the middle of wrestling through our doubts, we would do well to seek Christ and to remember the truth of the Gospel. We find comfort knowing that it is not the level of our faith that saves us, but the object of our faith. Jesus is good, and He is more than sufficient for salvation. So whether you are a new believer who has just recently trusted Christ and has many questions, or if you have been a believer for years; you can find comfort in the truth that it is on the back of Jesus that you are saved, not your own.

So if you have faith the size of the tiny mustard seed, know that Christ is more than happy to work with the faith that you do have! Romans 5:8 says that “He died for us while we were still sinners” so we can be confident that He will still seek and accept us when we are struggling with doubt. 

Jesus knew that not all of his followers would have the opportunity to see Him in His resurrected body, but that is why He gave us the encouragement that “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”. Do not let the fact that you have not physically seen Jesus discourage you from believing in Him! Jesus’ words here tell you it is possible and that you will be blessed and rewarded for your belief!

We know that this is a tough topic and if you have any questions or comments, you can email me at rspencer@cornerstonelife.com or speak to Mark, Madeline or your leaders! 

-Ryan Spencer