December 16, 2012

Doubting God

1. not convinced that something is true; doubtful.
2. tending to mistrust people, ideas, etc, in general.

I’ve been told that trust begins to develop at about age two. Children with loving and honest parents tend to trust easily. This was true for me. I did not expect that anyone would betray or hurt me until it began to happen, first in high school and then later. Perhaps my pain would have been less had I been more of a skeptic.

Yet skepticism has its downside. Not being able to trust anyone or believe anything can leave a person with no anchor, no convictions, and even no friends. Trust is an important part of peace of heart. Without it, one is always looking for proof of their doubts — rather than seeing and enjoying evidence for their trust. 

On this, the words of Jesus come to mind. “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Was He talking about that childlike ability to easily trust? 

In contrast, Jesus had plenty of contact with those who were skeptics. Some were ordinary citizens; many were religious leaders who went from skepticism to downright unbelief, even hatred, anger and murderous intentions. However, one of the skeptics was a disciple of Jesus. He believed somewhat, but after the crucifixion, he was certain that Jesus was dead.

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, 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 20:24–29)

I cannot criticize Thomas too much. While I am convinced of the resurrection and the reality of the risen Christ, how many times have I doubted the promises of God, or at least been skeptical that He heard my prayers? How often have I wondered if He really cared about me or would act on my behalf? How often have I said “if” to Him instead of “when”… or said “I believe…” and followed it with “but…”? 

Jesus knew that Thomas would believe once he saw Him with his own eyes, so He graciously revealed Himself to this doubter. He is not so gracious with others who use “not seeing” as an excuse. That is, most who say they will not believe unless they see it with their own eyes, really mean they won’t believe, period. For those, Jesus does not give them even so much as a glimpse.

As a child, any skepticism on my part was about things so outrageous that I could not simply believe them, like my father saying he would buy me a horse. I needed to see the horse. Instead of repeating the promise, Dad simply did what he said he would do.

God is like that with His children. He knows when our doubts are sincere and when they are a mask for not wanting to trust Him but to do our own thing. He knows when there is a seed of faith that needs the nurturing of sight to help it grow. He knows the difference between a doubting Thomas and a rejecting heart.

Lord, I’m also thinking of those who have lost their children in the horrific shooting in Connecticut. Tragedy breeds skepticism. Certainly many will be struggling with doubt about Your goodness and Your love for them. Those who know Jesus Christ could be saying, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) Those who do not know You may be filled with anger and rejection. Oh Jesus, You know who needs to see evidence of Your grace. May You bless these hurting, grieving people with whatever they need to cling to You in their sorrow.

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