Doubt has been an unwelcome yet close companion of mine since stepping foot onto the Narrow Path. Just a few short weeks after surrendering my heart to Jesus, my mind was running rampant with questions and concerns. Is this God the true God? Why do we believe the Bible? Where did the Bible even come from? Who wrote it? Who pieced it together? How can we know Jesus really did and said all the things recorded in the gospels? How can we know for sure he resurrected from the dead? How can I know for sure this is all legit? In its very infancy, my faith was rocked by skepticism. I was fearful I was changing the entire course of my life based upon something that may not be true.
My new Christian friends looked at me as if I were from Mars whenever I threw out questions like these. Their puzzled faces made me feel like I was speaking things that were not supposed to be spoken—asking questions that were never to be asked! But honestly, I think they were just caught off guard. Most of the believers I knew at this point embraced the Bible pretty blindly—and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I am not wired in such a way that simple faith comes easily, but that doesn’t mean those to whom it does come easily are weak or inept. The Spirit witnessing to one’s spirit that the Scriptures are true is reason enough for a bold and sure belief! But for whatever reason, some people’s hearts don’t settle as easily into unshakeable certainty.
And you know, I don’t think Jesus is put out with those of us in whom skeptical tendencies run deep. I don’t believe he sits on his throne all perturbed, complaining to the Father about our struggle to feel assured that he and his Word are legitimate. I believe he is patient and tender with us as we wrestle through these most vital matters in life. And I think I have strong biblical grounds for my opinion.
In Mark chapter 9, a weary man with a demon-possessed son expressed a shaky faith in Christ’s claims and abilities when he cried out: “I believe; help my unbelief!” Did Jesus say, “You wretched doubter! Nope . . . not gonna do it! I’m not going to free your son from Satan’s grip until you believe more firmly!” No—Jesus graciously healed the boy and in doing so most certainly strengthened this doubting man’s faith.
In John chapter 20, the resurrected Christ appears to his disciples while Thomas is out and about. When the MIA disciple returns, he refuses to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. He goes as far as to say he would never believe unless he sees the marks of the nails in Jesus’s hands and the wound in his side. Thomas didn’t possess an inkling of assurance that Christ was raised, even when the other 10 disciples—whose claims he had all the reason to trust—insisted that he was! So what did Jesus do? Did he say, “So be it!” and leave Thomas to live the rest of his days doubtful and void of the joy of belief? Negative.
“Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:26-29
Jesus didn’t roll in with a hot rebuke; he met Thomas in the middle of his skepticism and provided him the means to overcome it! I believe this is exactly how Jesus still works today. No, he may not physically appear in our bedroom in the middle of the night and be like, “Hey! Here I am! I really got up out of that tomb, and the entire Bible is true!” But he does, in a very real way, manifest himself to us and bear witness to the truth. The big difference between Thomas’s day and our day is that the Spirit of God is the one bearing witness to the truth. Whereas Christ stood physically beside Thomas to help him believe, the Holy Spirit fills the entire world to give us faith in Christ . . . and to strengthen our faith in times of doubt and confusion.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” – John 15:26
In John 16, Jesus says it is better for the Spirit to be in the world than for him to personally be in the world. Therefore, I believe the Spirit is just as able as the physical Jesus of overcoming the unbelief of Doubting Thomases, like myself. When we don’t allow our doubt to drive us away from Christ (notice in John 2o that Jesus waited eight whole days to reappear, and Thomas, though doubtful, was still there with the other disciples), the Spirit moves mightily to assure us of the truth. When doubt began to assail me, I didn’t shrink back in utter disbelief. Though I was struggling to do it, I wanted to believe! So in the spirit of the man in Mark 9, I sought the truth and pleaded with the Lord to help me believe it. As I began to learn about the formation and transmission of the Scriptures, as well as the mountain of manuscript evidence we have that assures us the writings we have today are the same writings they had thousands of years ago, my trembling faith became a little bit stronger. Seeing the logic and reason undergirding the Christian faith gave my mind more assurance that all of this was believable.
But I’ll tell ya, nothing has increased my belief in the grand story of the Bible more than actually reading the Bible. As I have feasted day in and day out on the Writings that claim to be God’s Word, my confidence in their content has soared higher and higher. It’s been in front of these Holy Scriptures that the Spirit of God has testified to my spirit, “Yes! This is truth!” I can’t explain the mechanics of what has happened (and still is happening), inside me. All I know is that as I set my mind on the person of Jesus by reading the Big Book that is all about him, the Holy Spirit moves powerfully in my heart to crush doubt and strengthen faith. That annoying skepticism still exists inside me, but its presence continually grows dimmer—and belief grows more vibrant—as I seek to see Jesus through his Word.
Doubting friends, Jesus has room for you at his table. He is willing and able to overcome your skepticism if you will submit yourself to the process. Do your research (this article published on 02/08 is a great place to start). Study apologetics. But more than these things, open up the Bible and read it yourself. Every day. Maybe even find someone in your church who is more familiar with the Scriptures and ask them to walk with you through it. Pray—even if doubtfully—that God would increasingly manifest himself to your soul by his Spirit. Ask him to grant you eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to believe. He wants you to believe! So don’t retreat. Press on. Read, pray, and study your heart out. Faith will find you!