Doubt.

blue and red dress religious man illustration

 “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.1

Worship is an appropriate response to seeing your recently-killed Rabbi standing before you, alive. But some of those eleven men on the hilltop doubted what they saw, and an honest reader will not be too hard on those disciples for their doubts. How many of us have seen dead men come back to life? If we live in a world where the dead can live again, the world is a stranger and more mysterious place than we thought. Resurrection shatters our worldviews and leaves us with more questions than answers. 

Interestingly, Jesus does not criticize the doubters. Instead, he commissions them (and the rest of the eleven) to a great task: “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”2 Like the disciples on the mountain, Jesus can handle your doubts and will still include you among his people and call you to play an active role in his mission.

We should not be surprised that God is okay with our doubts, for doubts litter the pages of Scripture. The tenth Psalm opens by asking two questions of God: “Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”3 The prophet Habakkuk opens his work by asking a series of similar questions: “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’  but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?”4 These are just two examples among many doubt-filled words to God that are now God’s word to us, inviting us to wrestle with God and candidly process our emotions with him. 

Many of us struggle with doubts and often feel far from the presence of God. We often feel as though we must not have real faith. We must learn that faith is not the absence of doubt. Faith is when, in spite of our doubt, we come before Jesus and declare: “I believe; help my unbelief!”5And to those believers who don’t experience much doubt: take the advice of the apostle Judah and have mercy on those who doubt,6 for your mercy acts as a signpost, pointing the doubter back to the real presence of the Merciful One. 

Referenced Sources 

1. Matthew 28:16-17 NIV; emphasis added

2. Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

3. Psalm 10:1 NIV

4. Habakkuk 1:2-3a NIV

5. Mark 9:24b ESV

6. Jude 22

7. Tim Mackie – Praying Through Doubt (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAtwOW03dAY

8. Paul Tillich – Dynamics of Faith (https://www.amazon.com/Dynamics-Faith-Perennial-Classics-Tillich/dp/0060937130

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