Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Dealing with doubt

HAVE YOU EVER sat there in church on a Sunday morning and wondered—even for just a moment—Do I really believe all this? Me too.

It’s comforting to know that we are in good company. Even the disciples had their moments. And not just Thomas, though he (somewhat unfairly, as I have contended previously) became the poster boy for doubt.

All of them figured it was over after Jesus was crucified, as our pastor reminded us in his Easter sermon last weekend. When the women who had taken spices to care for Jesus’s body found an empty tomb, they went to tell the apostles. But “their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them,” Luke 24:11 recounts.

Fair enough, you might say. Rising from the dead takes a bit of getting used to—even if you’d been told it was going to happen. Even if you’ve been given some teasers (the widow of Nain’s son and Lazarus, for starters). But surely having seen Jesus in the resurrected flesh, they’d be solid from now on, right?

If only. Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus gave the disciples plenty of reasons to believe. He seems to have walked through walls to be with them, let them inspect His scars, cooked breakfast on the beach, and appeared to a bunch of other followers. Even if the disciples questioned themselves, they had the testimony of others to reassure them that Jesus really was alive again.

Yet when the eleven went to the mountain in Galilee where Jesus was to give them the Great Commission, we read in Matthew 28:17: “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.”

Now, to be fair, we don’t know what they were doubting. Was it that Jesus had really died? Or had really risen from the dead? Or was it the wisdom of His leaving the job of taking the good news to the ends of the earth to their motley crew?

Whatever the specifics, even as some honored Him they harbored questions. If that’s not permission for us to have questions, I don’t know what is.

The thing is, what do we do with them? Doubt may be a reality, but it’s not a virtue. Indeed, when Jesus appeared to the eleven, “He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen” (Mark 16:14).

Pretending it doesn’t exist isn’t the answer; left unaddressed, doubt only festers. The answer is to expose it. Rather than pulling away we should press in, like the father of the boy tormented by an evil spirit (Mark 9).

Jesus told the man that all things were possible to him who believed, you may recall. The guy answered, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” He recast I doubt as I do, but…, asking God to close the gap.

Photo by Marco Bellucci on Foter.com/CC BY

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