On Sunday, we heard about “Doubting” Thomas, as he has come to be known in popular culture. Except Thomas gets a bad rap. The problem with the label goes beyond the bad characterization of Thomas. It makes doubt itself seem like this terrible thing. As if Thomas was a failure because he wanted what everyone else experienced – an encounter with the risen Christ.
Doubt is normal. I believe God can handle our doubts and our questions. I believe that our whole belief system won’t crumble like a house of cards if there is doubt. There are some who disagree. There are preachers who will go out of their way to make those who raise questions feel like they are in the wrong if they doubt or raise questions. And these preachers are wrong. Asking questions and raising doubts is normal and in some ways, it is a good thing.
Having doubt doesn’t mean there is something wrong with a believer. Doubt is a part of faith. That’s because faith doesn’t equal certainty. Faith goes well beyond understanding and knowledge. Faith is a gift from God. Often times our faith doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But don’t take my word for it. There are examples of this throughout the Bible.
Abraham picked up all he owned, and started traveling until God told him to stop. That’s acting on faith. Abraham had no idea where God was sending him. Moses acted on faith, without knowing how to get to the promises land. The writers of Psalm 13, 22, and 88 know all about doubt – they feel abandoned by God, questioning if God even exists. Even Jesus had some doubt – read his account of praying in the garden before his trial and execution.
Doubt is not a sin. It means we don’t know everything. We are not in charge. Faith is a gift that is given to us by God. It propels us forward, even, and especially, in the midst of doubt. Our response is trust. Faith is linked with hope. Hope isn’t hope if it is something that we can see clearly, or even at all. Faith and hope contain doubt by the mere fact that we don’t know everything about them.
This doesn’t mean that there is hopelessness. It means that we will continue to question and doubt. We’ll continue to ask questions of God – questions like why homelessness exist. Questions about violence and evil. Questions about human trafficking and prostitution. Why God? Why don’t you do something about these things God? Can you hear us? Are you there?
God is big enough to handle these questions. And God empowers us to do something in response. To make us so uncomfortable and inconvenienced by these things that we step out in trust and hope – and we bring change. We bring Jesus with us. And miracles happen.