Living with Doubts

Thomas is always getting lambasted by Christians for his lack of faith. In fact Thomas is never called 'Doubting Thomas' in the Bible (see John 20:24-29). What we see instead is that Thomas desires greater confirmation of Jesus' resurrection than some of the other disciples. In verse 27 Jesus does not criticise Thomas for daring to want more certainty, instread he openly offers his hands and side to Thomas so that he might "not be unbelieving but believing" v.27.

Many depressed and anxious Christians I have spoken to recently have been battling with a sense that they are not feeling certain of many things in their lives, most troubling of which has been their faith in God. The more anxious of these have tried really hard to get themsleves certain by thinking really hard about what they believe, but generally this brings no relief. For some of the more obsessive, even the thought that they are having doubts makes them even more anxious and some have been concerned that this is 'The unforgivable sin", further exaccerbating their fears.

Anxiety and depression often lead people down a dangerous road towards the need for certainty about their heath, their relationships, their futures and also their beliefs. Now, it is really simple to go back and recheck that your door is locked. However, how do you go back and check that Jesus is really risen from the dead, or that he loves you as you are, or that your sins are forgiven, or that you are going to heaven?

I could say just pray, or read your Bible again or go to church...and all of these are a good things to do. However, anxiety sufferers will not be helped by this because their quest is something that cannot be found in any of these places. The fact is that Christianity is a faith. The whole bible is filled with reaffirmation that faith in Jesus saves, heals, restors and revives. In this story from John, Jesus himself praises those who haven't seen "yet have believed". v29.

Faith cannot really exist in the absence of doubt. You see Jesus praises those who need even more faith than Thomas to believe. If you like, it was easier for Thomas than it will be for you or me! Certainty is something that has little to do with faith. For example, if I am standing on a concrete pavement I do not have to have faith that I will not fall through it, I know that I will not fall through it...I am certain. If I said that I was struggling to have faith that it would hold my weight people would think I was odd.

You are not deficient or less of a Christian if you go through periods of doubt about your faith. Faith is hard and Jesus understands this, he was, after all, sympathetic to Thomas! Every Christian, no matter how old and experienced wakes up each moring and makes a subconscious choice to believe in Jesus. That is 'believe'. I chose to believe in Jesus, the truth of the Bible and the life eternal every day, and I do this in the face of some doubt. My doubts are what makes my faith faith!

Living healthy and moving out of anxiety and depression will mean accepting a lot of doubts. Giving up the need to be certain about whether you will get ill, lose your family or go broke are a really good steps. Remember though, that giving up the need to know things with absolute certainty does not mean that you give up taking steps to ensure that those things do not happen to the best of your ability. That might mean still going to the doctor for your test results, still taking your medication, still loving your family etc. It will not mean constantly thinking about and trying to stop all of the catestrophic imaginations of your mind.

With regard to your faith. Instead of trying to iron out all doubts, pray about them. Tell Jesus how you feel, "Jesus I am not certain about my faith today, but with my will I choose to believe in you, please bring me more of your gift of faith and help my unbelief. Amen". Jesus does not condemn you for having doubts, they make your faith be faith and remember that Jesus celebrated when people had the faith of a mustard seed! Start enjoying the small mustard seed of faith you have today and stop searching for certainty, instead relax and trust that God has you in his hands, no matter how unreal those hands may feel today.

Don't hurt yourself with the quest for certainty, let God heal you with the gift of faith.

Will Van Der Hart, 08/04/2008