Doubts are a weird topic. At some point every Christian has them, but we rarely want to talk about them. Part of my fascination with this topic stems from recent stories of Christians wrestling with doubts and concluding that God does not exist. Much of this also stems from my own questioning and wrestling with difficult questions about God and the truth of Christianity over the years. Something I am often guilty of however is looking solely at the writings and arguments of other people for understanding, while largely ignoring the words of scripture. God has gifted many people with wisdom and understanding, but I need to learn to turn to God’s word first for understanding. So let’s look at 3 times Jesus responded to doubt.
Mark 9: “Help Me with My Unbelief.”
Jesus is presented with a boy who is possessed by a demon. The apostles were unable to cast out the demon, so they took him to Jesus. The boy’s father cries to Jesus for help, “if you can do anything.” Jesus responds to that “if” by saying that everything is possible for those who believe. The father responds in a way that we all must remember. “I believe; help my unbelief!” What an incredible request. I wish more of us would do this. Doubts are not good in of themselves. Look no further than James 1:6 to know that. But our first instinct as Christians should be to lay them out before God and ask for his help. Take note of Jesus’ response, especially in what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t heal the boy and suddenly turn to the father to tell him, “See! This is what happens when you don’t doubt!” As you’ll see throughout these passages, Jesus consistently responds to doubts with action and evidence.
John 20: Doubting Thomas
Everybody knows doubting Thomas. John 20 shows the disciples after Jesus has risen from the dead. The only apostle who did not see him earlier was Thomas, who insists that he will not believe unless he sees for himself. Later Jesus appears while Thomas is present, shows him his hands and feet. After Thomas acknowledges Jesus as lord, Jesus gives the famous scolding, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” There’s a few ways to read this. The one we often hear is that Jesus is scolding Thomas for demanding evidence, and not blindly believing. However, that may not be it, considering the next verses are about how Jesus performed many signs so that people would believe. If Jesus wanted blind faith, why go around giving evidence for belief? Either way, once again Jesus responds to doubts not by demanding more faith, but by giving us what evidence we need for belief. Jesus meets us where we are at.
Matthew 11: “Shall We Look for Another?”
This last passage comes when John the Baptist has been put in prison by Herod and is awaiting his death. That’s a scenario that would get most of us down and doubting God’s plan. John sends some of his disciples to Jesus with the question, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” One would think that after everything John had said and experienced, he would be the last person to doubt Jesus. Shouldn’t the guy who baptized Jesus and witnessed the spirit descending and heard the voice of the father have all doubts removed? If ever there was a time that Jesus could legitimately scold someone for doubting it’s here, right? Instead Jesus gives evidence. “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.”
He gives no scolding or demand of more faith. Instead he performs miracles and provides evidence of who he is. In fact, just a few verses later, he calls John the greatest among those born of women. John’s doubts were not rational given what he had seen, and yet Jesus still responds with love and action. He makes no demand of the doubting but gives them what they need to overcome their doubts.
A Few Takeaways on Doubts
First, every believer will have doubts at some point. Doubts are not necessarily good in and of themselves, but they are to be expected. How we respond to them is the more important part, and can be a good opportunity to strengthen our convictions. If John and Thomas, who walked with the guy and saw his miracles live, had doubts, don’t be surprised when you do. You are not a weak Christian just because you have questions.
Second, take your doubts before God. Don’t be passive and just let them sit and grow. Pray that he shows you what you need. This may come through witness of the holy spirit, reading his word in scripture, or maybe an article online with other insights. However, he may not answer every question, and simply ask that you be still and know that he is God. If that happens, I would recommend meditating on Peter’s words. Either way, I do not think that if we truly ask God to help us with our unbelief he will say no.
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