Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Facing Doubts

“But he said to them, ‘Unless I see (eido or  oida: know, perceive with the eyes or senses, look upon, behold) in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe (pisteuo: commit to trust, to be persuaded of, place confidence in).’ Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.’” (John chapter 20)

I find this account of Thomas quite puzzling. One commentary states that this text about Thomas “shows either [his] perplexity about the miracle or a certain stubbornness of character”. Either way I think, if honest, we all have a good bit of Thomas in us. We believe but oh how much more we’d believe if God would just allow us to see, taste or feel “x”. I believe that in the case of Thomas, it’s crucial that we remember that he had shared years of his life in close relationship with Jesus. When Jesus was crucified, the pain and hurt of His leaving must have been unimaginable. I would like to assume that Thomas’ confession was perhaps more rooted in his emotions than a deep-seeded doubt. I would also suppose that he was possibly cautious to once more hand over his heart to Jesus after several days of sorrow and grief. We must remember the full context of the Scriptures!

Thomas was obviously a dedicated follower of Christ as we see in chapter 11 of John where he states, Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”  If these are in fact the words of Thomas, then his commitment or belief in what Jesus was foretelling was surely not lacking. We don’t have an account of Him doubting Jesus’ determination or intention to go to the cross. I believe that the post-resurrection scene (the main text that we started with) had many more dynamics and layers of emotions that I’ve never really heard anyone delve into when teaching it.

From my thirty years of church service attendance, I’ve heard countless sermons on how awful Thomas was because he doubted and desired “proof” of Jesus’ return. “Don’t be a Thomas!!! Believe!!!”, the preachers would always proclaim. *sigh* We so easily forget our own humanity and especially of those within the Scriptures. I whole-heartedly believe that it’s alright to wrestle with and question what we believe and what we devote ourselves to. It’s not a “lukewarm instead of hot or cold” issue at all, for me. It’s an honest approach to intimacy with my Father. I will have doubts and questions at many positions along my journey to become more like Christ. My personal choice is to embrace the questions and take them to my Saviour.

But how do we know that that’s OK? What if God turns me away because of my disbelief? We clearly see in verse 27 that Jesus actually invites doubt. He seemingly welcomes disbelief! He is entirely OK with our questions, fears and disbelief. Jesus did not say, “Thomas, get away from me then, you faithless skeptic!” He simply said, in summary, “Come and see for yourself. I am here. I am alive. I am Who I said that I am. It’s OK to believe again, Thomas. I am with you.” This is the Jesus that I’ve come to know over the last several years of my life. He beckons me to come to Him just as I am – unbelief and all! I don’t hide it away in guilt and shame, attempting to just ignore it. He desires to speak to me about the matters I question. I love that!

Another account of Thomas seems gravely overlooked and I want to be careful not to do that here. Of course we all love to quote Jesus saying, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. But why did Jesus tell us this? Because none other than Thomas confessed Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way? All because Thomas asked and revealed his ignorance (in the true sense), we have this eternal truth forever sealed in Scripture!

The Body of Christ seems to allow little, if any room for asking questions. The mindset that it’s sin if you ask questions or struggle with believing something is so spiritually suffocating. Blindly following doctrines and never addressing issues that you absolutely must resolve within your own inner man just isn’t spiritually healthy whatsoever. Friend, God can handle our disbelief and questions! Do you know this? He already sees into our innermost places so it’s kind of silly really to not lay ourselves bare before Him and discuss these matters without fear. I know parents who literally dread their children asking them tough questions about church, other people’s beliefs, Christianity, etc. because they either don’t know, or don’t like the answers that will follow. I just don’t understand this whatsoever. I cannot wait for my son to ask questions (he’s only 21 months)!  I long for the time that lies before us to search out answers together! I don’t fear what I don’t know or don’t understand! My Father is entirely able and eager to teach us and guide us.

One of our primary issues is that we’re biblically ignorant. Sure we know prominent verses from popular sermon topics but we don’t take the time to actually study the Word. (A Bible app on your iphone is not it my friends.) We must take time to study the Scriptures! We must sit in the quiet and ask the Father to give us clarity on matters that we wrestle with and most of all we must be transparent with Him always. Throughout the Old Testament you’ll find a phrase to be quite common that I believe we need to return to. The people were often found going to “inquire of the Lord”. Now, not every time, but in most occurrences, the people inquired and the Lord responded. May we be a people who live likewise and inquire of the Lord in our ignorance and doubts.

I don’t know it all and I never will. It’s so freeing to be alright with this simple fact. I may not know every spiritual/biblical question people will ask me. I may doubt the why’s of what God is bringing about in my life. I may even look up to the heavens and ask “God, are you really all that You say You are?” and I’m OK with that… and I believe that my Lord is too. May we be OK with being a Thomas because, as we saw in the text, he was ready to go with Jesus to the very end. Jesus knew this and invited his doubts and said, “Come… see… know…. experience Me.” I’m so thankful that I serve a Saviour like that. His awesome love  and compassion overwhelms and overtakes all of my doubt.

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