The Art of Doubting

Hey, friend–so, it’s been a minute. Last time I wrote you was 6 July 2017. Since then, a few big life things have happened. In the last two and a half years, a democrat won in Alabama, I joined the Gospel Choir at OBU, and learned how to fill my tires with air. I learned that I love to two-step, took hours upon hours of summer and winter classes in order to graduate on time, and read Frankenstein for the first time (it changed my life, btw). In the last two and a half years, I have grappled with what to do with my life about a thousand times. From dreams of being in Congress to protecting journalism, to law school in London, to non-profits in D.C. (Spoiler alert–none of those things are what I’m pursuing now, and that’s ok.) I learned that literature means more to me than I realized it did, that I wanted to impact people the way my teachers and professors had impacted me, and got to teach for the first time. I lived with my best friends, had countless dance parties, and stayed up way too late. I figured out the obvious truth that I wanted to be a teacher, got into grad school at the school I’ve been cheering for since I can remember, graduated college, started grad school three weeks later, and started working a job where I get to make coffee all day. Romantic, right?

Ok, a lot has happened. But, here’s the point–since 6 July 2017, a lot of good and a lot of bad has happened. I’ve loved and I’ve been hurt and I’ve been redeemed and I’ve asked “why?” I’ve been confused, been faced with countless decisions that need to be made (and if you know me at all, you know making decisions is my worst nightmare). I’ve asked God what I should do, and I’ve been confused when I don’t hear a choir of angels descending from the heavens, telling me exactly what to do. (So rude, right?) In each moment, big and small, I’ve found myself in doubtful waters, wading in and out, overwhelmed with the uncertainties of life (and y’all know I REALLY like to plan.)

Self doubt–am I really capable of getting into grad school? Doubt about my interests–is Jesus ok with how much I love politics? (I think He manages quite well.) Doubts about my passions–what do I actually want to do with my life? Doubts about my own ability to hear God’s voice–I thought God wanted me to do one thing, but now I feel like He wants me to do something else. Doubts about what the right thing to do–do my convictions about life and ministry and people make God proud? Am I doing the right thing, here? Sound familiar? Probably, if you’re human.

Here’s the thing: life is big and sometimes hard to figure out and get stuff right. But one of the most beautiful parts of a relationship with Christ is the freedom to doubt under His grace. I probably just made a lot of people mad. But hear me out. Over the years, one of my favorite stories in the Bible has become the story of doubting Thomas. If you’ve spent any time talking about life with me, I’ve probably brought it up (because we ALL experience doubt, whether we like to admit it or not).

The story comes after Jesus has risen from death after three days in a grave. Jesus shocks some of His disciples who had seen his really real death on a cross by appearing to them, really Him and really alive. But Thomas, one of the disciples, wasn’t there to see the really real and really alive Jesus when He first appeared. So when he heard that Jesus had risen from the dead, he basically said “prove it”. This guy seriously doubted so deeply that his nickname for the rest of time is Doubting Thomas. I’d like to think I would say something else, but let’s be real–I probably would’ve done the same. I love this next part so much, so I’m just gonna drop the verses right here (full passage is John 20:24-29):

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (Emphasis mine.)

Guys. What grace. What love. What freedom! Instead of shunning Thomas for his disbelief, He instructed Thomas to literally stick his hand into the really real wounds. Through his doubt, Jesus still said “Come here. It’s really me. I’m really here.” Here, Jesus makes Himself very clearly known to Thomas, despite owing him zero justification (that’s grace). Isn’t that what Jesus does? We mess something up, we don’t deserve a second chance, but He gives us one anyway? And another one? And another? The story is already a good one if it ends there. But it doesn’t, and I think we have a lot to learn from Thomas.

I think a piece of doubting is an unconscious acknowledgment that the idea we’re trying to grasp is far outside of our own capabilities of understanding. It’s beyond us. We simply cannot even. But I also think there is a weird honor and blessing over doubting. When you think about it, we doubt the things we don’t understand. But if we don’t understand it, doesn’t that mean we’ve actually given it at least a little thought? And that’s important. I think Jesus wants us to think about stuff. I really and truly and honestly believe that Jesus cares that we dig deep enough into the hard things of life that we realize our inability to grasp some things without him. I mean, He literally told Thomas to dig deep into his very physical wounds. And it takes courage to dig.

So let’s dig.

To be honest, I have almost no answers about life. But in every wave of uncertainty about what the right thing to do or say or think is, Jesus is there, reminding me how really real He is. How He’s really there, encouraging me to continue digging. To continue getting to know Him. To continue asking what it practically looks like for His will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10).

When you find yourself in doubt, Jesus is there, holding his wounds out for you to dig. Don’t know if you believe in God? Let’s dig together. Don’t know what method of ministry is the most honoring to God and His people? I’m right there with you (seriously, I think about this one a lot). Don’t know how to handle family stuff? Keeping digging. He’s there, I promise.

Digging is so uncomfortable. But He’s there. Some things won’t make sense (that’s that peace that surpasses all understanding stuff I’m talking about (Philippians 4:7)). But it is so, so worth it. I’m going to keep digging, because every time I do, I find Jesus on the other side. And that gives me the faith to stop doubting and believe (John 20:27). Let’s be real together about the things we don’t understand and ask our faithful Father to help us have the courage to be honest about our doubt and the willingness to dig. Thank God for His grace and patience and never-ending love for us.

Until next time, my lovely friends.