Doubting the Resurrection - Part 3
In previous blog entries, I’ve been looking at Thomas’ struggle to believe the Easter message, as recorded in John 20. His story serves as a good case study for exploring the causes of doubt and constructive ways to handle doubt. In this entry, I’d like to look at Thomas again in order to discuss the benefits of doubting.
For a Christian, to go through a season of uncertainty about the gospel message can be frightening and painful. We should not actively seek to experience doubt or expose ourselves to situations that we know will threaten our faith. However, if God allows us to pass through a time of questioning our belief in him, we will often see the Lord use that struggle to deepen our relationship with himself and to lead us to greater spiritual maturity.
We see this in the example of Thomas. Though he may have doubted the resurrection more than the other disciples did, when he finally worked through his period of questioning, Thomas came out the other side with a deeper understanding of the identity of Christ than perhaps anyone else possessed. When Thomas saw the risen Lord, he said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” This is the earliest and one of the clearest testimonies to the divinity of Christ that we find in the New Testament. Thomas the doubter became Thomas the confessor, and his confession was more profound perhaps than that of any of his peers.
We shouldn’t find this surprising. Author and teacher, Timothy Keller, commenting on the benefits of doubting, writes:
“A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe … will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person's faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts …”
The benefits of doubt can be seen in the profound insights of Christian thinkers who came to faith in Christ after wrestling (sometimes for years) with agnosticism, anti-Christian dogma, or blatant unbelief. Examples include: C.S. Lewis; Joy Davidman; Mark Dever; Peter Hitchens; Nicky Gumbel; Allister McGrath; Malcolm Muggeridge; Dorothy Day; Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; Francis Collins; Marvin Olasky; Lee Strobel; and the Apostle Paul. For most of these individuals, their deep insights into the Christian faith did not result in spite of their struggles with doubt, but rather because of these struggles.
And, of course, we should add someone else to the list: Thomas the Apostle. We do not know much more about Thomas after this event in John 20. Thomas is mentioned one more time in the gospel of John and once in the book of Acts. But ancient Christian tradition holds that Thomas became a travelling evangelist and missionary, taking the gospel as far as India where he laid down his life for the Lord. If this is true, we can only wonder about the role his early struggle with doubt played in the production of such magnificent faith.
So, if you are wrestling with uncertainty about the Easter message, you are in good company. Don’t lose heart. Don’t give up. Share your struggles with other believers and, most importantly, with the Lord. And hold onto hope as you wait for Jesus to meet you in your journey just as he did Thomas.