The Value of Doubt
Doubt, often viewed as a sign of weak faith, has been misunderstood by many. However, doubt doesn’t necessarily mean that one lacks faith. In fact, questioning and seeking clarification can be a commendable quality. As a young student, my 3rd grade teacher recognized the importance of my inquiries, writing on the back of my report card, “Jesse shows great interest in his school learning. He is constantly questioning to clarify ideas. It is an admirable quality.” Let’s explore the role of doubt within the context of Luke 24 and discover how doubt can lead to a deeper understanding of our faith.
Clarifying Doubts: The Example of Thomas
Thomas, also known as Didymus, has been unfairly credited as the first “doubting Thomas.” However, his doubt played a significant role in affirming the deity of Christ. Although not mentioned in Luke 24, we can find Thomas’ doubt and Jesus’ response to it in John 20:24-29. This interaction reveals that doubting or seeking clarification is a reasonable response when confronted with the miraculous.
Luke 24:36-37 says, “While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit.”
The disciples, like Thomas, were initially startled and frightened by Jesus’ resurrection appearance. They thought they were seeing a spirit. Sensing their doubts, Jesus reassured them, saying, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:36-39, NASB1995).
Instead of dismissing their doubts, Jesus reinforced the truth that He had indeed risen in the flesh. This physical resurrection of Jesus serves as a vital proof for Christians, highlighting the promise of a future resurrection where we will have physical bodies. Jesus was bringing together the spiritual and the physical, emphasizing the importance of the physical test.
Questioning in Faith: The Biblical Perspective
The Bible teaches us that faith does not require unquestioning belief. Throughout the Old Testament, we encounter individuals who dared to question and seek God’s confirmation. Examples like Gideon’s fleece (Judges 6:36-40) and Hezekiah’s sign (2 Kings 20:8-11) demonstrate that God welcomes questions and provides evidence to strengthen our faith. These stories emphasize the need to “constantly question to clarify ideas.”
Even Jesus Himself invited questions when they were offered in faith. As Christians, we should evaluate the intention behind the questioning, discerning whether it seeks understanding or aims to tear down our beliefs. In today’s age, social media often hosts comment sections where individuals attempt to dismantle Christian convictions. Engaging in such debates may not align with the spirit of genuine inquiry.
1 Peter 3:15 instructs believers to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (NIV). It is crucial to discern whether someone genuinely desires to understand our faith or simply seeks to challenge and destroy it.
Applying the Lesson: Responding to Doubt with Grace
Doubt can be a positive catalyst for seeking a clearer understanding of our faith. We should avoid urging others to “just believe” when they genuinely desire greater comprehension. Instead, let us respond with patience, intelligence, and respect, offering thoughtful answers to their questions.
Here are 4 practical ways to value doubt:
- Embrace doubts: Recognize that doubts are not necessarily signs of weak faith but opportunities for growth. Embrace them as a means to deepen your understanding of God and His Word.
- Seek clarification: When doubts arise, don’t be afraid to seek answers. Engage in personal Bible study, consult trusted mentors or pastors, and explore reputable resources to gain insights and clarity.
- Approach doubts with discernment: Discern whether the intention behind the doubts of others is to genuinely seek understanding or to attack your beliefs. Respond to genuine seekers with grace and wisdom, but avoid engaging in fruitless debates driven by destructive intent.
- Share your faith with gentleness and respect: Be prepared to share the reasons for your hope and beliefs when approached by sincere seekers. However, always respond with gentleness and respect, maintaining an attitude of love and humility.
Remember the words of James 1:5, which encourages us to ask God for wisdom when we lack understanding: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (NASB1995). Approach doubt as an opportunity to seek divine wisdom and grow in your faith.
Doubt, when approached with a sincere desire for clarity, can be a steppingstone toward a stronger and more informed faith. Just as Thomas sought to verify the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, we too can seek understanding through our doubts. Let us not dismiss or fear doubt, but rather embrace it as a means to deepen our relationship with God. As we engage with doubt in faith, may we respond with grace, extend understanding to others, and continually seek the truth that illuminates our path.