The “D” Word2
…But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. John 20:25b NIV
Doubt. That’s a dirty word in Christian circles, especially evangelical Christian circles. Raise your hand if you’ve ever expressed doubt to your Christian peers and gotten some of these answers in return:
Don’t question God.
You just have to have faith.
Doubt is a sin.
Certainly these remarks were well-intentioned, but almost just as certainly, they were unhelpful. Take it from someone who went through a crisis of faith in college, and someone whose relationship with Jesus was once (and is sometimes still) riddled with doubt.
No one’s doubt disappears because you tell them to have faith, and making someone feel guilty or fearful about their doubt does little to assuage it.
Doubt is one of the most common and fundamental elements of faith. Few Christians have made it to the wellspring of faith without a detour in the desert of doubt.
Take the disciples. How many times did Jesus call them “ye of little faith?” How many times did Peter deny him? How many of them ran away in fright and unbelief when he was arrested?
How many cowered and hid in despair when he died?
How many, who thought he was the Messiah, felt their dreams dashed and their hopes forsaken when he didn’t do what they thought he would? How many lost their faith?
And these are meant to be our role models? Our Christian heroes?
Oh yes, they are!
Take this story for example:
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’
But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’
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.’ John 20:24-27 NIV
The story of Thomas, Doubting Thomas, has always been my favorite. Thomas refused to believe the other disciples when they said they’d seen Jesus after he’d risen from the dead.
What’s more, his faith could not be restored by just seeing the risen Lord, he insisted on physical proof. He wanted to put his fingers inside the wounds of Christ. Only then would he believe.
This story is often told as a cautionary tale. “You don’t want to be a Doubting Thomas,” they say. But I say, perhaps we are missing the point of the story.
When Thomas demands proof, do you know what Jesus does?
He gives it to him. He doesn’t shame or guilt him. He doesn’t try to sugar over the problem with empty platitudes. He invites Thomas to put his hand in the crucifixion scars.
He invites him to come closer than any of the other disciples had been.
Thomas’ doubt did not distance him from Christ, it drew him nearer.
If you are struggling with doubt, or are struggling to find the words to encourage a friend in their season of doubt, allow me to make a suggestion.
Tell Jesus about it. Encourage those who doubt to tell Jesus all about it. Tell Him what you need, what you lack, what you fear, and allow Him to draw you nearer.
There is no shame waiting for you there, only an outstretched and nail-scarred hand.
Jesus, I believe; help my unbelief (Mark 9:24). Forgive us, God, for whatever kind of sin doubt may be. Fill us with Your peace, and help us to give our doubt to You, to share our unfaithfulness with You. You already know it’s there anyway. Draw us nearer. Heal our doubts. Restore our faith. In Your Name, Amen
© 2018 by Katie Harmon. All rights reserved.