Doubt can have many sources, but very often it comes from a situation of pain, or trauma. That was certainly the context in which we find Thomas in John 20. Jesus comes to Thomas and is the embodiment of God’s forgiving, gracious, patient, compassionate love. He meets Thomas where he is at and provides what he needs in order for him to believe.
For many of us, our doubts and struggles seem to not be so easily resolved. Yet, we can take encouragement for Jesus’ encounter with Thomas. Edwin quoted the biblical commentator Matthew Henry who wrote, “The God of Israel is sometimes a God who hides himself, but never a god that is absent, sometimes in the dark, but never at a distance”. I think this captures a deep truth, that ever if we feel God is not close to us, or we feel we are in a dark place, God is with us whether we are aware of his presence or not.
How can we deal with doubt?
I think there are three practical things we can do when we are in a period of doubt or struggle, indeed these are things which are just good to do even if this is not the season we are in.
Doubt can cause us to isolate both from God and from his people, but we need to connect with God and each other. Thomas did not cut himself off, but he came to be with his fellow disciples. Likewise, we need to bring our doubts, our questions, our pain to God in prayer and to church. We may also need to find someone wise and in whom we can trust to share our struggles with so that they can stand with us and be a companion on our journey.
There were a couple of books suggested by people on Sunday, and often reading of other people’s experiences can be helpful and give us a language with which to articulate our own thoughts and feelings. The two books that were suggested were Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey and Benefit of the Doubt by Greg Boyd. You may find these books helpful.
Finally, it is good to listen. I find music helpful because it can simultaneously give me words to describe what I am feeling or thinking, and it can also help lift me out of a dark place. Over recent weeks I’ve got a lot from listening to Andrew Peterson and I’ve particularly enjoyed his songs called I’ve seen too much. Like the character in Peterson’s song in moments of doubt and struggle “I cannot deny what I know to be true …cause I’ve seen to much” I’ve seen God move in my life and in the life of others. And so, we cling to God asking that he reveal himself to us afresh and move again.