“Mommy? I believe Jesus is real but sometimes my body doesn’t believe.” In my 8-year old’s language, my daughter was telling me she had doubts. She continued, “How can God hear me when I pray…then someone else prays? How does God know who asked for what? And how do I know if he says ‘yes’ or ‘no’?” The words tumbled out as her stored-up thoughts found a safe space to land.
If you ask my daughter if she is a Christian, she’ll joyfully report she made Jesus the boss of her life a year ago and plans to be baptized soon—and yet, she still has doubts. I’m 41 and I have doubts some days, months, and even years.
We are not alone. In the past few years, many icons of the Christian faith have struggled and sadly walked away no longer convinced of the power of the gospel. Many call it “deconstruction.” Unfortunately, few are successful in the work of reconstruction.
What’s a Christian to do when she has doubts? In the book of John, we read of a man with serious reservations about the risen Christ. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples who gathered together behind closed doors—all except Thomas, who was missing. When Thomas arrived back on the scene, the disciples rushed him with the news that Jesus was alive! Dismissing it, Thomas said, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail-scarred hands. You’ve been had.”
Thomas was not a guy who jumped on the Jesus train when he witnessed Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was chosen and discipled by Christ Himself—commissioned to heal the sick, cast out demons, and preach the coming kingdom. He was fed by the same fish and bread Jesus broke to feed thousands. And yet, when Thomas the disciple is mentioned, his name is often paired with the word ‘doubting.’
It can be easy to overlook what happened next. We tend to move right past it to the appearance of Christ, but what happened in the middle? It is nuanced but if we pay attention, we’ll see that Thomas stayed with the disciples. Despite his audacious statements of doubt, when Christ appeared again, Thomas was with the disciples. We find no written record of ostracization or challenges to have a little more faith. What we do find is a disciple of Christ who felt safe enough to be in the presence of other believers even though he doubted. And Jesus showed up.
I have a friend who speaks often to teenagers about their faith. He says, “It’s okay to have doubts. It is not okay to do nothing about it.” If you find yourself doubting your faith, you are not alone. If Thomas had doubts, it’s a fair bet we will as well. However, in your struggle to believe, don’t leave the company of other believers. Stay near to the faith-filled. Voice your audacious questions and concerns. Look into the scriptures and talk to God even as you doubt His existence. But please don’t walk away.
Dear believers in the presence of those who doubt: eight days after Thomas proclaimed his disbelief, he was still with the disciples. Struggle with those who struggle. An argument won is not worth the loss of a soul. Be present and wait with them, go to the scriptures, pray with and for them. It may take longer than eight days, but we can trust that Jesus will show up.