Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dealing With Doubt, Part 2: Know How to React


Both times it surprised me. Caught me off guard. It’s just not something I think about regularly.

Doubt.

When it comes, it hits you squarely between the eyes, and you have to sit up and take notice.

I’ve had periods of doubt in my life, I’ll admit, and to me, doubt feels very much like fear. It paralyzes. It freezes my limbs, grabs my heart, and makes me clench my teeth. It’s all-consuming.

Which is why I feel such compassion for those doubters among us. Because, who really wants to doubt? Who really wants to be frozen with fear? I don’t know anyone who would choose sleepless nights of wondering over peaceful nights of trusting. Do you?

In the past three or four months, I’ve had people come to me on different occasions to tell me that, quite honestly, they were doubting their faith in God. These people didn’t WANT to doubt, but still found themselves wondering. What if?

Like I mentioned in my post last week, I am no theologian. I have no training in this. And as you can see, I’m a bit of a doubter myself. So why would God bring these people into my life to share their doubts with me? I’m a weak vessel if there ever was one.

I do know, however, that I’m a willing vessel, and I can listen, and most of all I want to understand how God is working in my life right now, so I figure that maybe God is bringing these people my way because He wants to teach ME something more than He wants to teach THEM something. I’m open to the possibility.

Hence, this blog series.

Like I said, doubt is surprising. If you’re in a period of doubting you might be surprised yourself; maybe you thought this could never happen to you. If someone you love is doubting, it’s especially surprising, if not disarming.

Here’s some good news. There are answers.

Thomas was a famous doubter, and yet, in the end, his story has a whole lot to teach us. You probably know it—Jesus had already shown his resurrected body to the disciples, but Thomas missed that viewing. He was probably out working or helping the women or grocery shopping. Whatever. He wasn’t there.

And you’ve probably heard his famous reaction when he heard from some of the others that Jesus was alive. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24)

*insert childlike foot stomp here*

Who can fault him? This was big news. Potentially devastating news if the rest of the disciples were lying to him.

I’d probably react in much the same way Thomas did. Which brings me to point number 1: Dealing with doubt is normal.

Sure, nobody wants to be a “doubting Thomas,” but do you think the phrase would be so common if doubting itself weren’t a part of life? Doubt is normal.

But there’s more to the story, and it’s about what actually happens when Jesus shows up.

I just love this because here’s what Jesus didn’t do: He didn’t tell Thomas to just hang in there, he’d get over it. He didn’t tell Thomas that his doubts would go away eventually. And most importantly, Jesus didn’t shame Thomas into believing.

Instead, Jesus gently took Thomas’s hand and placed it in the gaping hole in His side. He showed him the nail holes in His hands. And he encouraged Thomas with these words, “Stop doubting and believe.”

Point number 2: Jesus is big enough to handle your doubts.

He handled the rising from the dead thing, He can surely handle your questions. And best of all, He’s not going to slap you on the back of the hand for asking them, either. He’s just going to love you through it.

That’s grace.

We’re the ones who put Him on the cross, and yet, when we wonder if it’s all real, He gently takes our hands and shows Himself to us. Scars and all.

The greatest thing about the Thomas story? As soon as the relationship between Jesus and him is restored, Thomas declares, boldly, “My Lord and my God!” He knows who Jesus is and he can finally declare it with confidence.

Maybe someone you know is struggling right now with some nagging doubts about their faith. Remember that these doubts are normal (in other words, don’t panic). Remember that Jesus can handle them. And keep praying that one day your friend can, with Thomas, declare Jesus as Lord and God.

Next week: Dealing With Doubt, Part 3: Know What You Know

Let’s talk. Do you think doubt is normal? Do you think God gets mad when we doubt?


Shelly

6 comments:

Linda said...

THIS is fantastic. What a great series idea. You are so wise and an inspiring writer!

Robin ~ PENSIEVE said...

{smiling...nodding...}

You know I'm a Doubter, yes? God made sure to give me the assurance He still loves me through the story of Thomas and the father who said, "I believe...help my unbelief."

Those recordings in Scripture are for me. And those like me.

xo Good stuff, Shelly!

Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side said...

Thanks, Linda--you're so kind.

Robin, I appreciate that. So glad you enjoyed the post. Come back for the next few weeks! :)

WildmanDesigns said...

I love this post, Shelly!!! Thanks so much for sharing with us.

Yes, I have doubted, too. And struggled, like Jacob wrestling with the Lord. And have said, "I do believe. Help me in my unbelief." And have known that God is not offended by my struggles.

I think that anyone who questions, analyzes, ponders, etc. must eventually come to a point where their "faith" doesn't make sense rationally. Where even the existence of God seems to not make sense because of what we "see" with our eyes.

But then grace comes--and I hear the gentle voice of His Spirit ask, "Can you still love Me even when you don't understand everything? Even when things don't look the way YOU think they should look?" And a peace washes over me as I say "Yes, I will choose life instead of death. Hope instead of despair. Seeing with my heart and spirit, instead of with my eyes and mind."

I'm eager to hear what else you and your readers have to say on this subject. :-)

Mary @ Giving Up On Perfect said...

I doubt all the time. I blame my ridiculous ability to see every side of every issue. It gets me in trouble sometimes. But when it comes to my faith, I just hold on to what I know. And I know that God is God, God is good, and God loves me.

So yeah, I think doubt is normal. :)

GLENDA CHILDERS said...

I love your observations on how Jesus treated Thomas and his doubts.

Fondly,
Glenda