Grace for Those Who Doubt
Can someone with doubts still follow Jesus?
In this spring season, we commemorate the most significant event in all of history. Someone just like us was dead. In a tomb. No pulse. And then He became alive again.
That man—Jesus—is now the most followed person in the world. That’s how central He is in history.
A question that might linger in the shadows is: What if it’s not true? When you think of an almost unbelievable miraculous event like Easter, how can we know for sure? Certainly, this is one of the most incredible—and most doubted—events in all of history.
Do you ever have doubts that creep in? You may wish you could believe more easily. You look around and think, Why does faith come so easily for other people?
If Jesus’ opinion of us matters most, there’s another question we want to ask: How does He respond to our doubt?
Can a person with doubts still follow Him?
Jesus’ First Followers
We don’t have to wonder. Matthew tells us of an encounter that Jesus had with followers who were plagued with doubt.
Just after Jesus came back from death, His followers met Him in the region of Galilee. “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” (Matt. 28:16–17).
Think about that. They saw Him with their own eyes. They could touch Him, watch Him, and talk with Him. Even still, “some doubted.”
It’s not just here that we read about their doubts. In Luke 24, another Resurrection passage, we see how Jesus’ followers were startled and frightened when they saw Him again. There was no category for this. He was dead. Locked in a grave. They thought they were seeing a ghost.
And then in the Gospel of John, we read about doubting Thomas. When you have doubts, you’re in pretty good company!
Yet the question remains: What do you do with doubts?
It’s fascinating to see how Jesus responded, or maybe how He didn’t respond. He didn’t get upset with His followers, even though they had tremendous proof—right before their eyes—that He was indeed alive. He didn’t give them a lecture. He simply reassured them as to who He is.
In the very next verse, Matthew 28:18, He said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Then He invited them to be on mission with Him. But He didn’t kick them off the team. He didn’t scold them. It’s OK to have doubts.
It’s helpful to make a distinction. Many think that doubt is the opposite of faith, but that’s not the case. The opposite of faith is unbelief. It’s a huge distinction.
Unbelief refers to our will. We make a decision not to believe. We refuse to accept that there is a God. We don’t allow that He might deserve some sort of allegiance on our part. That’s a lot different from doubt.
Author Os Guiness, in his classic book In Two Minds, writes that doubt comes from a word meaning “two.” You can see that the root of “double” and “doubt” are the same. He writes, “To believe something is to be ‘in one mind’ about accepting something as true. And to disbelieve is to be ‘in one mind’ about rejecting it. But to doubt is to waver between the two so that you’re ‘in two minds.’”
In other words, you can have a strong faith and still have some doubts. You can be a follower of Jesus and have some uncertainty. You don’t have to settle every single theological question once and for all. Jesus allows for doubt.
Look at the Evidence
Another strategy in dealing with doubt is to take a closer look at the evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection. Jesus encourages that.
When the disciples were gathered in a locked room, something happened. The two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road and how they had recognized Him as He was breaking the bread. And just as they told about it, Jesus Himself suddenly stood there among them.
“Peace be with you,” He said. But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!
“He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Luke 24:38–39).
See what He did? He said, “Check the evidence for yourself. Deal with the doubts that linger in your mind.”
We can still do that today. There’s the evidence of an empty tomb. Jesus’ enemies never could produce His body even though they aggressively guarded the tomb.
There’s eyewitness evidence with more than 500 people who saw Jesus after He came back from the dead. Numerous ones were willing to die as martyrs, testifying to the very end that Jesus had been resurrected.
There’s the explosive growth of the Church through the centuries with some of the brightest intellectuals and artists and world leaders committing themselves to the historicity of the Resurrection and the One who is at the center of it all.
Check the evidence—it’s compelling.
Look at the impact of Jesus through history.
Still, He is patient with our doubts.
Confidence in Crises
We live in a broken world, filled with disappointment and grief. How do we live with a sense of confidence in the One who has conquered death?
In the last three years, I have officiated more than 30 funerals. A significant number of them came with stunning unexpectedness. One of those was an elder in our church. Hit head-on by a drunk driver, he was killed instantly, and his wife was severely injured. It was a crushing blow for their family and for our church.
I’m grateful that Jesus is still patient when doubts assail us in the midst of crisis. Yet, we can choose faith even then.
My friend’s obituary and the service reflected his favorite verse.
“I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him with my own eyes”
It’s a declaration spoken by Job, a man who suffered in unthinkable ways. If anyone had reason to doubt, Job was the guy. It felt like God had abandoned him, forgotten him.
In the midst of his pain, and with doubts coming at him from every which way, Job makes his bold declaration: “I know that my Redeemer lives.”
I’m more comfortable with doubt today. I haven’t suffered like Job, but I live with disappointment and unanswered questions, grateful that Jesus is patient with my doubts.
As long as we live in this sin-infected world, we will have unanswered questions. In the middle of our crises, with lingering doubts, we can still choose the way of Job and stand firm, knowing our Redeemer lives.
If Jesus truly was willing, as God, to come to earth for me, willing to suffer a cruel death in my place, how can I not trust Someone like that? Even with unanswered questions, even with deep disappointments and unexpected loss, even with prayers that seem to go unanswered, He calls us to trust Him.
So we pray together, Lord Jesus, with whatever doubts I have, I believe that You are alive, and I invite You to have Your rightful place of leadership in my life. Thank You for giving me enough evidence to outweigh my doubts. I choose to believe, with Your followers through history, that in the end You will stand in victory and I will see You with my own eyes. Until that day, may I walk in faithfulness to You. I pray this with all of Your authority. Amen.
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