Yes, doubt can be a very serious and dangerous thing. No, I’m not trying to minimize the devastating impact that doubt has had in the lives and on the souls of many people. However, when we speak of doubt in a spiritual context we often talk about it as though it is the point of no return. We fear for the moment doubt might creep into our children’s minds and shield them from any opposing viewpoints to guard their faith. But while doubt can be devastating in many respects it can also be a stepping-stone to a stronger and more stable faith when it is approached with honesty and sincerity. Let’s think about it through the eyes of one of the most famous “doubters” in the Bible:
“Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’ Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:24-28).
I hesitate to call Thomas a “doubter” because he was just looking for confirmation before he blindly accepted the news he had heard. But when doubt is approached with honesty and sincerity it’s really just a search for confirmation of truth anyways. So when we experience that type of sincere and honest doubt, like Thomas in John 20, it can be a blessing because of where it will lead.
Doubt Leads to Exploration. When Thomas heard the news that Jesus was alive and well after seeing Him so brutally tortured and executed he reserved judgment until he could see the evidence (John 20:24-25). Ideally, when a person experiences a sincere doubt it doesn’t lead them to abandon their faith immediately. Instead it should lead them to further explore the matter and gather whatever evidence they can to make an informed decision. Satan tries to use doubt as an end all but his greatest enemy is an inquiring mind. And to be honest acceptance without exploration is just as dangerous as doubt without exploration. In that sense doubt can actually be an aid to developing a stronger faith as long as that doubt leads to exploration because an honest examination of the facts will ultimately lead a person to the truth.
Exploration Leads to Truth. The truth has absolutely nothing to hide. It can be doubted, scrutinized, debated, checked, and rechecked but the truth will always be the truth and nothing can change it. Years, decades, centuries, even millennia can go by and truth will still be truth. The most skeptical minds of history have put it down, denied it, and perverted it but the truth is still the truth. And so when doubt occurs it’s dangerous, but as long as it leads to exploration it should ultimately lead to truth. It took eight days but eventually Thomas’ exploration of the facts lead him to the truth when Jesus walked through the door and entered His body as evidence (John 20:26-27). The spear wound in His side and the nail scars on His hands told Thomas everything he needed to know. When we follow the trail of evidence to its end it will always lead us to truth.
Truth Leads to Faith. There’s no irony or coincidence in how Bible principles fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Let me illustrate…What is truth? The Bible claims that God’s word is the sum total of truth (John 17:17). What does God’s word develop when studied and applied to our lives? Faith (Romans 10:17). Truth, when examined with humility and honesty will always result in faith. In Matthew 13 the only reason the seed (God’s word) was incapable of producing fruit in some people’s lives was because of their unwillingness to accept it. When Thomas was introduced to the evidence and he realized that it reflected truth he had only one possible response – he cried out “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). It was in that moment that his doubt was swallowed up by faith. He knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this man before him was his resurrected Lord. When an honest heart, even dealing with doubt, opens their eyes to the truth it always leads to faith.
Faith Leads to Acceptance. Thomas’ statement of faith is was an indication of what he had just seen would impact him the rest of his life. The New Testament is silent about the specific events of Thomas’ life after this but every indication we have from sacred and secular history is that he went on to live and die a servant of God. But having seen the resurrected Christ, how could he not? He might have “doubted” in the beginning, but after allowing that sincere doubt to follow its natural course he came to not only examine and believe the truth but to accept in mind, body, and soul. That’s where doubt has the power to lead us. When we allow that sincere doubt to follow its natural course it will lead us to know, believe, and accept the truth.
Now, none of this has been written to say that doubt is necessarily a good thing. However, when sincere doubt develops it’s not a death sentence either. If that sincere doubt will lead a person to investigate it further and they will follow the trail of truth to its ultimate end doubt doesn’t have to be such a bad thing.