Lent is a season of the Church year where our Christian faith reaches its apex…moving from the events of Holy Week, toward the cross, the empty tomb, and to the resurrected Christ at Easter. During this season of the year our local churches are a bit more full, especially as family and friends gather on Easter Sunday. Faith in Jesus Christ is presented from pulpits with more robust vigor. Faith in the public square is a bit more appropriate to mention, if not to debate.
It’s also during this time of year that more faith-related questions are raised. And, where doubts are inevitably surfaced. How we handle such questions and address said doubts is a depiction of how stable we are in our faith and how willing we are to be confronted. How do you handle inquiries about your Christian faith? Can you resonate with the concept of doubt for yourself? Are you able to listen well to the doubts of others without the need to change their mind or fix their opinion, or even to offer a gracious and thoughtful reply?
Thomas the disciple is known more for his doubts than his faith…I’m not so sure that’s fair, but it seems to be his “reality.” He was certainly the one who expressed his doubts most specifically about and directly to Christ. “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 it” (John 20: 25). A week later Jesus was in their midst, stood among them, and 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: 27).
I’m amazed each time I read that story. Thomas had specificity to his doubts. Jesus had particularity to his invitation to see, touch, reach, and believe – all in direct response to Thomas’ explicit doubts. As a result, Thomas received profound belief in Jesus with deep certainty, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20: 29) he exclaimed. Doubts removed. Faith restored. A disciple transformed from the inside out.
What I appreciate the most is that doubts exist. Nothing about our doubts is to be hidden or regretted. Doubts are real; we all have them, some more than others. Asking hard questions, verbalizing doubts, and seeking answers is all a part of the journey. Who are we to suppress them or shame them or suspend them? Sometimes our doubts can be answered immediately, other times they simply need to be surrendered and left in abeyance.
Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus speaks directly into the doubts of his disciples. He asks Peter “Why did you doubt?” when he began to sink in the sea (Matt. 14:31). He addresses the disciples directly in the midst of the storm, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). And to the two on the way to Emmaus, “How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25). Always attuned to their doubts, Jesus speaks directly and forthrightly into each of them.
With certainty we know that doubts will in time be addressed by God. We may not receive immediate answers, but we can with faith hold fast to the belief that God will indeed reveal himself in the midst of and/or about our doubts. We need a willing spirit, an open heart, and eyes and ears of faith to anticipate his response. Faith is the antecedent to doubt. Trust is what strengthens our faith, and what equips us to handle all forms of doubt. Today, will you believe in Jesus enough to entrust your doubts into his loving care?
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Hebrews 11:1.