When he first told me he was doubting his faith, it felt like someone had hit me in the gut.
This wasn’t even my faith crisis; it was his. But it hurt even still. I cared deeply for this friend. We had grown up together, gone to youth group together. We had spent hours talking about Jesus and faith and life, and I just couldn’t fathom how this could happen. Sure, others walk away from their faith, but not my friends. I thought we were all going to make it through this journey. I didn’t plan for this.
And it wasn’t just him. Soon, it was more friends. Friends deciding that the faith they had grown up with just didn’t fit them anymore.
I was heartbroken and didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t identify with them because, at that time, my faith had never been more real for me. I tried to offer advice, anecdotes, articles, evidence.
Sometimes, I pretended their questions didn’t exist. If we don’t talk about the doubt in their life, maybe it will disappear like some phase they’re going through. Sometimes, I felt upset–offended, even. This was the faith I had staked my life on, my identity. It hurt to watch someone who once held that same faith so dear, start to let it go.
I guess it scared me. It scared me that my friends who I once thought were so resolved in their beliefs, were human after all–humans with real doubts, real questions and real trials in their lives
…And none of my answers could help them.
My answers couldn’t help them because doubt isn’t solved by an article sent via Facebook. It’s not wrapped up and resolved with a clever axiom or list of scientific evidence. Doubt is a real struggle, and it deserves a REAL answer.
If anyone has any right to be offended at doubt, it’s Jesus. If anyone could choose to walk away from doubters, to leave them sitting with all their questions, it’s Jesus. He, better than anyone else, knows the price that was paid on the cross. He has no obligation to prove anything to anyone.
But Jesus doesn’t see it like that.
When Thomas, one of Jesus’s disciples, heard the disciples say that Jesus is alive, risen from the dead, he didn’t believe it. He didn’t believe Jesus’s promises that he would rise from the dead and he doesn’t believe the witnesses who saw him risen. Instead, he says, “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, Jesus comes to Thomas and the other disciples.
And Jesus doesn’t just shrug off Thomas’s doubts. He doesn’t ignore him. He doesn’t belittle him. He doesn’t leave Thomas to wrestle with his doubts alone.
He answers Thomas directly. He gives Thomas the evidence he asked for. He says, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
When Thomas doubts Him, Jesus isn’t offended. He isn’t scared of Thomas’s doubts. He doesn’t tell Thomas that he just needs to get over it. He doesn’t yell in Thomas’s face, telling him all that He has done for him.
He simply holds out his hands and asks Thomas to put his fingers through the nail-pierced holes in His wrists.
He has mercy on Thomas.
Because the same Love that would take those nails through His wrists and hang on a cross for you, is the same Love that will gladly hold out those hands to you when you doubt.
Jesus isn’t surprised at doubt; he’s not even angry. He’s merciful and he’s patient, not willing that any should perish.
So, it’s okay to doubt. And it’s okay to talk about your doubt. Don’t close up. Don’t run away. Don’t keep silent. Lean into your doubts. Thomas was honest to others about how he felt. “Unless I see… I will not believe.”
Do what it takes to wrestle with your doubt. Talk to others. Search for answers. Cry out to God to reveal himself to you, because he draws near to those who draw near to Him. Don’t sit, waiting for your doubt to simply pass, like some juvenile phase. Lift your head and reach out your hand, because He is waiting for you to see him–to feel him. But whatever you do, keep wrestling, because the love that is holding out His hands to you, is worth the fight.
Real Doubt; Real Stories
I think stories are some of the most powerful tools we have to work through doubt. Here are some stories of amazing people and their struggles with doubt and feeling like an impostor in their own faith.
(If you read one, read it in its entirety. It’s worth it.)
The Day I Stopped Believing in God by Micah Murray
“I was haunted by fear. My faith was a house of cards, and I knew it was only a matter of time until the day the last support was pulled away and it all collapsed.”
Questioning Faith by Lore Ferguson
“All my life, and especially all my Christian life, asking questions was out of the question.”
All the Orphans of the World by Duane Scott
“I don’t know how you can say that. I don’t know how you find the strength because you and I are the same age and yet, if that had happened to me, I would doubt God even existed.”
The Christianity Club by Stephanie May
“From the outside, others would say I do it right. I fit in. I belong to the club. But for the past six months, I’ve felt like an impostor.”