We live in a time where we have answers for almost every question.
• Why is the sky blue?
• Where do babies come from?
• How many days can a person survive without food or water?
• Why did the chicken cross the road?
Despite having resources like Google, Wikipedia, and Bing we still can’t explain one thing, faith. We can’t explain how mud and spit can restore a blind man’s sight. We can’t explain how one person can suddenly be healed by the touch another. And we certainly can’t explain how, a man is hung on a tree, is confirmed dead, is buried in a sealed tomb, and despite the very laws of nature and creation being against him, he rises from the dead and ascends into heaven. Even Houdini would be speechless at that one.
When I was in university, I took a course on Miracles. My professor was a man who had never witness a miracle. Yet he had become so fascinated with these unexplainable occurrences that he had spent years collecting many different accounts and had written several books on them. I remember sitting down for a post-class coffee with him asking him why he was so fascinated with miracles if he had never actually seen one first hand. I questioned him further, “why miracles have any place in Christianity and if they were actually a vital part of being a Christian and following the teachings of Jesus?” He looked at me with a somewhat confused stare and responded with a simple answer, “Faith often begins with doubt.”
WHAT?!? How in the world does doubt have anything in common with faith? Faith doesn’t begin with doubt. Faith ends with doubt. Christians don’t doubt. Doubt is the opposite of faith. They couldn’t farther from each other. I needed to sit and wrestle with this for a while. You see something I prided myself on in University was the exploration of Christianity. I would dive in critiques of the Bible, Atheist commentaries, and even other religions to try and challenge my faith. I even wrote entire essays trying to disprove God’s existence. Not because I didn’t believe, but because I wanted to believe more. I wanted to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was there, somewhere.
One of the stories of doubt in the Bible that I’ve always come back to is of Peter in the storm. He doubted! And look what happened to him… He began sinking as he tried to reach Jesus by attempting to walk on water. He knew that walking on water was impossible. He tried to shake that from his mind as he pursued faith and Jesus. Yet even in the middle of opening the door to faith, he gets scared and quickly shuts it, because the impossible is exactly that, impossible. This story taught me that Doubt is bad. Doubt will sink you. That’s what I thought I was supposed to believe. But, when you’re a Christian doubt is not the end. It’s the beginning. Doubt is just another closed door that most Christians will find themselves staring at again and again, wondering if there will actually be anything on the other side, this time.
Thomas was a man who followed Jesus around for years. He saw first hand the miracles Jesus did. Yet, he still doubted if Jesus had actually risen from the dead, even after hearing it from the other disciples. He insists, “I won’t believe it unless I see…“ For this Thomas earns the nickname “Doubting Thomas”
Though we often characterize Thomas with that prefix, he wasn’t the only one that doubts the resurrection. Even after hearing Mary’s account of Christ’s resurrection, all of the disciples still meet behind locked doors in fear of their lives. Sometimes, most of the time, simply hearing Truth, does little in changing our minds. They were probably confused, possibly even doubting if what they heard from Mary was actually true, and if it wasn’t, how foolish they were for misplacing their trust. Like Thomas, it wasn’t until Jesus appeared to them and showed them the wounds in his hands and side that we see their spirits lifted. They finally realized that what He had said was going to happen was true. Disbelief was not unique to Thomas.
Luke’s account of this event tells us that when Jesus first appears to the disciples they believe he is a ghost until they too see his wounds. And you can’t really blame them. If any of us were to sit in a locked room and out of nowhere have someone, who we had seen, die and be buried in a sealed tomb, just appear out of thin air, I’m sure we’d all be incredibly freaked out and want some cohesive and tangible empirical evidence that we weren’t going crazy.
For fans of the Matrix movies, Jesus showing the disciples His wounds is their red pill/blue pill moment. Take the red pill/choose disbelief, and return to a life of fear and doubt. Take the blue pill/choose belief, and embrace that the impossible can happen, men can rise from the dead, Jesus was the Son of God, and love always wins.
Do we really want faith without doubt? Doubt is the doorway to faith. Doubt is the bridge to belief. Faith is, as Paul’s letter to the Hebrews explains, “The assurance of things you have hoped for and the absolute conviction that there are realities you’ve never seen.” Doubt is what makes our faith so radical. “And although we have not seen Him, we love Him; even though we do not see Him now, we believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for we are receiving the outcome of our faith.” (1Peter 1:8-9) May we acknowledge that we doubting beings. May we trust the Christ defeated fear and doubt through His death and resurrection. May we have courage to live out the words of Thomas as he moved from doubt into faith, confessing “My Lord and my God.”