Growing up with parents who nurtured me in the Christian faith was one of the greatest blessings I ever had. I am also very grateful that I grew up in a church where so many people took an interest in me, listened to me, and allowed me to grow in my faith. I remember one gentleman in particular who, as a senior, worked hard to make connections with young people. His love for us made a lasting impression on me. Those kinds of experiences solidified in me a faith that is real and practical, partly because it was lived out (though not always) in the faith communities I was a part of.
But even still, I have found myself in countless seasons where doubt about my faith overshadowed my assurance in Jesus. I have had (and still have) doubts about God, life, and even my own existence. I can still remember wondering if I was a real-life Truman, waiting for the moment when I realize that everything around me is an act, fake, and nothing like I thought it was. Whenever I have those thoughts, I always remind myself that I am actually not that special that the world would revolve around me!
Whatever the case, doubt has been a constant companion in my faith, making me wonder if what I believe is actually true. But although doubt has always been present, it has often been hidden, scared to come face to face with certainty. I was surrounded by Christians who, for the most part, didn’t question their faith (at least on the surface). Because they seemed so strong in their faith, I thought I needed to be as well.
Every Easter, when we shared the story of the resurrection, we eventually came to doubting Thomas. That’s the name we gave him because he would not believe Jesus rose from the dead unless he saw Him with his own eyes and could feel His wounds. As we find written in John 20:26-28:
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though 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; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
It always seemed like we put the emphasis on Thomas and his doubts. But if we make Jesus the centre of the story, we see someone who was gracious enough to give Thomas what he needed to believe. The focus shifts from Thomas’ disbelief to Jesus’ welcoming compassion.
I’ve heard so many times that we should not be like doubting Thomas. We should believe, without seeing, and sometimes, without question. But I believe that the best way for us to encourage our young people and new believers to leave the church is to tell them there is no room for questioning. By suppressing doubt, like stomping out sparks that flew onto the grass from a camp fire, we are also extinguishing any desire for people to seek God.
It is completely unfair to single out Thomas as the weak doubter. All the disciples were doubters. In fact, the whole Bible is full of people who questioned. There was a man whose son was overtaken by an evil spirit. In Mark 9:22-24, Jesus asked the father how long he had been like this.
“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
We have the benefit of bringing our disbelief to the Creator of the universe. We can lay our doubts at His feet, asking Him to lead us to truth. The threat to faith is not doubt but complacency. None of us ever arrive to the place where we can be sure we know it all. If we did, we would be God. We are all on a life-long journey of searching. The problem comes not in questioning, but when we stop searching, when we stop longing for more of God.
A couple of friends and I were biking in the woods a few weeks ago. After going down what we thought was a path, we ended up in the middle of nowhere. We doubted whether or not we actually did make it onto a path, and after searching, decided to go back to the road. Our doubt led to searching, which led to finding ourselves back on the right track. Had we simply ignored our doubt, we would have continued into the woods only to get lost. Had we been complacent, we would have just stayed in one spot, refusing to search for the way out.
We need to learn to become friendly with our doubt. Doubts lead to questions. Questions lead to searching. Searching leads to truth. Sometimes we are so afraid that if we allow people to doubt, they will be led to a different destination than what we had in mind. This is where we need to let go of control and trust that God will guide people and lead people to Himself. Since when did we think that was our job?
I want to be a part of community that is open to doubts and questions. I want to be a part of a church that decides to study together when things seem grey in a faith that gives the illusion of being black and white. We need to nurture our kids and young people to allow their doubts to lead to searching, not to suppression. Creating this kind of community takes time, intentionality, and courage.
So, the next time you have doubts about your faith, don’t hide it. Bring it to Jesus, ask Him to help you with it, and continue the search!