Blessed Are Those Who Doubt
Forty days after the resurrection, Jesus lead his disciples out as far as Bethany. During that time Jesus had appeared to his disciples, allowed them to touch his wounds, and ate with them to prove to them he was still human. That he had not returned as a spirit but that he had truly resurrected from the dead as flesh and blood. He had “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45) yet Matthew tells us that although they worshipped him, “some doubted” (Matt 28:17).
In the 21st century, we suffer from what Peter Enns calls “the sin of certainty.” We shame people for having doubts because we have bought into the lie that we can prove God and the Bible through science and empirical data. But as any serious Biblical scholar will tell you, certainty is not a product of Scripture but of the secular enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries.
He was not bothered by their doubts. If he was then certainly this would have been the time to address it, yet Jesus in both Matthew and Luke seems unbothered by the disciple's mix of worship and doubt.
James tells us that those who doubt are like “the waves of the sea that are driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:6). And Hebrews 11:6 tells us that it is impossible to please God without faith. But Jude, the brother of Jesus gives us an insight into the heart of Jesus. Writing to a church to warn them about false teachers he counsels them, “have mercy on those who doubt.”
At first, we might be shocked to find this little-known verse in the Bible, but when we really stop to think about it, it is consistent with the heart of Scripture and Jesus because: doubt and questions are at the heart of the wisdom of Scripture. Doubt is not denial, doubt is question.
Jude, the brother of Jesus, did not pull his statement out of thin air. He pulled it out of his personal experience with Jesus. For three years the disciples doubted and misunderstood but Jesus had mercy on them. And here they are, post-resurrection and forty-day Bible study, and yet they still doubt. And Jesus is unphased.
He is unphased because as we stated, doubts are not denials: they are questions.
And questions are at the heart of what makes us wise.
When Lot doubted if God was doing what was right in destroying Sodom and Gomorrah he asked, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25 KJV). When God abandoned Israel in the desert, Moses asked God “For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight… Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct… from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Ex 33:16) The Book of Habakkuk is a lament questioning God’s justice in view of Israel’s corruption and God’s proposed solution.
And on and on we could go.
Doubt is not denial, it is question. Faith can co-exist with doubt as long as it continues to search. In fact, faith needs a healthy amount of doubt. Because faith that has no doubts stops asking questions. It becomes sure of itself and stagnant and unnecessarily closed off to the speaking of the Spirit.
It is doubt that leads us to take our questions about God, the Bible, life, and everything else to God and friends. When we ask “why?” we are employing doubt, but it does not necessarily need to be a denial that God is good, that he can redeem a tragedy, or that there is no good answer. And you can tell when someone asks a question out of searching or out of denial.
We have no evidence to suggest that those who doubted were not addressed in the great commission or were absent in the upper room of Acts 2. Those who doubted were commissioned and received the Holy Spirit together with those who did not. Consider the paralyzed man who was healed not because of his own faith but, but because of the faith of his friends (Mark 2:1-12). God does not only reward those who have perfect faith.
That is not to say we should always doubt, or that we have no personal responsibility to strengthen our faith and have assurance, (James and the author of Hebrews would remind us sternly that faith is necessary). But rather, it is a reminder that God is merciful to us when we doubt, and we should be merciful to each other when we doubt.
As one of my favorite musical artists, Andy Mineo, puts it “The opposite of faith ain’t doubt. It’s when u got it all figured out.” Or as Brian Zhand notes in his book When Everything’s on Fire, “Most Christians can deal with inevitable doubt as long as there is room for doubt.”
And Jesus in fact leaves room for it.