The youth just finished up a two week series on doubt and the role it plays in a life of faith. We started out like last week by looking at the character of Thomas “the doubter”. The funny thing is that Thomas’ nickname as “doubter” always seems to be considered a bad thing, yet Jesus never tells him his doubt has pushed him away from faith. In fact, the Thomas narrative is the last story we read of before John gets to the thesis of his Gospel in John 20:31, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The last miracle we read of before John finishing his account of the life of Christ is not that Thomas doubted and Christ showed up- the miracle is that Jesus cares enough about us to alleviate our doubts. He won’t leave us out to dry.
Jesus who knew the scriptures front and back (for obvious reasons) was quite aware of the accounts of doubt in the scripture. Doubt as a concept (doubting God’s existence) was a pretty foreign concept to ancient Israelites, but doubting whether or not God would come through for Israel was not. In fact, Jesus called to mind a Psalm that both spoke of doubt and was a foreword looking prophecy about Jesus, the coming Messiah, when he quoted the first line of Psalm 22 while hanging from the cross. The line went like this, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Many have interpreted this as meaning that God actually turned his back on Jesus while he hung on the cross. They say that since God can’t be in the presence of sin, and Christ took on all sin, God left Jesus. I think that’s a wrong interpretation for a couple of reasons. First, that says that there is some place in this plane of existence that can be devoid of God’s presence, since God somehow left. That’s not right according to the picture painted about God in the rest of the Bible. Even more than that, though, is knowing that first century Jews, like Jesus, had to quote sections of scripture by reciting the first line of that section. The Bible wasn’t numbered into chapters and verses until around 1400 AD by some monks, so before then you would ask people to open to sections of scripture by quoting the first line of it to them. Jesus, when calling out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was not posing an actual question to God himself, but was reminding those at the foot of the cross of Psalm 22, a Psalm of David. That Psalm speaks of David doubting whether or not God would come through for him. The beginning of the lament Psalm starts out with David stating his position, where he felt abandoned by God. He was speaking both for himself, and perhaps for the Messiah, but David ultimately acknowledged that he felt abandoned by God.
Have there been times in your life where you felt abandoned by God? Maybe your parents were divorced when you were in elementary school and that left you feeling uncertain about God and why he would allow that. Maybe you were abused as a child and wonder where God was while you were being hurt. Maybe you had your heart broken by a boyfriend and wondered why God let you get into that mess in the first place. We have doubts about God’s sincerity. That’s okay. David did. But he didn’t just run away from his doubts- he took them straight to God (and made a song about them… huh).
We can take our doubts to God. He’s big enough to handle them. If the God you believe in can’t handle your “brilliant questions” then you aren’t serving a big enough God. The God of the BIble can handle your questions. Before you were born he knew you. He predestined you to the fold of God. He isn’t afraid of your questions.
David, throughout Psalm 22, came back to recognize that despite his doubts, and despite his worries about God, He always comes through for His people. Psalm 22:27-28 says,
All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.
David came to realize that God is bigger than His doubts. That God, in his covenant faithfulness, does not forget His people. Ultimately, Christ will cause every knee to bow and tongue to confess that He is Lord. And that’s a good thing, because that same Jesus will come to us, and through every possible means (including walking through walls to put our hands in his wounds) will alleviate our doubts.
So, may you remember that your doubts don’t scare God. May you remember that He can handle your tough philosophies. Your scientific inquiries. Your insecurities. God is bigger. And He loves you so much he’ll work through whatever means necessary so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, and that believing in Him you may have everlasting life. May God’s shalom find shelter in your heart.