Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Is it OK to Doubt?

Caravaggio - The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

If given the opportunity to ask God a few questions, which tough questions would we ask?  Would one be, “Why is there so much pain and suffering in this world?”  Or could we ask, “Why did You create life?”  I’ve pondered these same questions but I’ve also wondered what the reasons are that we would want to ask these questions in the first place.  Does asking these questions imply that we are doubtful?  Is it wrong that we would want to ask the hard questions?  I guess when we get to the root of it, is it wrong to doubt?

If we had something that would allow us to be at ease so that we wouldn’t need to ask these types of questions, what would it be?  I thought at first that if we didn’t have to suffer things like cancer, divorce, and death, maybe then it would be easier to believe that the God in the Bible truly cares about us and loves us like it says.  But then the inner realist-Christian said to me, “You know there’s enough proof in Scripture to show that God wouldn’t do that.”  I had to agree.  After all, even if He did do that, we wouldn’t know when to praise Him or why to praise Him. 

Instead, I think we all know the answer but never like to say it: faith.  I think we don’t like to say it because it’s admitting that it’s the very answer to the thing that caused the question in the first place.  If we’ve “got it,” it’s the very thing that can cause us to be certain in our Savior and do miraculous works in the name of God.  If we don’t “got it,” we’re left on our own accord with an uncertainty in ourselves that leaves us unsure and unsatisfied.  I think it’s safe to say that it’s common to have those highs and lows of faith.  I know I do.  I don’t think that’s the issue though.  Instead, once we accept the fact that it’s ok to have those lows, we can now start working on what we do with them and if they will eventually lead us to a greater level of commitment and faith in God.

In the Gospels, Thomas is a well-known Disciple to have doubt.  As a result, he’s nicknamed by most Christians to be “Doubting Thomas” (Which, as an aside, is slightly unfair to Thomas, considering that the majority of the Disciples showed signs of doubt at some point through Jesus’ ministry).  Taking a look at John 20:19-29, we see Thomas saying that “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (NKJV).  In John 14:5, Thomas asks “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (NKJV). 

Often times I feel I could relate to Thomas.  We so desperately want to know where Jesus will be, what He will do, what He would want us to do.  Although we so desperately want to be there alongside of Him, a tendency to doubt arises when we are called to believe that Jesus really is here among us.  Like Thomas, we ask for a sign of healing to take away the cancer, the divorce, or the death when Jesus’ presence is actually more than sufficient if we would just have the faith in God to believe that He will guide us through the struggle.

So should we beat ourselves up for asking these tough questions during those lows?  Absolutely not.  If we study Jesus’ reaction to Thomas’ doubt, He does not rebuke, chastise, or scold Thomas.  He doesn’t ask Thomas why he has a lack of belief.  Instead, He answers Thomas’ questions.  He invites Thomas to touch his wounds.  Because of this, we see in John 20:28 that Thomas’ interactions with Jesus led him to a greater level of commitment and faith.  Jesus then uses this as a teaching opportunity for a vital lesson in verse 29: although the doubting person eventually finds joy in being able to believe, Jesus also points out how much more blessed those will be who believe without seeing.

Do we ever receive answers to some of our questions when we look back in hindsight?  Do they increase our faith in God, allowing us to believe that He will answer us in due time?  God knows that we have fear.  He doesn’t expect us to be perfect.  All He asks for is to accept His unconditional love.  Just as Jesus says, the more we trust in Him, the more He will bless us.

Grace and peace,
Sean Buono