“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” John 20:29b
The scripture for this coming Sunday is often read following Easter, and it is about one of the disciples named Thomas. Interestingly, because Thomas demanded proof that Jesus was really raised from the dead, he has commonly been nicknamed “Doubting Thomas.” I think this is unfair to him, and it also gives us the wrong impression about doubt that comes naturally to us in our journeys of faith.
Thomas wasn’t the only one who wanted proof. Earlier in the John 20 passage, Jesus appeared to the other disciples and showed them his hands and side so they would believe it was really him. Throughout scripture we find people asking for proof, and who can blame them. In our 21st century mindset, we need to have everything proven to us. We rationalize that there is a reason for everything, and I have often heard that used as a way of “explaining” unusual events in our lives or things that happen to us that we can’t figure out. Someone will say, “There’s a reason for everything.”
That always makes me a little uncomfortable. Why does there have to be an explanation? The mystery of God is truly that – a mystery. We can’t explain God’s actions. There are times in our lives that we can’t explain what happens to us. The “why’s” are often left unanswered. I joke with our Bible study group that I have a list of questions I want to ask when I get to heaven, and the list keeps getting longer and longer. But I also believe that, by the time I get there, that list won’t matter anymore.
Doubt comes when we can’t explain – at least to our own satisfaction – the actions or lack of actions by God. I’m not sure we are supposed to be able to explain them. Faith is acceptance and trust that God knows what is best for us and continually guides us that direction. Needing proof is a “throw-down.” Do we really think that God will accept the throw down and provide proof? Well, it certainly can happen, but not because of our challenge to God.
I think doubting, as frightening as it can be, is good for us. The challenge of doubt is that we have to work through what it is that’s “bugging” us. It forces us to figure out what we do believe, and we come out stronger on the other end for having gone through the process of dealing with the doubt. When we give up trying to explain everything and let go, trusting that God DOES exist and is trustworthy, we have moved to a new place in our relationship with God and on our faith journeys.
There is a story about a person who hated to see a caterpillar struggle to emerge from its cocoon, so that person snipped off the end of the cocoon. When the caterpillar came out, it wasn’t able to fly because it was in the struggle of getting out of the cocoon that the wings of the newly born butterfly were strengthened so it COULD fly. Often the easy way isn’t always the best way. Our struggling through doubt can strengthen us and help us to fly – metamorphosis!
The next time we begin to doubt, it might be good to just go with the flow. Ask ourselves questions that will help us work through the questioning, and trust that God won’t abandon us in the process, even if we abandon God! That’s the promise we have forever – God is with us; God loves us; and God will not abandon us. Thanks be to God!