Growing up in an evangelical church the concept of doubting God was painted, at least in my mind, as a sinful departure from the Christian faith. In other words, to possess doubt was to lack faith, which meant that doubt must be sinful because the absence of faith in our lives would ultimately separate us from God. In many circles, sin itself is defined as anything that separates us from God. Therefore, doubt was sinful.
In a sense there is a truth to this way of thinking, but not if doubt is to be merely defined as an Americanized doubt, which is simply uncertainty. Biblical doubt is most often defined, in its etymology, as a separating oneself from trust in God, or as putting oneself at odds with God [See James 1]. However, our culture here in the western world typically views doubt as a lack of belief or a level of uncertainty in a certain set of beliefs. While our uncertainty could, I suppose, ultimately end in ourselves being at odds with God, it is more likely that our own uncertainty would drive us toward seeking out the answers we’re looking for. If one is searching for the truth, then it is likely that they will find the truth, at least in part if not in whole.
Our recent conversation with Mike McHargue [listen here], who is widely known for his podcasts Ask Science Mike and The Liturgists, has also released a book entitled Finding God in the Waves, which addresses in many degrees this very topic of doubt, or moreover uncertainty. Like myself, Mike was raised in an evangelical culture that tended to value certitude as a faith producing tool to be worn in our “belt of truth.” The problem with this type of view of faith and doubt is that it left no room for the doubters like Thomas whom we read about in John 20:24-29. Thomas was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, but we read in this text that Thomas had his reservations about Jesus’ resurrection, and who could blame him? After all, it’s not as if this were a normal occurrence, and Thomas had seen Jesus crucified, dead, and buried in a tomb just days before.
This story paints the perfect picture of the point I’m trying to make about doubt as it’s defined in today’s culture, and how God views our uncertainty. Thomas needed proof, and in Finding God in the Waves, Mike paints us a beautiful picture of his own journey through uncertainty and his need for proof.
Often, and unfortunately, the church in the west has rejected the doubters and turned away the skeptics while embracing those who seemed so certain of their faith and their ability to simply “know.” I applaud those who live in complete certitude, if it’s even possible, as I even have my doubts about that. However, if it is the case then bravo to those who can abide in that place. It’s not one familiar to me, nor is it familiar to those closest to me. We all live through moments, seasons and even years of uncertainty or doubt.
However, it is in those moments where we truly embrace the words of Jesus when he said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. – Matthew 7:7
When we embrace our uncertainty there are moments of finding God that take place in the asking, the seeking, and the knocking. Sometimes, like Thomas, we are unsure of the realities of Jesus. Jesus is not scared by our lack of certitude, but like he did with Thomas, he pulls us closer and opens his hands to us to show us the holes, he draws us in to see the piercing in his side. Jesus and the God revealed in him, will not reject our uncertainty, but rather embrace it as a secure father.
Embrace your doubts, questions the things you’re uncertain of because your journey might just be one of finding God right where you’re at.