When We Doubt
How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? (Psalm 89:46)
We will almost always struggle with doubts about God’s love during our times of adversity. If we never had to struggle, our faith would not grow. But we must engage in the struggle with our doubts; we must not let them overwhelm us. During seemingly intolerable times, we may feel like David, who said at a time of great distress: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1)
David had his doubts; he struggled with them. In fact, in the next verse he continues his struggles as he asks, “How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? (13:2) He felt God had, at least for a time, forgotten him. But by the enabling power of God, David won his struggle. He overcame his doubts. He could then say, “I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5-6)
You and I, like David, must wrestle with our thoughts. With God’s help we, too, can come to the place, even in the midst of our adversities, where we will be able to say, “I trust in Your unfailing love.”
It is true that we are just as dependent upon the Holy Spirit to enable us to trust in God’s love as we are dependent upon Him to enable us to obey His commands. But just as we are responsible to obey in confidence that He is at work in us, so we are responsible to trust Him in that same attitude of dependence and confidence. Many times in our distress we have to do as one man dis before Jesus when he “ cried out and said, ‘I believe, help my unbelief.’”(Mark 9:24)
We are all familiar with the story of Thomas. As a matter of fact we have given him the name Doubting Thomas. In truth we are all doubters and one of our greatest battles is the battle of faith and doubt. So then the question is how did Jesus respond to Thomas and what can we learn from His response.
Let’s read the story:
But Thomas, one of the twelve [disciples], who was called Didymus (the twin), was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the marks of the nails, and put my finger into the nail prints, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe.” Eight days later His disciples were again inside the house, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, though the doors had been barred, and stood among them and said, “Peace to you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and put out your hand and place it in My side. Do not be unbelieving, but [stop doubting and] believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, do you now believe? Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, and favored by God] are they who did not see [Me] and yet believed [in Me].”
The first thing we notice is the fact that Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus came to them after resurrection. He was being asked to believe a report from his fellow disciples. Now we have to remember that all he knew was the betrayal by Judas, the denial of Peter, and that they had all fled from the garden. Whether he actually saw the crucifixion we do not know, but we can be sure that he knew of it based on his statement. He wanted proof that what would be in his mind the wildest dream has come true. He wasn’t willing to take anyone else’s word, he wanted to see for himself. And isn’t this us most of the time? We may be critical of Thomas but what of the other disciples? Mark tells os of their initial responses and how Christ helped them believe again. Let’s read:
[Now Jesus, having risen [from death] early on the first day of the week, appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went and reported it to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it. After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them as they were walking along the way to the country. They returned [to Jerusalem] and told the others, but they did not believe them either. Later, Jesus appeared to the eleven [disciples] themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He called them to account for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen [from death]. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 He who has believed [in Me] and has been baptized will be saved [from the penalty of God’s wrath and judgment]; but he who has not believed will be condemned.
Did you notice that they also initially doubted? Did you notice that they also rejected the reports of other humans? And so Jesus in both cases- Thomas and the other disciples- came to them and through His presence their doubts melted into faith.
So my friend if you are facing doubt, Christ is waiting to make Himself known. It would unfair to expect you to believe because I or another believer gives a report of what we have seen and experienced. A thousand times no for what every person needs to have faith is an encounter for themselves with the Sovereign God.
Paul, writing to the Romans says:
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
I know that many interpret this to mean that faith comes by reading or hearing the scriptures but may I gently remind us what John says in the opening words of His gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
I think it is fair to say that only Christ can speak to the storms of doubt and only He can calm the winds of confusion and bold at bay the waves of despair. So to all of us who doubt, let us come to Christ, confess our doubting and open our hearts and souls and receive again that incredible gift of faith. It was this gift after that we received which started us on this journey with Christ and it will be that daily manna of faith that will bring us through to that day when we see face to face.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
So let this God who gave you the faith to believe for salvation now give you the faith to face your adversities and may we cry as Thomas cried, “My Lord and My God!”
Dr. John Thompson