The biblical writers often used the imagery of a mountain to refer to something that seemed impossible. Like facing a climb up Mount Everest, the mountains you and I face in life can seem overwhelming. But we’re not meant to cower in fear and defeat. With God on our side, we’re meant to be invincible! And because of Christ, we can conquer the mountain of doubt.
Unfortunately, on this side of heaven, doubts are inevitable. None of us is exempt. In fact, some of God’s choicest servants went through periods of deep doubt. Moses doubted his ability as a deliverer; David doubted God would rescue him from King Saul; Elijah doubted he would survive Queen Jezebel’s hit squad; and Jeremiah doubted his call as a prophet.
Thomas is presented in the Gospels as a champion doubter. Because Thomas admitted his doubts, we tend to look down on him. But I like Thomas. He was honest and forthright. He didn’t pretend to accept things just so he could fit in with the crowd. Thomas was an independent thinker. He wasn’t afraid to raise his hand and press for answers he hadn’t quite grasped.
I find that refreshing because Thomas was brave enough to voice what the rest of us think but are too afraid to admit. He’s a spiritual everyman—a stand-in for our own confusion. There are times in all our lives when we wrestle with doubt. How much better would we be if we were more like Thomas, openly asking our questions and admitting our doubts rather than denying them? When we’re willing to put our doubts to the test, especially about life, the future, and God, we can grow in our faith.
Many believers today find themselves face-to-face with the imposing mountain of doubt, which can block their view of God. But there’s no greater reward for believers than to hear Jesus say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21, 23 NIV). If we want to receive this praise from Christ, we must learn to deal with our doubts. I believe there are at least three practical things we should do if we’re to be more like Thomas, transforming our doubts into faith.
- Don’t deny your doubts; acknowledge them.
Many people are afraid to admit they don’t have all the answers. Why don’t we want to admit our doubts? Deep down, we’re afraid that our questions are greater than God’s answers. We think the truth of Christianity may be weaker than the lies of atheism—that somehow, someday Christianity will be exposed as fraudulent. Can I tell you something? God can take all comers.
Late in the nineteenth century, German philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche famously declared, “God is dead.” Today, God declares, “Nietzsche is dead.” Philosophers come and go, but Jesus Christ remains. Trendy theories come and go, but biblical truth remains. As Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”
God is never disappointed or threatened by candid questions. He’s big enough to handle our doubts.
- Don’t dread your doubts; analyze them.
We tend to dread our doubts because we fear what our doubts will mean to our faith if we acknowledge them, and we also fear what others would think if our doubts were known. The problem with cowering in fear and refusing to acknowledge your doubts is that they’ll catch up with you in the end. When days grow difficult, you won’t have the faith to sustain yourself. This brings us to the second practical application: don’t dread your doubts; analyze them.
What caused you to doubt? Was it something someone said, maybe a so-called expert you saw on television, or an article you read? Maybe you’re the type of person who wants to have all the answers, with no mysteries in the universe. Is that the reason? Were you hurt by a spiritual leader? Did your supposedly godly spouse have an affair? Did God disappoint you in some way? Did He not answer a prayer or come through when you thought He should have?
Whatever the reason for your doubts, face them squarely and name them clearly. There’s nothing to dread. There’s no question or concern that God hasn’t heard or dealt with before. And if it helps, there’s a good chance that the doubt you’re struggling with is the same doubt others are struggling with too.
Remember, Thomas had the courage to say what the other disciples were thinking but were too afraid to say.
- Don’t disguise your doubts; articulate them.
My mentor and seminary professor Howard Hendricks often told his students that everyone needs a Paul as a mentor, a Timothy as a disciple, and a Barnabas as a friend.
As Solomon pointed out in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor; for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up! Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”
Don’t talk about your doubts only with other believers; talk about them with the Lord, too. I like author Mark Littleton’s simple formula for dealing with doubt: “Turn your doubts to questions. Turn your questions to prayers. Turn your prayers to God.”
When we turn to God and ask Him our questions, He shows up and encourages us, as He did with Thomas: “Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27).
Thomas never forgot those words. According to tradition, he went to India and then to China, where he established a church in Peking. Returning to India, Thomas converted thousands to Christ and established churches throughout the land. As an old man, Thomas was in a cave praying when Brahman priests, fearing Christianity would overtake Hinduism, thrust him through with a spear. The apostle dragged himself to a nearby chapel, held on to a stone cross, and prayed, “Lord, I thank Thee for all Thy mercies. Into Thy hands, I commend my spirit.”
Those are not the dying words of a doubter but of a person with a steadfast heart full of faith. And one day, when you’ve conquered the mountain of doubt, they can be your final words, as well.