I don’t know about you, but from time to time I have doubts about my faith. Don’t get me wrong, I passionately believe that Jesus is raised from the dead, and therefore the world is changed irrevocably, even though it doesn’t actually look like it. I believe in the Trinity, even though I don’t understand its complexities. I believe that the Bible is the word of God, and it helps me make sense of my relationship with God in this sometimes very confusing world. However, there are times when doubt creeps in, sometimes for a short time, sometimes for a longer period of time.
The greatest challenge I faced was when our second child, our first son died. I prayed for his healing, for his restoration, but it was not to be. I was never in any doubt where he was, awaiting the resurrection, but I did start to doubt prayer, and the goodness of God, and some other issues that seem to have faded in the past. My faith was further challenged about 18 months later when one of Daniel’s classmates died in a farming accident. It was extremely traumatic, and as I write this I tear up just with the memory. Doubt it seems is natural, and circumstances play a huge part in what sort of doubt we have.
I am always comforted by the disciples and their reaction to the empty tomb on that first Easter Day. Their reaction was of doubt, confusion, and bewilderment. Even though they had seen Jesus raise at least three people from the dead, this seemed too fanciful even for them. The women on their way to the tomb went not to see him raised, but to complete the burial rites. The empty tomb presented a huge shock to them, and their first reaction is perfectly normal, “his body has been taken by someone.” What happens for the disciples and the followers of Jesus is a “bit by bit”, “piece by piece”, revelation of what the empty tomb means, Jesus is raised from the dead, and the world is now changed, even though it doesn’t look like it. Jesus has many appearances with his disciples in the 40 days after the resurrection, and yet Luke and Matthew both observe that “some doubted.” Even with the gifting of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, when the disciples are emboldened to declare the resurrection of Jesus they still don’t understand everything. Peter is hesitant to go to Cornelius’ house for he is a gentile, and Peter a good Jew. They don’t go into gentile houses. Peter still has much to learn.
So it is with us. Now I don’t know whether you are reading this are a believer or not, but to the believer’s I want to encourage you that it is not necessary for you to understand everything, for if we were to understand everything we would be the creator not the created. It is actually ok not to understand everything, that is why we are called to have faith, and belief. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us the faith is “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) What do we hope for? I hope for eternal life in God, I hope for the resurrection. What am I convinced of that I do not see? God.
If you are reading this as an enquirer, or a non believer, then that is a bit more complicated. I would simply invite you to ask God to reveal himself to you. Sounds a bit trite, I know, but it does work. Another way is to talk to someone you trust who you know is Christian and ask them to help you.
As I look back on the last 19 years I discover I, like the disciples, have learnt a lot about my faith through my experiences especially with Daniel, and others. It has been a journey of discovery, a journey that I am still on. Doubt it turns out is not actually the issue. Everyone it seems has doubt. It depends on what we are willing to allow ourselves to do with that doubt. One response is, “That is all too fantastic for me to believe in.” This is not really doubt, it is simply straight out unbelief, and that is more difficult to overcome, because what we have is a closed mind to the possibility of God. We then become like Richard Dawkins who is an incredibly intelligent person, but they simply refuse to believe that anything except what they can process and make sense of is what they will believe in. Or, you can have another response like “That sounds way too fantastic, it would be great if it were true because it would transform the way in which I view the world.” That is doubt. You are making room for the possibility, but it doesn’t make sense at this time. You see the disciples could have just said to the women, “we don’t believe you.” That would have been unbelief. What they appear to be saying is, “You women are off your rocker, that is completely nuts, we’d better check this out for ourselves.” The information doesn’t make sense but they are willing to explore further, this is doubt.
It is definitely ok for us to doubt, but in doubting have that open enquiring mind that we have been given. Search out the evidence, search out a relationship with God, and if you are indeed open and honest, doubts will be turned into confidences, and confidences will be turned into faith, and faith will be turned into belief.