I "get" doubt, both as an observer and as a participant. I continue to have opportunities to talk with those who doubt and I've struggled with the darker side of faith as well. Take heart, your doubts are a sign of your willingness to grow. Actually, I worry more about those that never question.
People struggle to believe. If this is you, it may help you to know that others shared the same struggle, even in the time of Jesus. And it’s okay.
The Bible tells us the story of Thomas. “Doubting” Thomas is the man in the inner-circle of the twelve who struggled to believe. The story begins like this: Jesus had appeared to ten disciples on the evening of the first day of the week. He came and stood among them.
Read the full story in John 20:19-29.
Thomas wasn’t there. When Thomas gets there, the ten disciples are full of joy. It’s obvious something happened. And whatever it was, it has not happened to him.
So, Thomas says, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25).
Why Do People Struggle with Doubt?
Let me suggest three reasons, all true for Thomas, and that are true for many people today.
Thomas had seen and experienced indescribable evil.
Crucifixion was a horrible thing. What would it have been to see this happen in front of you? To someone you love? We see similar every day in the news.
Many people struggle to believe [have doubts] because of the evil in the world. There will be folks reading this today who would say, “How can I believe in a God who is good, in light of what I have seen? How can I believe in a God who is in control, in light of what I have experienced?”
Those are reasonable questions.
If it were not for Jesus, what could we say about the evil in the world? Darkness and injustice would remain unanswered forever. God will make it right!
Thomas had seen and experienced massive disappointment.
For others, doubt comes from disappointment. This was true of Thomas.
Thomas left everything to follow Jesus. He had extended himself to serve Christ for three years. He had high hopes, that Jesus would lead them into great things. It was a massive disappointment when all of that ended on Good Friday. But I thought…
Maybe this is where you are—the loss of a job, your health, a loved one, the failure of a business, or the collapse of marriage. Where is God in that? I’ve been there.
Thomas had seen and experienced growing loneliness.
We’re not told why Thomas was not with the other disciples that day. My guess is that Thomas was on an increasingly lonely path.
Thomas doesn’t feel at ease with Jesus’ friends. But he doesn’t belong with Jesus’ enemies either. We are not at home in the church, and we’re not really at home in the world. Where does he/we belong?
How Christ Shows His Love for People Who Struggle with Doubts
Here is the good news for us when our doubts are strong: Christ loves people with weak faith/doubts, who have said, “I will never believe” or “I just don’t know any longer”. Our story continues showing how Jesus responded to Thomas. He will do the same for you, and I want you to see how he does it.
Christ shows his love through a surprising experience.
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:26)
I say this was “surprising” because no one was expecting it—certainly not Thomas!
This is how Jesus shows his love to a person struggling with doubt: He draws near, and you experience his presence. It can happen through a friend, or a family member, or through an article like this. At first you are not even sure you know who Christ is, but you become aware that He is there and he is reaching out to you.
When he comes near, he says, “Peace! Don’t run away! I haven’t come to condemn you. I’ve come to lead you back to faith!”
My prayer is that you’ll experience this today. You have struggled with faith. You have not felt that you could believe. But today Jesus Christ is reaching out to you in love.
Christ shows his love through a compelling evidence.
Jesus was not there when Thomas said, “I will never believe… But Jesus knew what Thomas said, so it is awesome that when he appears, Jesus does not write Thomas off. He does not say, “Hey Tom, you’ve made your position clear. Pack your bags. I no longer want you as my follower.”
No! Jesus’ words are very different: “Thomas, you said you would not believe unless there was evidence. Very well—here it is: Put your finger here, and see my hands. Put your hand in my side.” Christian faith is not a blind leap in the dark. It is a reasoned trust in a risen Savior, based on sound evidence.
None of see the hands and side of Jesus, so what does the evidence look like for us?
The evidence on which you can take a reasoned step comes in evidence provided in the Bible: “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ.” This is how you touch Jesus.
The Word of God is compelling to your heart. You begin to see something that you did not see before. Why? Because He has been awakening faith in you by the Holy Spirit.
It’s amazing. The One who has no need to prove Himself to us, is willing to do exactly that. Amazing! Why? Because of His love for us and to be reconnected with Him. Amazing!
Jesus shows his love through a life-changing command.
“Do not disbelieve, but believe.” (John 20:27)
To me, this is best part: Jesus knew everything about Thomas. He knew what Thomas had said in secret. He knew all about his unbelief. Yet, Jesus still wants Thomas to be his follower. Jesus still wants Thomas to have life in his name. So, Jesus calls Thomas back!
“Given what you have seen and touched, I ask you to stop doubting and believe. I want you as my follower, Thomas.” What else was there for Thomas to do than to fall on his knees and confess Jesus as his Lord?
Jesus reaches out to you in love today. He wants you to be his follower. After all He did to get you back, it matters to him that you should remain His follower.
He lays before you the evidence, through his Word, on which you can trust in him. He calls you! Now believe!