Doubts. We all have them. And we all have them concerning the faith as well. Sometimes it is hard to “just believe” when you see so many problems in the world. How can God be all powerful, but shootings such as El Paso, TX or Dayton, OH happen? How can God be the God of love when His followers seem to hate each other over a multitude of issues? And the list goes on.
But these questions are not new. They are not something that just happened in the 21st century, or during the “Post-Modern” period of time. They have been with us since the beginning.
In Matthew 11:3, John the Baptist sends a message to Jesus asking; “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” After all of Jesus’ teaching, Peter denies Jesus’ destiny towards the cross. Thomas expresses his doubts (as did all the apostles, see Matthew 28:17).
Doubts are normal. They are a part of the human experience and do not define us as Christ-followers. And, doubts can lead to greater faith, for doubts force us to wrestle with the scriptures. Doubts also force us to wrestle with the platitudes, Sunday school answers and other simple statements of the faith. And wrestling is exercise – which makes us stronger.
Over the past few weeks some “prominent” Christian voices have expressed their doubts and claimed they have lost (or are losing) their faith. As I read articles, blogs and social media reports, I seem to have missed anyone referencing the strength in doubting. Nowhere does anyone mention “The Dark Night of the Soul”, in which Saint John of the Cross writes about his time of spiritual desolation (and renewal). We forget about Jesus prayer in the Garden. It was certainly a struggle for Jesus as he faced his death. We forget about Ignatius of Loyola who taught that spiritual desolation is, in itself, a spiritual exercise, and a time to grow stronger in faith. And there are countless others.
Brothers and sisters, doubts are okay. Doubting can often be a sign of deep spiritual hunger, one that cannot be filled by your pastor (me included), your favorite musicians, writer, author or anyone else. That hunger is only filled by God. The doubts just mean you need to explore God more fully.
By the way, did you read Matthew 28:17 yet? The Resurrected Christ is about to ascend into heaven. He is gathered with his disciples and “they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Jesus didn’t respond by questioning their faith, or casting them out of the Kingdom. He responded with these words:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
He gave them the Great Commission – a ministry for every Christian, and He gave them the ultimate comfort – His eternal presence. Even when they doubted.