“My friend just raised a really good point.”
“Yeah, it was good, but it’s not true.”
“What do you mean? Why’s it not true? It could be true, maybe, couldn’t it?”
“Careful now, you look like you might be having some doubts”
“Well, what if I am?”
“Don’t you dare doubt!!!”
For a lot of Christians, this isn’t a conversation we have with a third party; it’s a conversation that goes on within our heads, as we’re confronted by something that doesn’t fit well with the messages we normally hear or what we read in Scripture. We struggle to not doubt, putting near unbearable stress on ourselves – intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.
Doubt is in an interesting limbo in the Christian world. On the one hand you have the groups who claim that you have to have rock-solid faith and doubt is fundamentally un-Christian. On the other hand, you have those who recognize that doubts come, but seek to make sure they go as quickly as possible, sweeping them under the rug.
I’d like to suggest a third alternative – a Christian life that welcomes doubt.
Often we hear that the key to overcoming doubt is faith. Just have faith regardless of your doubts and it will be okay. I’d agree to an extent; certainly there are difficult, even unanswerable questions that require faith to ever process. But faith isn’t just the key to overcoming doubt, it gives us the freedom to have doubts in the first place.
The “don’t you dare doubt” conversation is one rooted in fear. The fear is that we entertain these thoughts for any longer than the thought itself, our entire worldview will collapse. The fear is that if we seek to understand the problem of evil, we will quickly have to dismiss the possibility of a good God. The fear is that if we explore evolution’s claims, we will have to rule out the Bible as a credible witness.
But the Christian life is one rooted not in fear, but in confidence. A confidence based in faith, but also not ignorant. A Christian doesn’t just believe in God with eyes closed, ignoring the questions swirling around them. A Christian believes in a God who is bigger than the questions swirling around them. The position of faith holds two things – there are questions, and there’s a God who won’t break under their weight.
When we refuse to doubt, we say that our doubts are bigger than God. A belief in a God who is bigger than us, and any of our doubts, welcomes those questions in and begins to seek to answer. We so often forget what God showed us about doubt in Jesus.
Jesus didn’t rebuke Thomas for doubting. He invited him to come and look and touch. Jesus was bigger, more real than the doubts Thomas had. What makes us think things have changed?
Of course, doubts are always to be instrumental in our spirituality, not terminal. Asking questions is how we get to know someone better, and for Christians this should be the case with God. We ask questions, explore, in order to come to know him better, not to stand stuck in a place of uncertainty for all time.
But recognizing that we have a faith that can welcome doubt is where many of us need to start. May we join with the Roman centurion who told Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).