I began this blog by quoting a song my grandmother taught me concerning worry and prayer. It had a line in it, “Don’t be a doubting Thomas, rest surely on his promise . . .” Of all the disciples, Thomas sticks out the most. We know how Judas betrayed Jesus, but we also realize he was part of God’s plan. We know how Peter denied Jesus – and how Jesus forgave him. We know Matthew, the tax collector, and James and John – the Sons of Thunder. We know Philip as the evangelist and Andrew who brought Peter to Jesus. We hear of Simon the Zealot, Bartholomew, Thaddeus, and James (the lesser). If I called out their names and asked for a one word description, most of us would not be able to agree. But if I mention Thomas, we would all say, “Doubter.” Thomas and doubting will forever be engraved in our collective conscientiousness. I ask you, “What’s so wrong with doubting?”
Let’s face it, everyone has doubts. My life story deals a lot with doubts. I doubted that there was a God. I doubted that God could possibly love me. I doubted myself and I even doubted my call. I doubted if I was a good parent, a good pastor, a good wife, a good person. I doubted my purpose and I even doubted if anyone could possibly love me. I want you to hear this, “If anyone says they never doubt - they are fooling themselves.” Everyone has doubts about something. The Good News is that God never gave up on me! In Methodist terms, God provides all of us with prevenient grace – that grace that goes before us to let us begin to seek for God. For me, I had some religious instruction growing up, but I rejected it and didn’t become a Christian until I was 15 years old. All during my doubting times, God was letting me see glimpses of all he was doing in my life. I loved science and wanted to be an Astrophysicist when I grew up. I had a telescope at age 12. I was convinced that since I did not see God in my telescope, God must not exist. Still, when I looked at the stars, there seemed to be a pattern that I could not explain. When I studied the planets, I had to ask if there was more to life than just being born and dying. God was inviting me to explore faith. When I believed and explored my faith, I felt God’s presence with me and that’s when I recognized God’s inviting grace in my life all along.
That didn’t mean the end of my struggles and doubts. No, rather it meant the beginning of my faith journey. It meant redefining who I was and honestly asking the hard questions of life. I have come to realize that once I believed, my life really began. God’s amazing grace and love not only found me but enabled me to find myself. Doubting was the first step in a long process of belief.
What doubts do you struggle with? How can prayer help you with your doubts? Even though I didn’t believe in God, I felt the need to pray “just in case.” I wanted to cover all my bases! When I prayed, I was certain that if there WAS a God, he didn’t care about me. When I prayed, my attitude was “I bet if there is a God, he won’t answer this prayer.” I’d love to tell you that God answered my prayer in spite of my unbelief. But that isn’t what happened. God DID answer my prayer, but it wasn’t the answer I wanted. God said, “No.” I heard his answer loud and clear. Then I knew. There is a God and he does care about me. He cared enough to answer my prayer, “No.” My doubts dissolved and I began to accept God’s grace and love.
Doubting Thomas has gotten a bad reputation. Remember what Thomas said when Jesus revealed himself to him? Thomas proclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” That’s not doubt. That’s grace! Thomas believed! Do you need to talk to someone about your doubts? Do you need some clarity in order to accept God’s grace? Let me know. We can pray together. We can explore our faith. Remember, there is NOTHING wrong with doubting!
Rev. Bev Hall, pastor of Pleasant Hills United Methodist Church, Middleburg Heights, OH