“I have a friend who just turned 88, and she just shared with me that she’s afraid of dying.I sit here years from her experience and try to bring her comfort. I try to bring her comfort, but what do I know? What do I know?
She grew up singing ‘bout the Glory Land, and she would testify how Jesus changed her life.
It was easy to have faith when she was 34, but now her friends are dying and death is at her door.”
These lyrics begin the song “What Do I Know” by Sara Groves. The old lady is facing darkness (in the form of death) and finds herself doubting. These lyrics strike a chord with me because they remind me that doubt often creeps into our lives in the crises, and I think it would strike a chord with “Doubting Thomas” too.
Doubting Thomas—you know the one? Here’s a reminder from John 20:24-29:
Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Yeah, that Thomas. Thomas was such a doubter that he has a whole type of person named after him. He has another nickname too, though—one that for all the years I’ve heard his name has eluded my notice. The verse above calls Thomas “The Twin.” I always figured that he was a twin to some other disciple, but the NKJV Study Bible has another take. The commentary says, “In Thomas, the twins of belief and unbelief contended with each other for mastery. He seems to have combined devotion to Jesus with a tendency to see the dark side of things.”
Ouch. That might as well be describing me. The one who writes a Christian blog but sometimes wonders how my God can be the one true one. I’ve always struggled with doubt. I can’t remember how many times I’ve asked Jesus into my heart “just to be safe” when the pastor prays “the prayer” out loud, and I remember raising my hand at church camp in middle school when they asked, “Raise your hand if you’re not sure if you’re a Christian.”
I wish I could just faithfully trust in Jesus, but if I said I did, that would be a lie. I don’t even always trust that He exists—I just don’t. Late at night as I’m falling asleep, I sometimes wonder how to know He’s really there. How do I know that Christianity is the one true religion? Do I just have to hope for the best, to hope that when I die I end up at the gates of Jesus’ heaven and not Allah’s hell? If I’m honest, I’m way more of a Thomas than I would like to convince people. In Carolyn, the twins of belief and unbelief contend with each other for mastery.
The thing is, even though we can’t reach out and touch Jesus like Thomas could, we can see evidence of Him. Lately I’ve been trying to memorize Psalm 37. I haven’t gotten past the first few stanzas because I always get stuck pondering verse 3: “Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.” Feed on His faithfulness. I think if Thomas had fed a little more on Jesus’ faithfulness, he would’ve doubted a little less. If he’d thought about the promises Jesus had made—if he’d considered a little more about who Jesus was—maybe he wouldn’t have found it so hard to believe that Jesus had kept those promises.
If I fed on Jesus’ faithfulness more and fully trusted him, nothing that happened would seem bad, and yet things still happen that break my heart. I turn right where I could’ve just as easily turned left, and right leads to chaos, and I’m just so mad at God that He let me take that right when going left was just as possible. But in those moments of pure doubt, I can feed on His faithfulness. I can look at all the times He came through for me and all the good things He is, and I can come to the realization (over and over and over) that I can’t think of a time when He’s let me down.
There will still be those times when feeding on His faithfulness feels like eating moldy leftovers, but I think God is patient with us in our doubt. Look at Judges 6:36-40. Gideon wants to be sure that God will save Israel, so he puts a piece of wool on the threshing floor, and says that if there is dew on the fleece only but not the ground, he’ll know God will save Israel. God obliges, and Gideon still isn’t satisfied. He says, “Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more; Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece.” He reverses the request, “And God did so that night.”
The catch is that Gideon had already been told that God would save Israel—the earlier verse 14 says so. Gideon doubted, but God came through.
I’m not promoting doubting and testing God. I think it’s very easy to let that spiral into sin. I’m just saying that the God I know knows I’m not perfect. He was patient with Gideon through his doubt, he was patient with Thomas through his, and He is patient with me through mine.
In the song I mentioned earlier, Sara Groves comes to this same conclusion as an answer to her question of “What do I know?”:
But I know to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord,
And from what I know of Him, that must be very good.
Sisters, even when we feel like we don’t know anything and can’t trust anything, we can know His heart. And from what we can see of Him in the Bible and in our world and in our lives, His heart must be very good indeed.